In his first seven quarters as a member of the Cleveland Browns, Willis McGahee was struggling and there is no reason to think he would argue that fact. A matter of adjusting, getting comfortable, so on and so forth, McGahee was not finding success as a runner. When it came to the fourth quarter of the game against the Bengals and really the last scoring drive for the Browns, McGahee really stepped up as the offensive line started wearing on the Bengal defensive line. Through his first seven quarters, McGahee had 15 carries for 18 yards. In the fourth quarter, McGahee had 8 carries for 36 yards.
Getting anything out of the running game the past two games was an absolute grind and yesterday in particular, the Browns used the screens to basically replace the running game. The Bengals front seven is extremely impressive when it comes to stopping the run and for almost the entire game, the Browns kept trying to run the ball and it was a good thing they did. Through three quarters, the Browns had 54 yards rushing and 7 of those were from Brian Hoyer on scrambles.
The offensive line obviously deserves a ton of credit as they kept fighting and were ultimately able to power through on that last drive, but so does the offensive coaching staff and in particular, Norv Turner. It would have been easy for Turner to just try to throw every snap in the fourth quarter with how the running game was going, but they stuck with it and it broke through.
On what would ultimately be a 91 yard drive, the Browns started with Hoyer throwing a six yard pass to Jordan Cameron. They followed that up with back to back carries for McGahee of 5 and 4 respectively. Hoyer then dropped back to pass and was able to escape pressure, roll out and throw the ball to Bobby Rainey for a 5 yard gain. Chris Ogbannaya got a carry for 2 yards. Then Hoyer threw passes to Josh Gordon for a gain of 13 yards and a 31 yard pass play to Cameron with a one yard run to McGahee between them. It would have been easy to just keep passing right here, but Norv went with three straight runs to McGahee. They went for 9, 5, and 9 yards that set the Browns up on the 1 yard line. With the Bengals fully trying to load up and stop the run, Hoyer was then able to make a quick throw to the flat to Ogbannaya for the touchdown.
There is no question that Cameron, Gordon, and Hoyer were the guys making the offense go yesterday, but McGahee’s contributions on that last drive were incredibly important. The Browns sensed a weakness and pressed it and it worked. McGahee saw his opportunity and was able to help the Browns get the win. Hopefully, that is a preview of things to come and not going back to barely a yard per carry. It really made the Browns offense difficult to stop as a tired Bengals defense was kept guessing by Hoyer, McGahee and a good set of playcalls from Turner.
Had the Browns just passed that entire drive, no one would have blamed them with how poorly they were running the ball. In an attempt to eat some clock, keep the Bengals honest, and just see if the running game could break through, the Browns found success and were able to get a scoring drive that sealed the victory. McGahee totaled 6 carries for 33 yards on that drive at an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Hopefully that is something they can carry over to this week’s game against the Bills and beyond, but at least in the moment, McGahee was able to come through to help the Browns beat the Bengals.