This was not a film room I ever envisioned writing, as the Cleveland Browns and Jacoby Brissett continue to find success on quarterback sneaks, it is certainly worth the examination. In their 29-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football, Brissett was a successful 3-for-3 on the night when asked to duck his head and drive forward.
Brissett’s ability to consistently churn out yards at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds in short-yardage situations has not only been an asset for the Browns in short-yardage situations but has been an asset on every team he has played for.
Here, we follow a career trend of Brissett’s, then specifically how it put the Steelers in a bind on Thursday night.
The career success rate of Jacoby Brissett on QB sneaks
Over his seven year career, Brissett has played for a total of four teams, for a total of 39 career starts. Even when he was not the starting quarterback, his former teams would have a knack for bringing him on the field just to put his head down and churn out inches on quarterback sneaks.
For his career, Brissett was credited for converting on over 95 percent of his opportunities to push forward for a first down on both third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations. Coming into the season, Brissett was touting a 20-for-21 conversion rate when asked to sneak with the football.
Now this season with the Browns, Brissett has been given the opportunity to tuck the football in these two situations and has been a perfect 5-for-5 on the year. By way of fourth grade math, we can figure out that Brissett has converted on 25-of-26 attempts throughout his seven year career.
And he is starting to force the hands of defensive coordinators with his wizardry. Brissett’s ability to pick up crucial first downs on these high leverage, short yardage situations has made teams adjust, and it put the Steelers in a bind on Thursday night.
Kareem Hunt scampers for 9 yards on 4th and 1
The first 4th-and-1 situation where the Browns caught the Steelers crashing into the A-gap attempting to muddy the waters for a Brissett sneak came with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Steelers come out in base personnel (three linebackers on the field) as the Browns show 22 personnel (two running backs, two tight ends), and have a defensive tackle off of each shoulder of the center in the A-gap. They even throw safety Terrell Edmunds in the box to combat the two tight end look.
Partially due to some bad eyes by the linebacker, but also partially due to the Browns’ ability to hammer home yards up the middle, Hunt finds a crease to cut outside and pick up nine yards when he only needed one.
Jacoby Brissett finds Amari Cooper for a massive chunk
On another third-and-one from their own 30 yard line, the Browns and head coach Kevin Stefanski dial up a shot play in a situation where the Steelers are anticipating a quarterback sneak.
Again, the Steelers cloud the A-gap presnap, but this time the defensive tackles have no other objectives but to shoot the gap and cut the guards to give the second level a chance at making the play. Instead, the Browns run a play-action shot and catch the entire second and third level with their eyes in the backfield.
This leaves Amari Cooper one-on-one with Cameron Sutton on a deep post that Brissett puts on his wide receiver. Easy money chunk yardage for the Browns’ offense. Cooper and Brissett are developing quite the chemistry.
Nick Chubb scores at the goal line
Anticipating that the Steelers are going to shoot double A-gap with their defensive tackles on a fourth-and-goal situation from the one yard line, the Browns are able to easily down block both defensive tackles and drive them off the line of scrimmage. Right guard Wyatt Teller and center Ethan Pocic blow open the A-gap.
This allows for a minimal-effort touchdown from Chubb as the Browns run power and left guard Joel Bitonio pulls on power and is able to meet reserve guard Hjalte Frojolte (aligned at fullback) and take out second level defenders.
This score would give the Browns a two-score lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
Why this matters going forward
The Browns are earning first downs at a rate that only the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and Philadelphia Eagles are thus far in 2022. And they are doing it with balance.
How good each team has been at earning and preventing 1st downs on a given series.
Pittsburgh's offense is no longer the worst! (barely) pic.twitter.com/v5IOtiKscQ
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) September 23, 2022
The biggest complaint from this game from a playcalling perspective among the masses was a pass play in the first quarter where Brissett was sacked on a 3rd and 2. Many wanted a running play instead to pick up the first down.
However, the Browns are converting third-and-shorts and fourth-and-shorts at an extraordinary rate using both the run and the pass. This is making them lethally unpredictable in those situations. Assuming the Browns or Stefanski is a bad playcaller for calling a pass play in one of these situations when it does not work out is incredibly reductionist and turns a chess match into a mathematic equation.
Ths success and threat of a sure-fire first down from Brissett has defenses muddying up the A-gap, allowing for creases to develop outside, and for chunk plays to happen deep down the field in these scenarios. All of which happened against the Steelers, and all of which Stefanski was more than happy to exploit.
At this point, the Browns have a full buffet of options in short yardage situations, largely due to the man under center.