CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Kareem Hunt, on his first play back on an NFL field since November 19, 2018, ran to his left, found a hole between left tackle Greg Robinson and left guard Joel Bitonio and slammed into Bills safety Micah Hyde.
Nick Chubb was running behind him, carrying the football. Chubb gained 21 yards on the play.
With 7:09 left in the first quarter and the Browns driving, Hunt lined up next to quarterback Baker Mayfield in the pistol formation with Chubb lined up as the deep back. Hunt raced around the left edge and put a hit on Hyde again. Chubb cut back and ran 24 yards, dragging defenders down to the 1-yard line.
Meet Hunt, pro bowler, league rushing champ, lead blocker.
“Blocking is a mindset,” Hunt said. “It's a mentality and you can't let the other person beat you. If the person does beat me, I'm going to tell them I'll be back next play.”
Mayfield pointed to another block during the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, a cut block of Hyde, leading to the start of a 21-yard run by Chubb.
“He is able to block or run the ball when he needs to,” Mayfield said. “That last drive, he made a great cut block for Nick Chubb on an outside zone play that really sealed the deal for us to get into a good, manageable down and distance. He just does a lot of things well. He wants to win. He is able to sacrifice whatever it takes.”
Hunt’s debut on Sunday meant the first time he and Chubb worked together, sometimes one at a time but also literally together, sharing a backfield. It happened in a variety of ways.
Chubb and Hunt stood on either side of Mayfield on some sets. Sometimes it was Hunt lined up as the fullback next to Mayfield in the pistol. Sometimes one would split out in the slot or at wide receiver.
Whatever it was, it was effective.
Chubb rushed 20 times for 116 yards and Hunt rushed four times for 30 yards.
Hunt also tied a career high with seven catches for 44 yards.
All told, the two combined for 195 yards from scrimmage on 33 touches, an average of 5.9 yards per touch.
“I just go out there and I play with a lot of heart and effort and, shoot, (Chubb) does, too,” Hunt said. “That guy's a freak.”
Grading website profootballfocus.com recorded 38 snaps for Hunt on Sunday. 24 of them came in the backfield, with two as a fullback. He lined up in the slot nine times and wide five times.
Chubb played 56 snaps. He was in the backfield 53 times, in the slot once and wide twice.
Safety Damarious Randall was asked after the game what he would do if he saw Chubb and Hunt lined up in the backfield and he didn’t want to help anyone out with advice.
“I don't want to answer to give anybody any tips and pointers,” he said. “I might know a little bit more than a couple of these (defensive coordinators) around the league, so I ain't even going to answer that one because I might be helping people out.”
But still, you’d have to be worried as a defender to see the two in the backfield.
“Especially with (Odell Beckham Jr.) and (Jarvis Landry) on the outside,” Randall said. “Hopefully that's the start of a lot of exotic packages that we can exploit with them.”
“You’ve got a lot of options,” Bitonio said. “It’s fun. One can be a lead blocker, you can throw it to one, one can block, you just hand the ball off to both of them. It was cool to see.”
Sunday, it was Hunt leading the way for Chubb a number of times.
“I hate seeing my man make the play,” Hunt said. “If I'm blocking that man, he's not going to be nowhere near the football and if he is, I'll make sure it won't happen again.”
Hunt has a certain expectation when he’s carrying the ball, so he expects the same of himself when he’s helping the ballcarrier.
“I want everybody to block as hard as they can for me when I run the ball, so now I see how it is blocking for somebody else when they run the ball,” he said.
Look, he’s not switching to fullback anytime soon, but this is going to be a little different of a role for Hunt. He carried the ball 272 times and caught 53 passes his rookie season in 2017 in Kansas City. He ran 181 times in 11 games in 2018 and caught 26 passes.
Chubb, however, is off to an incredible start and is fully entrenched as the Browns’ featured back. He has rushed for 919 yards this season, the sixth-most by a Browns running back in the first nine games of the season. The top 5 rushing performances -- and No. 7 on the list -- through nine games of a season all belong to Jim Brown.
Hunt doesn’t mind doing the dirty work for Chubb.
“It gets me amped,” he said. “It takes some shots off my body. I've just got to block one person and not get hit by the other team? OK, we'll take turns doing it to them, then.”
Sunday was an ugly offensive day for the Browns for stretches, but the first look at the Chubb/Hunt backfield pairing was enticing. If Freddie Kitchens and the Browns continue to find a way to use it effectively, defenses might have trouble slowing down this new dynamic backfield duo.
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