In the second quarter, it was Kareem Hunt‘s turn. On a key third-and-4, Hunt barreled through an arm tackle for the first down. Then, he finished off the possession with a touchdown grab from Baker Mayfield.
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The Browns have big names attached to their passing attack, most notably Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who each shined in the Browns’ 35-30 victory over the Bengals. Yet through the first two weeks of the season, Chubb and Hunt — and their prowess for running through tackles — are proving to be the backbone of the Cleveland attack.
“We ask them to make some dirty runs,” coach Kevin Stefanski said of his two runners. “If there’s a guy unblocked or there’s an arm hanging out there, they’ve got to run through it. When (the blocking) is perfect these guys can make some big-time plays. But even when it’s not perfect, I feel confident in their abilities to gain yards on dirty runs.”
The duo, which combined for 210 yards rushing against the Bengals, is achieving that as well as any backs in the league. Chubb, in fact, tops the NFL with 116 yards after contact, and Hunt is tied for second with the Dallas Cowboys‘ Ezekiel Elliott with 99 yards. Hunt, however, is leading the NFL averaging 4.3 yards per rush after contact. Chubb is third with 3.6 yards per, which trails only Hunt and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Leonard Fournette (4.0 yards).
Though the sample size is small, those would be the highest averages after contact since at least 2009, when ESPN Stats & Information began tracking the data. In 2010, LeGarrette Blount averaged 2.94 yards after contact; Adrian Peterson posted the next-best average with 2.93 yards in 2012.
In turn, 23% of Cleveland’s rushes this season have gone for at least 10 yards, by far the highest rate in the league. The Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers are tied for second in rate of such runs at 18%.
“Those guys are really special,” Mayfield said Thursday of Chubb and Hunt. “The offensive line played great. Those were some big holes, and those guys were not going down by just one single guy.”
A revamped offensive line certainly has been part of Cleveland’s early but enviable success running the ball. The Browns are fifth in run block win rate, a new metric ESPN utilizes to measure run-blocking success. That includes Austin Hooper, who ranks fifth among tight ends in run block win rate. Fullback Andy Janovich, who had a monster kick-out block on Chubb’s opening-drive touchdown run, has brought physicality to the Cleveland ground game, as well.
But the ability of Chubb and Hunt to break tackles is what stands to elevate the Browns’ rushing attack from good to potentially elite, and sustain drives in critical moments. Hunt is fourth league-wide with 10 rushing conversions on third down. Chubb is tied for fifth with nine third-down conversion runs.
“We both have some special talents,” Hunt said, “and we both can do some great things with the ball in our hands.”
That might not be changing in Cleveland any time soon, either.
Before the opener, Hunt, 25, signed a two-year extension worth $13.25 million, including $8.5 million guaranteed. That puts him under contract with the Browns for the next three seasons. Chubb, 24, will be extension-eligible, as well, after this season, though he still has another year left on his rookie deal.
Given how seamlessly Chubb and Hunt have operated together, the Browns figure to still be just as incentivized to extend Chubb, even with Hunt on such a reasonable deal for a running back. After Thursday’s win, Chubb actually clamored for Hunt to be more involved in the game plan early, underscoring their chemistry off the field.
“You see what he can do,” Chubb said. “He’s a great back.”
The Browns boast two of them. Special talents, who break through tackles and reel off dirty runs. Giving Cleveland a backfield tandem primed to be the envy of the entire league.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson week-to-week with foot sprain
Carson suffered the injury in the first half of Sunday night’s 37-34 overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals and did not return to the game.
“There’s something there that we could see,” Carroll said of Carson’s MRI. “It’s just week-to-week, so we’ll see what happens. We don’t know. He was real determined to say, ‘I can go with it,’ but we won’t know until the end of the week, for sure.”
That’s just the start of the injuries the Seahawks (5-1) are dealing with in a suddenly banged-up backfield.
Veteran Carlos Hyde and rookie fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas were their only available tailbacks by the end of Sunday night’s game, after Carson and Travis Homer went down hurt. But Carroll is unsure of Hyde’s status for this week due to tightness in his hamstring. The coach said Homer has a knee bruise and not an injury, adding, “So that’s something he has a chance to recover from.”
The Seahawks have no other tailbacks on their active roster or practice squad. Rashaad Penny, their 2018 first-round pick, is still on the physically unable to perform list as he works his way back from a knee injury. Carroll said Penny is “getting close” to practicing, but the coach didn’t give the impression Penny would begin doing so this week.
