- Chubba wubba wow: Nick Chubb’s Browns career is 20 games old and he now owns two of the top three longest runs in franchise history.
We’re talking about a franchise with one of the greatest running back traditions in NFL history, spawned by Pro Football Hall of Famers Marion Motley, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, and continued by Pro Bowl backs Greg Pruitt, Mike Pruitt, Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner.
Chubb’s long runs have been 88 yards v. Baltimore on Sunday, the record 92-yarder v. Atlanta last year, along with jaunts of 63 and 41 yards v. Oakland in only his fourth NFL game – when he was the backup to Carlos Hyde.
That’s an average of 71 yards on four runs – utterly ridiculous for a 227-pound power back.
“He can roll,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield. “I think people underestimate his speed. Once he gets to that second level, he’s got true breakaway speed. People say he’s a power back, which he is – it takes more than one guy to bring him down – but he’s got that speed to make a play like that.”
Chubb’s breakaway run was the dagger in the Ravens’ hearts after they closed a 14-point deficit to 24-18 in the fourth quarter. They submitted after that, much like the Browns did after Derrick Henry’s 75-yard run with a screen pass in the 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the season opener.
But I thought Chubb’s best play in the historic 40-25 shellacking of the Ravens was his 14-yard run in the third quarter, which gave the Browns a 17-10 lead that they never relinquished. Chubb made five defenders miss on that play, looking more like Mack than a breakaway threat.
Afterward, he admitted that his determined performance was inspired by his failure on the controversial fourth-and-9 draw play the week before against the Rams that netted two yards.
“Today I showed a little bit more determination,” Chubb said in Baltimore. “I wasn’t going to let anyone tackle me. Honestly, I had nightmares last week. When I got hit on fourth-and-9 with a one-man tackle, that kind of drove me this week to not let anyone tackle me.”
Chubb’s humbleness, lack of flamboyance, relentless work ethic, selflessness, and dress code earned him the nickname “Old School” from Duke Johnson last year.
At the first quarter pole of the Browns’ Season of Great Expectations, I say Chubb is the team’s most valuable player.
- Receiver reinforcements: Overshadowed by Chubb’s day was Jarvis Landry’s career-best 167-yard receiving game. Landry had plays of 65 yards, 29, 18 and 16 among his eight receptions on 10 targets.
It was a leadership performance after Landry set the tone for the week by promising his teammates, coach and fans, “We’re going to be a great team,” and by preaching the 20-14 loss to the Rams “can catapult us to something new.”
Landry’s concussion suffered late in the game was the only downer of the Baltimore game. His availability for the Monday night road game against the 49ers is uncertain.
So the Browns could be getting back two of their top four receivers at the perfect time.
Antonio Callaway has been reinstated from his four-game suspension for violating the substances of abuse policy. Callaway missed the last four weeks of training camp with a high ankle sprain, but Kitchens expects him to hit the ground running this week.
“I am assuming that he has been doing his part in getting in shape and getting ready to go,” Kitchens said on a conference call on Monday. “I expect nothing else out of Antonio. I am looking forward to getting him back.”
Also, Rashard Higgins could return after missing three games with a knee injury suffered on the first series of the season opener.
Of course, the Browns may want to reduce their three-receiver formation looks after effectively re-introducing the offense to two-tight end alignments in the big win in Baltimore.
The emergence of Ricky Seals-Jones as a seam-splitting receiving tight end in Baltimore (three catches, 82 yards, one touchdown) frees up Demetrius Harris and Pharaoh Brown to concentrate on in-line and backfield lead-blocking.
- Super Joe: Another overlooked performer in the win in Baltimore was linebacker Joe Schobert.
Schobert, who can be a free agent after this season, had 17 tackles – more than doubling the next-best in tackles from either team – including a sack of Lamar Jackson.
Schobert also had the first hit on Ravens running back Mark Ingram on the play on which Ingram lost a fumble.
“The Ravens are obviously a huge running team,” Schobert said Monday. “There is a lot of availability for tackles in between the boxes if you are doing your job and if you can run down a few more extra plays. I think that obviously makes a difference. [My] body is a little sore today but feeling pretty good about it.”