The Cleveland Browns took on the Cincinnati Bengals in week 1 of the 2023 NFL season. There were many things to look forward to for both teams. The Bengals, have an explosive offense that can find many ways to move downfield with big plays, and the Browns, have the new defensive regime led by Jim Schwartz as well as the question still looming over Deshaun Watson and if we will be able to play up to his potential this season.
First half defense
In the first quarter of the game, the Browns started on defense. We got an early look at what seems to be a very different scheme than we saw last year where they seem to be playing a defensive line by committee. Multiple players are being rotated in and out and we’ve even seen Myles Garrett line up at DT. The new scheme seems to be working very well, Multiple 3 outs and a scoreless first half say a lot against this Bengals offense
First half offense
The offense seemed to be a bit sluggish in the beginning but began to catch fire toward the half. Some of the passing game looked a bit out of sync early on because of the rain, This resulted in dropped balls from both teams but eventually, the Browns started to really make use of Nick Chubb as he had 57 rushing yards and 20 receiving yards in the first half of the game. On a short drive with good field position, the new Kicker Dustin Hopkins knocked one through.
After a quick 3 and out from the Brown’s defense Deshaun Watson led the team downfield with a quick strike to Amari Cooper and a good run from Jerome Ford to set up an odd offensive formation that was a gun bunch with a four wideout bunch to the right. This ended up being a distraction for the designed QB run for Watson and he ran in for a Touchdown.
Second Half Offense
To start the second half Cleveland got the ball and they weren’t able to put anything together on their first drive but on the following drives the new addition Hopkins kicked and made two more field goals to push the lead to 16-3. Watson did throw his first intersection on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage but he Bengals couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Following that Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford drove the team downfield within the 5-yard line. On a well-designed bootleg play Watson threw a touchdown to Harrison Bryant and the Browns elected to go for 2 on a designed QB run from Watson and he got it! That pushed the lead to 24-3!
Second Half Defense
While Joe Burrow and the Bengals had their struggles in the first half, they came out in the second half gunning. Multiple deep shots were taken downfield but none of them were able to connect due to the lockdown defense that was being played by Denzel Ward and Martin Emmerson. Cincy got desperate and went for a 4th downplay that got blown up by Myles Garrett and completely iced out the game by setting up the Bryant touchdown. After that, the Bengals took Joe Burrow out of the game and let the backups wind down the clock.
Going into next week’s game against the Steelers on prime-time Monday night we can really look for the defense to be a force again as they were thrashed by the 49ers today and only scored 7 points. Offensively the Browns should look to find more ways to air the ball out and get Njoku involved more to really space the field out.
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