It’s a potentially problematic situation for the Seahawks given how COVID-19 protocols make it difficult for teams to adjust to injuries on the fly. Players must go through several days of testing before they’re allowed to enter an NFL facility. That will make it impossible for the Seahawks to sign a free agent in time to reinforce their backfield for this week’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers (4-3), unless that running back had already started or completed his testing.
The Seahawks are hoping to have All-Pro strong safety Jamal Adams back this week, but Carroll said it isn’t clear whether he’ll be ready to practice by Wednesday. Adams has missed the past three games with a groin injury. Seattle had its bye during that span.
“I talked to him on Saturday before we left, and his workouts are going great and all that,” Carroll said of Adams. “He really wants to get back, but he’s going to have to show it that he’s capable of doing all the stuff that we need him to do football-wise. Because he’s so close to being back, I think this will carry into late in the week and we’ll see how it works out. But I can’t tell you conclusively right now.”
Carroll expects defensive end Rasheem Green (neck) to practice this week with the hope of playing next week. He has been on injured reserve, as has wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Carroll said Dorsett is running at 90 percent capacity but isn’t sure if Dorsett will practice this week.
Cornerback Shaquill Griffin is also dealing with a nagging hamstring injury in addition to the concussion he suffered against Arizona, Carroll said.
The 2,875 yards Seattle’s defense has allowed this season are the most through six games in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Struggling New York Jets QB Sam Darnold gets pep talk from Adam Gase
“I just keep thinking, ‘He’s 23, none of this can be easy,'” Gase said Monday, adding that he spoke with Darnold on Sunday night. “He’s a guy that did so much good in college and won a lot of football games. Things haven’t always gone as smoothly as everybody always hopes when they get to the NFL.”
The Jets haven’t won any games this season, as Darnold — expected to make a big jump in the second year under Gase — has shown signs of regression. The slump has fueled questions about Darnold’s future, with speculation the Jets might draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence if they land the top pick.
In Sunday’s 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Darnold passed for only 120 yards with two interceptions for a 31.1 passer rating, the second-lowest of his career. It was a horrible offensive performance by the Jets (0-7), who managed only four yards in the second half — the team’s fewest yards in a half in 40 years.
Gase absolved Darnold of any blame, putting it squarely on the offensive line, which allowed six sacks. Gase said “it was collapsing quick on him” and he “didn’t have a lot of time to throw the ball.” When he did, the throws were tight-window attempts.
In five starts, Darnold has twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three). His numbers have declined from last season in all the major statistical categories.
Gase, hired to develop Darnold, insisted his pupil isn’t going backward.
“If you look at it statistically, we’re not good anywhere statistically,” he said. “What I see in practice a lot of times, I see things that were better than last year. When we get to games, we just have to figure out a way to protect him and let him get in rhythm. I saw some really good things the first half [Sunday]. Then it started getting really muddy in the second half.”
Darnold said he remains upbeat, although he admitted his interception at the end of the first half was “a terrible mistake, something I truly feel won’t happen again.” He called it a “dumb decision,” a pass into heavy coverage.
He was under duress throughout the game, as the Bills cranked up their safety blitzes in the second half. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, calling plays for the first time, had no answers.
The rebuilt offensive line was supposed to be improved this season, but it has allowed 24 sacks.
“I think everyone is frustrated. I don’t think it’s unique to Sam,” guard Greg Van Roten said. “We need to put him in a position to be successful. If we, as an offensive line, are playing like we did [Sunday], we’re not giving him a chance to show what he can do.
“And that’s not fair to him. That’s not fair to the team.”
Cowboys DC Mike Nolan feels heat after hot sauce mishap during conference call
FRISCO, Texas — When the Dallas Cowboys practice Wednesday, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be on the injury report. The reason? Tabasco.
Nolan had to step away from his weekly conference call with reporters Monday because he got some hot sauce in his eye in the middle of answering a question about the effectiveness of pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.
“He’s been active every week as far as, I think, disrupting the quarterback. He’s escaped several times to do that,” Nolan said. “Obviously, the frustration for him as well is — look, it’s when he misses them. Whoop, excuse me. I’ve got something in my eye. Just had some Tabasco on my finger and it went in my eye, that wasn’t good. Ugh. Terrible, geez. I’m sorry.”
It’s been that kind of season for Nolan.
The Cowboys are on pace to allow 555 points this season. They have given up 243 points so far, which is more than they have given up overall in 11 seasons in franchise history, not counting the strike season in 1982, and equal to what they allowed in 1992.
Nolan was able to clean out his eye and return to the news conference.
“My eye feels a lot better,” Nolan said. “But it was burning.”
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