For 16 minutes Sunday, the Browns' offense looked nearly unstoppable.
In three possessions, they scored three touchdowns. One came as a result of excellent field position provided by Dontrell Hilliard's 74-yard kickoff return. The second covered 69 yards in 10 plays and required a conversion on fourth-and-7 to enter the red zone. But the third is when things really started humming.
The Browns and Seattle Seahawks went blow for blow on the game's first three possessions, matching each team's accomplishment with an equivalent. Cleveland got on the board first with a short Nick Chubb touchdown run, and Seattle responded with a 16-yard Russell Wilson touchdown run up the middle of the field. Baker Mayfield answered with a touchdown run of his own, 10 yards up the middle for his first rushing score of his professional career.
Then the Browns earned a stop, and with it came their most impressive sequence of the entire afternoon.
The drive took just three plays, and began with a completion to Odell Beckham Jr. for a gain of 9. The next play picked up more than half of the field.
The play was an inside zone run to the left out of a pistol formation and also included a pin and pull technique between center JC Tretter and left guard Joel Bitonio. On the front side, the play appeared doomed.
But as with all zone plays, there's always the potential for an escape out the back door.
This is the moment when Chubb decided to cut back.
While he has great vision as a one-cut back, this decision was forced. Ezekiel Ansah got around Greg Robinson and had a free shot at Chubb in the backfield, but whiffed spectacularly (arms and legs flailing) when Chubb saw him and evaded him with one cut.
For the second time in 2019, some thanks on a successful Chubb run should be given to tight end Pharaoh Brown. As Chubb accelerated through the cutback lane and into a vast expanse of green grass, Brown cut edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney off from the inside with an unusual method seen more in arenas than on football fields.
Brown boxed out Clowney.
The tight end stepped inside, winning inside leverage over Clowney and creating a seal for Chubb's cutback lane. As he continued to move left while engaged with Clowney, he faced a decision between attempting to step and hinge as the backside blocker, or rip his arm inside and shield Clowney, essentially using his own frame to impede Clowney from filling the gap no matter whether Chubb ended up cutting the run back.
Clowney attempted to wrap around the back of Brown in pursuit of Chubb, but ended up stuck on Brown's backside. With technique like this, Brown could have put up Dennis Rodman-like numbers in the rebounding category.
Instead, he helped his running back race out of the box for a 52-yard gain.
That run was great and momentarily looked as if it would be another signature long Chubb touchdown run. He was tracked down by two Seahawks defenders who took excellent pursuit angles and were able to converge on Chubb at the Seattle 31.
No matter that it didn't produce a touchdown. Mayfield took care of that part on the very next play.
Mayfield broke the huddle and got the offense lined up in a single-back formation with a trips bunch set tight to the line on the left side. In that bunch set: Jarvis Landry, Ricky Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris.
Landry ran a route down the numbers toward the end zone, Harris stayed in to block and Seals-Jones ran a drag with what looked to be an option at the end of the route depending on coverage. Seals-Jones could either keep on the flat path of the drag parallel to the line of scrimmage, or break it upfield at a 45-degree angle toward a soft spot in coverage if he saw that Seattle was spreading the second level of the field with defenders in zone coverage.
As anyone knows, you can't defend all areas of the field at all times, so there was a soft spot somewhere. Reading a defender playing near the flat but deep enough to defend the end of Seals-Jones' drag route, the tight end turned upfield toward the aforementioned soft spot between the linebacker and defensive back. It became a touchdown, though, because Beckham ran the safety into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
That created enough space for Seals-Jones to catch the pass and run toward the end zone, but the clincher was Beckham's effect on the defender who was attempting to trail Seals-Jones across the field into the deepest level of coverage. Beckham's run toward the goal post made this defender hesitate momentarily, adjusting his course directly toward the goal post for just two steps, but those two steps bought Seals-Jones enough time to catch and run into the end zone without any resistance.
Mayfield released the pass to Seals-Jones at about the same time the defender in the deep middle of the field took those two fateful steps. By the time this frame below happens, the ball is already in the air. As you can see, all that's left is a foot race that Seals-Jones easily wins.
We've heard plenty about how Beckham is affecting games in more ways than just recording stats and receiving yards. This is a prime example of how his presence is opening things up for his teammates.
And it was all set up by the ever-reliable Chubb. It seems as if this team isn't far from putting it all together in the weeks ahead.