Week 9: As Good As It Gets

Browns 41, Cincinnati 16

Summary: As bad as last week’s game against Pittsburgh was … that’s how good this game against the Bengals was.

The key moment: Should I say it? I don’t think I want to say it.

Happiness level (scale of 1-to-10): 9.

“Great team win. We came down here to get a road victory, and it was hard-fought. Was never perfect, as they never are. But just … how hard the guys played against what I think is a real good football team, a team that was playing good ball, so, really, was proud of those guys and how they fought.”

I’m sorry, I know I usually end with Kevin Stefanski’s press conferences … but today I just had to begin with it. I wanted to luxuriate in the boredom. And it was so boring. So incredibly boring. So wonderfully boring.

I am so happy.

The Browns’ destruction of the Bengals on Sunday was definitely, at least in part, a result of the Bengals playing terribly. In a 16-game season — and now 17 games — there will simply be some weeks when nothing is working, and that’s how it was for Cincinnati. Joe Burrow threw a terrible pick in the red zone that turned into a glorious 99-yard touchdown return for Denzel Ward. Cincinnati fumbled four times and was lucky to lose just one. The Browns utterly manhandled the Bengals’ lines, both on the offensive and defensive side. It was one of those days.

It’s SO nice to be on the other side of “one of those days.”

But, in my mind, there were two takeaways from this one. They are not new ideas. I’ve been writing about both of them for a good while now.

  1. Nick Chubb is so much better than this coaching staff seems to believe.

  2. This offense is clearly, vividly, unquestionably better without OBJ.

Let’s take them one by one, shall we?

First, Chubb, I simply cannot get over how he is one of the greatest running backs in NFL history … and how many people seem to miss it. It’s mind-boggling. Week after week after week, my daughter Katie and I watch the games and wait for the announcers to talk about Chubb’s singular brilliance … and we’re almost always disappointed. Sure, the announcers often say “nice” things about him. But they usually couch those nice things by pairing him with Kareem Hunt or by heaping massive praise on Bill Callahan as offensive line coach.

And, hey, don’t get me wrong. Kareem Hunt is a good running back and Bill Callahan is a terrific offensive line coach.

But Nick Chubb is, again, one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry for HIS CAREER. I’m sorry, that’s higher than JIM BROWN. That’s higher than GALE SAYERS. That’s higher than BARRY SANDERS. That’s higher than DERRICK HENRY, who is a freak of nature and a freight train and who gets the proper respect for that.

And yet people talk about Chubb as if he’s, you know, just a good running back. It drives us crazy.

But what drives us crazier is how the Browns continue to use him. Katie and I have a little phrase that we will repeat about 20 times every game: “Would you just let Chubb eat? Can you PLEASE let Chubb eat? Hey, somebody let Chubb eat!”

We were screaming “Let Chubb eat!” at the television midway through the third quarter with the Browns up 24-10 and the offense beginning to wheeze a bit. Chubb had one carry in the third quarter, while Mayfield had thrown five times. It was ludicrous. When Mayfield dropped back on first down and threw the ball again, we both about lost our minds.

The next play they finally gave it to Chubb, and he broke off a 70-yard touchdown run that made the mind explode.

“Uh, thank you?” we said gratefully.

It has been like this for four years. Chubb got just 16 carries last week in a low-scoring loss to Pittsburgh. You would think and hope that this was because it was Chubb’s first game back after injury, and he wasn’t 100 percent … but it isn’t the first time … or the fifth time … or the 10th time that Cleveland’s coaches seem to have forgotten about him for long stretches of time. And that’s basically unconscionable.

Maybe there are things that we simply don’t know about Nick Chubb. Maybe an enchantress cursed him, and he turns into a yak if you give him the ball too many times. Maybe his main job is as a novelist and he can only carry the ball when he’s taking breaks from writing the great American novel. Maybe he is so quiet that he really does physically disappear from the sideline sometimes.

Maybe Stefanski and the Browns are simply convinced that Chubb can only handle so much of a load.

Or maybe — and this is what it feels like — they just don’t appreciate that he is one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

I don’t know what more to say: Let Chubb eat. He is averaging six yards per carry this season. He’s averaging more than 100 yards rushing even though they're giving him the ball fewer than 17 times per game. They don’t throw to him much, but he doesn’t drop passes. They take him out on passing downs, but he has proven to be a good blocker. Stop taking for granted the team’s best player.

Let. Chubb. Eat.

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