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Browns vs. Rams: A film breakdown of Jerome Ford’s touchdown catch

Cleveland has done a good job of getting their running backs open downfield

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Rams Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns suffered a frustrating defeat to Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams this weekend. The team now has an overall record of 7-5 which has them ranked 3rd in the division, and 6th in the current AFC Conference seedings.

It was Joe Flacco’s first start in Cleveland, and though he played very well for a majority of the game, he threw a crucial interception to former Browns safety John Johnson III late in the 4th quarter that completely squandered the team’s comeback attempt.

Despite his late-game blunder, there was some good including Flacco’s first touchdown pass of the day to a wide-open Jerome Ford down the left sideline in the 1st quarter for 24 yards.

Drawn up, the play looks like this:

Images generated by GoArmy EDGE application.

The play began with Elijah Moore going into pre-snap motion across the formation, which pulled the safety to the opposite side of the field. Once the ball was snapped, Moore ran to the flat while Amari Cooper (“Z”) and Cedric Tillman (“X”) ran clear-out routes downfield away from the sideline. This ensured that Ford would have a clear path down the boundary, especially since the defense was in man coverage.

The offensive line slid protection to the left to help “sell” play-action and a fake handoff to Ford. David Njoku had the unique task of taking two to three steps toward the center, and then spinning around to block the EDGE defender (Editor’s Note: I missed this every time I watched it and might be the best/most interesting part of the play) as we see below:

Due to Cooper and Tillman clearing out the left side of the field, Ford was able to leak out from the formation untouched and uncovered. The closest defender to the ball was the Rams’ MIKE linebacker, who was 10+ yards away at the catch point. This resulted in Ford’s 24-yard touchdown reception and Cleveland’s first score of the day.

The Browns have had a decent amount of success incorporating their running backs into the passing game in 2023, and plays like this one are a great example of why. Once you combine different aspects of play-action with downfield passing concepts, it puts a lot of stress on defenses in certain coverages.