CLEVELAND -- Nick Chubb's Week 1 production might have been seen as adequate if he wasn't, you know, Nick Chubb.
That isn't a concern after Chubb's outing Thursday night. Less than a week after rushing 10 times for 60 yards, Chubb rolled to a 124-yard outing on 22 attempts, scoring two touchdowns and setting the tone for the Browns. Teammate Kareem Hunt followed in his footsteps with an 86-yard outing on just 10 attempts, also finding the end zone once on the ground.
With Chubb and Hunt in the backfield, Cleveland was destined to become a run-first team. They showed just how effective they could be with their prime-time performance.
"I think it starts up front, we said that all week," quarterback Baker Mayfield said following Cleveland's 35-30 win over Cincinnati. "The offensive line played great. Those were some big holes and those guys weren't going down by just one single guy. It's a great effort by both our offensive line and our running backs. Those guys (Chubb and Hunt) are real special. That shows what we're capable of when we get that run game going."
Cleveland was blown out in Week 1 by a premier Baltimore Ravens squad that came out firing on offense. The early hole dug by the Browns' inability to stop the Ravens took away the viability of running the ball consistently, but for one drive Sunday, they showed a glimpse of their potential with long runs by Chubb and Hunt that set up their lone score.
Chubb's six yards per carry was nothing to scoff at, either, but the Browns simply needed more of it. They got just that with Chubb's 5.6 yards per tote and Hunt's 8.6 yards per carry.
"Obviously those are two talented backs and they complement each other, they push each other, so we're gonna always look for unique ways to get them the rock, but they did a very nice job tonight," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.
It was a somewhat slow burn on the ground Thursday, at least in the first half. With less than five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Browns had yet to break 50 total rushing yards.
They finished with 210.
Chubb and Hunt didn't combine for such a high total of rushing yards simply as a result of a large volume of carries. They consistently exceeded expectation.
According to Next Gen Stats' Expected Rushing Yards metric -- which determines how many yards a ball carrier should gain on a given play based on location, speed and direction of all players on the field at the time of handoff -- 101 of the Browns' 210 rushing yards were expected to be gained. That means the other 109 were picked up by Chubb's and Hunt's own doing.
Chubb hit +2.1 rushing yards over expectation per attempt, and Hunt obliterated the metric with a mark of +5.3 RYOE per attempt. Where Chubb chewed up yardage throughout the game, Hunt served as the closer, gaining 76 of his 86 yards in the final quarter of action.
Following an interception thrown by Mayfield, Cleveland regained possession and refused to throw the ball. Chubb ripped off a 26-yard run, and Hunt followed on the next play with a 33-yard scamper, putting the Browns in position to score the game-sealing touchdown. Hunt did just that three plays later to wrap up the Browns' first win of 2020.
The rushing total forced Bengals coach Zac Taylor to attempt to explain his team's inability to stop the Browns' dynamic duo.
"It goes both ways," Taylor said. "We've got to get the guys on the ground when we've got them in our grasp. And we got to do a better job just sitting in our gaps, not letting holes be as big as they were. But those are two good backs, you've gotta give them a ton of credit and their line did a great job, as well."
A great job indeed. If Cleveland can keep this type of production up, they'll be a problem for plenty of opposing defenses in the weeks ahead. And for one night, their fever-dream backfield sent their 6,000 fans home filled with bliss.