BEREA, Ohio — On Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina, Browns fans saw something they'd been begging for since running backs Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb joined forced on the team three seasons ago—the dynamic duo sharing the field at the same time. It's an offensive threat that hasn't always been able to be deployed—but against the Panthers it was clear why it's so desired.
Chubb had a monster game, rushing for 141 yards on 22 carries with 88 of those yards coming after contact. Chubb shed defenders all day, sliding through the arms of tacklers and pushing forward through the contact. He also made sure to avoid contact by cutting through the gaps and taking full advantage of the lanes his blockers created for him.
"For me, I don't know what's happening. I just kind of do whatever I feel as an instinct. But yeah, it does [look special on tape]. When I watch film I guess I do see that. I don't remember doing it," Chubb humbly said.
The Browns went heavy on the run game with not only the offensive line getting in on the blocking, but putting tight ends David Njoku and Harrison Bryant in positions to throw blocks and push things forward as well.
"That's part of our offense. Everybody knows we're a run-first team. It's not a secret and that's what we pride ourselves on. The O-line does a great job upfront. After that, it's up to me and Kareem to break tackles and get the extra dirty yards. I think it's something we both do well," Chubb said.
Hunt did—as Chubb mentioned—that well on Sunday too. While Chubb had more of the big gain runs downfield, Hunt was responsible for dirty runs and being the end zone magnet. His 46 yards on 11 carries was complemented by two touchdowns, one rushing and one a quick shot from quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
"Seeing Chubb start off the game real strong and stuff, I can’t wait to get out there and give him a break and bring the same intensity and physicality," Hunt said.
Normally Hunt can be seen coming on the field after a few attempts by Chubb to give him a rest, but on Sunday, starting on the second play of the game, the two were on the field at the same time. Having them on the field simultaneously is something the Browns know can be a threat. Which one will get the handoff? Will they fake the run and send it downfield? Will Hunt or Chubb be targeted as receivers instead?
The wrinkle the two on the field at once provides the offense is something that Chubb and Hunt's teammates find themselves in awe of sometimes.
“I remember watching one in the game and I got a minus on it because I was supposed to carry out my fake and I just watched, and it was worth it, that’s for sure," Brissett laughed when recalling one of the plays that saw Chubb jump cut to find an opening in the line. "Both of those guys have really good hands, can catch out of the backfield, that's what makes them such a threat. We obviously are trying to exploit that so to keep the defense honest and those guys with the ball in their hands can pretty much do whatever."
For linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who is glad he only has to go against the duo in a practice setting and is thankful that the Browns have them both on the roster, he can see exactly what makes them such a threat from the opposing defenses.
"You're rotating a fresh back that I would consider a Top 5 back in the league with another fresh back that's Top 5, Top 10 in the league, so that's very tough to deal with, one guy coming at you every play with everything that he has and then he gets tired, the next guy comes in and he's coming at you with everything that he has. One of the best O-lines, all the different shifts and motions that we use to put defenses in not-advantageous positions, yeah, it's tough to deal with," Walker explained.
The love of the Hunt and Chubb combo is something that is appreciated not just by fans and teammates—but by the duo itself.
"That's just a different opportunity to get the ball in space and stuff like that. When you're out there you've got to have your playmakers touch the ball even when it is a pass or anything like that because I know if you check it down and throw it to Nick on something he can turn it in 20 yards, 15 yards and I feel like I can do the same on the roll and check down," Hunt said. "It’s nice to be out there, because I feel like we’re all around football players and that’s what you’ve got to be, and we can block, pass, catch and run the football."
Chubb, a man of few words most of the time, always uses them to speak highly of his friend and teammate when he's asked about Hunt.
"I think Kareem brings a lot of energy to the team, a lot of intensity and I feed off of that. When Kareem’s in there, he’s running the ball hard and it gets me going, so I enjoy playing with him," Chubb said, even after Hunt joked, 'You need to start blocking.’"
While the shared backfield was a sight for many sore eyes, Browns fans might have to remain patient with the deployment of Chubb and Hunt at once. Head coach Kevin Stefanski knows what they were able to do on Sunday and was prepared for it after watching tape on the Panthers and how they've handled similar two-back sets defensively. That, he said, won't always be the case, and personnel groupings will certainly be catered to what they expect from the defense week in and week out.
"I really think it’s a week-to-week proposition. I think there’s times when it makes sense, there’s other times where you do want to keep those guys fresh and if they're both playing at a high level, whether they're on the field together or not takes a backseat to them playing at a high level and doing things that give the defense difficulty," Stefanski said.
But even if it's not an every game occurrence, Chubb and Hunt know what they bring to the field when they are on it together is special.
"They say we’re better together," Hunt smiled.
Camryn Justice is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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