Nick Chubb's running finally launches Browns' offense

CLEVELAND -- Outside Baltimore’s visiting locker room, Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, his face still covered in sweat, was trying to fan himself.

The problem was there was no cooling him off.

Neither off the field nor on it.

Cleveland’s purportedly high-powered offense finally erupted Sunday behind its second-year running back, who reminded the Ravens -- and everyone else in the NFL -- that the Browns’ array of weapons doesn’t stop with quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and a potent passing game.

Powering the Browns to a 40-25 victory and their first AFC North divisional lead in five years, Chubb rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a backbreaking, 88-yard breakaway score in the fourth quarter, on which he dashed away from the entire Baltimore secondary.

“He can roll," said Mayfield, who took a seat among reporters to watch Chubb’s entire postgame news conference, laughing at one point as Chubb attempted to cool himself off. “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.”

On an offense armed with a pair of Pro Bowl wideouts in Beckham and Jarvis Landry, the Browns boast one of the NFL’s most complete backs in Chubb, who ranks in the top seven in the league in rushing yards both before and after contact.

“It showed a little more [Sunday], the determination,” said Chubb, who broke four tackles on his first touchdown run, a 14-yard scamper on which he cut across the field before gliding into the end zone. "I wasn't going to let anyone tackle me."

Chubb wasn’t going to let anyone catch him, either.

On his 88-yard touchdown -- the longest scoring run the Ravens have ever allowed -- Chubb reached a maximum speed of 21.95 mph, the second-fastest speed any NFL ball carrier has timed this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Chubb proved so fast that Baltimore All-Pro safety Earl Thomas admitted to giving up on the play in fear of suffering an injury.

“I tried to get there and couldn’t get there,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t worth pulling my hamstring.”

After a lackluster first three games offensively, the Browns made a couple of notable adjustments Sunday, namely tailoring more of the attack around Chubb.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, they ran out of a shotgun formation a season-low 52% of the time in Baltimore.

The week before against the Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland was in shotgun for 76% of its snaps. That included all four plays in the final seconds from the Los Angeles 4-yard line, on which the Browns failed to tie the game and Chubb never got a carry.

Despite being shotgun-heavy, the Browns did, at times, run the ball effectively in their first three games. On Sunday, with Mayfield under center more often, they were consistent.

That paid off big for the rest of the offense.

Going into the game against Baltimore, Mayfield had been pressured on 35% of dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the fourth-highest rate in the league. On Sunday, he was pressured on 16% of his dropbacks, including once the entire second half.

As a result, he was able to find a rhythm, completing 20 of 30 passes while taking one sack. With Baltimore committed to blanketing Beckham out of the game, the Browns produced a 300-yard passer (Mayfield), 150-yard receiver (Landry) and 150-yard rusher (Chubb) for the first time in franchise history.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are more than capable of making plays,” Mayfield said. “It’s one of those things where you can pick your poison of what you want to take out of our offense.”

Taking Chubb out won’t be easy for opposing defenses going forward -- even for those that decide to load up against him.

“He’s a very patient runner, but he’s also a home run hitter,” center JC Tretter said. “If we block up, he’s going to find the hole and take it the distance.”

That’s what Chubb did Sunday -- while showing why he’s the key for Cleveland to take its explosive offense to another level.

“That looked like us,” Chubb said. “I knew we were getting closer.

“We’ve got to build on top of this. ... Keep stacking wins”