The Cleveland Browns’ running game had disappeared over the past two weeks. However against the Bengals, the read-option opened running lanes for the Browns.
The Cleveland Browns’ running game showed signs of life in the 31-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. For the two weeks prior to playing the Bengals, the Browns running game had been stopped.
Teams decided to stuff the box and make Cody Kessler defeat them by throwing the ball. The strategy was effective for opposing teams in so far as Kessler is a rookie and the only true threat at receiver is Terrelle Pryor. Teams double-teamed Pryor, blitzed Kessler and forced the Browns to use players such as Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins to beat them. Forcing three rookies to beat you is usually an effective strategy.
This strategy was also effective in stopping the (then) league’s leading rushing attack. The Browns went from first in the league rushing to eleventh in two weeks.
Now the running game seems to have gotten back on track. Kevin Hogan rushed for 104 yards on seven attempts and one touchdown. More importantly, Isaiah Crowell rushed twelve times for 63 yards for a 5.3 yards per carry average and one touchdown. Although Hogan’s numbers seem more impressive, it is Crowell’s numbers that are significant.
Crowell’s numbers returned to their normal levels. In games the Browns have effectively ran the ball, Crowell averaged between five and six yards per carry. He ran the ball roughly 12 to 18 times. Sunday’s performance was a return to the normal for him.
Which begs the question, how did the Browns resurrect their running game? Simple, they incorporated the read-option to beat the eight-man box.