Browns showed creativity with gadget plays

One topic from my film work at NFL Films this week really jumped out at me. Maybe it’s not the highest priority, but I thought it was really interesting.

Bill Parcells used to say, “There’s always a way to win a game.” If you take that mantra — and it’s something I believe in — you can apply it directly to the Browns’ upset win over the Saints last week.

Forget, for a moment, about the Browns’ two interception returns for touchdowns. The Browns used three gadget plays in the win, and they all worked to perfection.

On the first punt of the game, Joshua Cribbs threw the ball back across the field to Eric Wright, and it was a perfectly designed play. The coaching staff was trying to protect rookie QB Colt McCoy, but also needed to flip field position. Wright went 62 yards on one of the most well-designed returns I’ve seen all season.

During the second quarter, on a fourth down on their own 28-yard line, the Browns ran a fake punt with Reggie Hodges that went 68 yards. Watching the Saints on the play, they didn’t even look at Hodges. It was perfectly crafted and perfectly timed. The biggest factor in any gadget play is the level of surprise. Everyone, including the Saints, was surprised.

Later in the game, the Browns called a play on third-and-5 during the fourth quarter in which Peyton Hillis jumped in front of McCoy on a shotgun snap. The Saints were running an all-out blitz on the play, trying to get the ball back in the hands of Drew Brees. Hillis completed a pass back to McCoy on a wheel route for 13 yards and a first down, helping the Browns run down the clock and

The three gadget plays accounted for 143 yards of total offense for the Browns in a game in which they only had 210 total yards. They made up the yards they couldn’t get from McCoy in the regular offense in very creative ways.

It’s a great thing for teams that are undermanned and undersized to go win a football game. It was a total team effort by the Browns coaching staff to make them happen, and they had a dramatic impact in the win.

— Brian Baldinger

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