The Buffalo Bills are going to have their hands full when they face off against the Cleveland Browns and their elite rushing attack. The Browns have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL; couple that with running back Nick Chubb, who is third on the NFL’s rushing ladder, and you have a dominant attack on the ground that is hard to stop. Even still, there are some steps that the Bills can take to counteract Cleveland’s obvious offensive strength.
Step 1: Edge discipline
One thing the Bills need to watch out for is not getting too far upfield and playing the pass, particularly for the edge rushers, Von Miller, A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham, and Shaq Lawson. At the snap, you see Cincinnati Bengals edge rusher Trey Hendrickson rush up the field as if he’s trying to sack the quarterback. This takes Hendrickson completely out of the play. The Browns left guard blocks the Bengals defensive tackle. This results in a wide-open hole in between the left tackle and guard for Chubb to run through. The Browns running back bursts through the hole untouched and beats everyone to the sideline.
Step 2: React quickly
We get to see the Browns at the goal line here. They start the play with quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center, Chubb in the backfield, and guard Hjalte Froholdt ahead of him. When the ball is snapped, the right tackle blocks the edge defender, and the center and left guard block down for a double-team. This opens a up massive hole to run through; Frohold blocks the linebacker coming through the hole, and Chubb runs into the end zone (the defender who could have tried to make a play on Chubb didn’t react quickly enough).
Step 3: Tackle at initial contact when possible
The Browns’ offensive line blocked very well on this play against the Miami Dolphins. At the snap, Brissett goes read-option with Chubb, who takes the ball left; Brissett gets in the way of the left edge rusher to stop him from pursuing the play. Cleveland’s center and left guard both pull left. The left guard blocks the edge defender, and the center turns up the hole as a lead blocker. This play ends up only being a two-yard gain because the defensive tackle makes a fantastic tackle on Chubb as he runs. If Miami’s lineman doesn’t make the play on Chubb, this becomes a huge gain. The Browns had blocked this play perfectly otherwise. Buffalo will need their defensive tackles to shoot through gaps and make tackles on Chubb before he can turn upfield.
Step 4: Tackle soundly one-on-one
When facing a player with the type of quickness and strength that Chubb possesses, your defensive players need to be good enough to make plays in one-on-one situations. Here, we see Chubb make a defender miss in the hole, then drag the safety for extra yards. This highlights the importance of having guys like safety Jordan Poyer and linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano—all guys who have been banged up the last few weeks—available, to minimize the number of times we see this.
Step 5: Admit that Chubb will still make plays
Chubb makes another spectacular play here. The play starts with Cleveland’s left guard and tackle sealing off the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle. Then the Browns deploy their center to block the other defensive tackle, while the right guard blocks the linebacker on the second level. This creates an open hole for Chubb to run through, in which he hurdles a defender to get the first down.
The Browns block very well in the run game, and regularly create space. Chubb routinely takes advantage of those massive holes. The Browns have the fifth-best rushing attack in all of football, and it’s their gateway for a potential upset against the Bills—who have struggled to defend the run of late.