The Cleveland Browns suffered a frustrating, injury-riddled defeat on Sunday to the Denver Broncos. The loss bumps the team down to 3rd place in the AFC North standings, behind the Pittsburgh Steelers following their win against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend.
Though the offensive playcalling is taking a lot of flack right now regarding the pass versus run script, there were quite a few bright spots on this side of the ball. The offense as a whole was fairly effective and efficient on a play-by-play basis throughout most of the night, but things started to break down once Dorian Thompson-Robinson got hurt.
Prior to his injury, “DTR” executed a perfectly run fake handoff followed by a nice throw to Harrison Bryant at the goal line that resulted in Cleveland’s lone touchdown play of the game.
The Browns began by motioning Harrison Bryant into the backfield in a “Power-T” formation near the endzone like they have on a couple of other occasions this season. To the defense, this backfield motion led them to believe that this would undoubtedly be a run play.
The tight ends and offensive linemen all zone-blocked to the left, while Nick Harris and Kareem Hunt performed an effective sweep fake behind them after Hunt took the fake handoff.
David Njoku blocked for a couple of seconds and then ran a hitch route near the back of the endzone that was most likely meant to clear out the corner that was sitting on the goal line. Harrison Bryant ran back across the formation, making it appear to be a variation of split-zone, but in actuality stopped and sat in the open area that was created when the cornerback left to cover Njoku.
The blocking and backfield deception caused all three of Denver’s linebackers and safeties to bite and flow to the backside, which allowed ample space for Bryant and Njoku to run their routes.
Based on the looks of the play itself Thompson-Robinson was most likely tasked with reading the cornerback, and using his movement to determine where to go with the football.
If the corner recognized what was happening and “stayed home” to cover Bryant, then Njoku would be open behind them in the back of the endzone. If the cornerback left to cover Njoku, then the correct read would be to hit Bryant underneath which was the outcome in this case.
This play couldn’t have been designed or executed any better than it was and is a great example of why Cleveland is currently ranked in the top half of the league in terms of red zone scoring.