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Film Room: Chase in the backfield

Using Ja’Marr Chase like a running back played a huge part in the Bengals’ win last weekend

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals offense had a great game plan for last weekend’s game against the Buffalo Bills. One aspect that stuck out was how they used Ja’Marr Chase in their formations. They lined Chase up in the backfield, put him in orbit/fly motion, and shifted him out of the backfield.

This impacted the defense in multiple ways.

Using Chase as a decoy set up a lot of success for Joe Mixon in the run game.

Here, the Bengals line up with a pair of receivers spread out on either side of the formation. Chase is in the slot at the bottom of the screen.

As he goes in motion, Taron Johnson follows him. Both linebackers adjust towards the motion, leaving Johnson, a nickel cornerback by trade, as the only “linebacker” in the box. The Bengals pull Hakeem Adeniji to be the lead blocker. Adeniji blocking Johnson is a huge mismatch in the offense’s favor and a huge running lane opens up for Mixon.

Chase wasn’t just a decoy, though.

In this clip, they line him up in the backfield opposite Samaje Perine. They once again send him in motion behind the quarterback. Adeniji pulls outside and Perine leads up as Burrow flips the ball to Chase on the toss play. The Chase effect backfires a bit on this play. The linebackers react so quickly that they beat the blocks and the play has limited success.

Still, running this play serves a purpose. It adds to Chase’s value as a decoy, leading to continued success for the running backs.

They were able to find more success getting the ball to Chase with a triple-option type look in this clip. They are in the same formation, with Chase and Trayveon Williams on either side of Burrow. Chase motions behind Burrow towards the twin-receiver side, but Williams steps inside to Burrow. The mesh between Burrow and Williams draws in the linebacker, and Burrow throws the ball out to Chase on the swing.

After picking up good blocks from Mitchell Wilcox and Tyler Boyd on the perimeter, Chase makes the safety miss and picks up some nice yardage.

Of course, another reason to put Chase in the backfield is to create an advantageous matchup in the passing game. Here they shift him from the backfield to the slot. Johnson comes over, seemingly to matchup with Chase, but on the snap, he blitzes. The safety rocks down, but both he and the linebacker focus on Wilcox running to the flat.

Somehow, the shift has caused them to lose track of the best player on the field. That’s how Chase got so wide open for his opening drive touchdown.

The Bengals offense showed great creativity this week, using Chase in the backfield to open up plays. Although it was only a handful of plays, this wrinkle played a large role in the team’s success in Buffalo.