Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Browns have won two straight games and they appear to be making strides as a young team. They had five plays of 20 or more yards against the Oakland Raiders in Week 13 and they forced another turnover, their ninth in two weeks. I know what you’re thinking: “they beat the Raiders,” but a win is a win is a win. During this most recent win, the Browns were able to dismantle the Raiders’ pass coverage with multiple big plays, including one that really intrigued me: a 22-yard reception by tight end Ben Watson.
It didn’t look fancy at first. It was a simple, shallow cross underneath a dropping defensive end, but a closer look revealed more to it. There was a rather interesting design that featured a two-man combination concept that perfectly took advantage of what appeared to be an single-high pattern reading scheme from the Raiders. It really stretched a single defender thin with a numbers advantage, which is what offense is all about.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden and the Browns came out with single receivers to each side of the formation. Weeden was under center, and seven yards behind him was Trent Richardson while the tight ends filled out the rest of the skill players of the formation. The tight ends — Ben Watson and Jordan Cameron — were going to be the main parts of this play, but not before receiver Travis Benjamin was. Benjamin, who was initially lined up to the far right, motioned across the formation and just outside of Cameron, joining wide receiver Josh Gordon in a “Twins” set.
Along with Gordon, who would run a skinny post, Benjamin was going to be clearing out the Raiders’ defensive backs with a wheel route. They would both pose as deep threats, but they were truly only decoys.
Meanwhile, Cameron was going to be running a look route (it has varying names) over the middle of the field, spotting up right across the center of the formation. This route was crucial because it would come behind one of the droppers in the Raiders’ zone blitz scheme, which consisted of a five-man rush and six defenders dropping (three underneath, three deep).
The targeted dropper was right defensive end Andre Carter. He was a hook dropper, and he faced a dilemma. In front of him, Watson ran a shallow cross from the backside of the formation, putting Carter in a bind because he had a threat in front and Cameron behind him. Who was he to cover?
Ultimately, he covered no one. Watson continued his shallow route across the formation, and Cameron ran the look route open behind Carter; both would be open, and it was up to Weeden to make the right decision, which he did. Weeden threw it to Watson, who had the most potential yardage to gain. Watson sprinted up field behind the routes of Benjamin and Gordon for a gain of 22-yards.
The play was beautifully designed by the Browns and the call was even better, coming against the Raiders’ anticipated zone blitz. It was one of 14 plays that the offense ran to score the game-sealing touchdown, which was carried in from three yards by Richardson to cap off a 94-yard drive.
With Watson still catching passes, the Browns appear to have a solid veteran tight end who mixes in well with the young core of talented players they have, all of whom were a part of the big play. The Browns will likely be making coaching changes once again this offseason, but the young talents (and maybe Watson) are unlikely to go anywhere, which is promising for the franchise.