- The Cleveland Browns scored a brilliant underhand touchdown pass against the Chargers on Sunday.
- The play looked a lot like a play the Chiefs have had success with around the goal line.
- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
The Cleveland Browns showed off a stunning goal-line play during Sunday’s game against the Chargers that looked eerily similar to a favorite move from Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
On a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter, quarterback Baker Mayfield took a shotgun snap and moved to his right as several receivers worked their way to the same side. But rather throw in their direction, Mayfield instead looped an underhand pass against the grain of the play to tight end Austin Hooper, who had feigned a block at the snap.
Hooper caught the pass and easily stepped into the end zone before the Chargers defense could get to him, extending the Browns’ lead to a touchdown.
The play is nearly identical to a concept the Chiefs have used around the goal line and in other short-yardage situations in recent years.
Last week, the Chiefs scored on both an underhand toss and a shovel pass from Patrick Mahomes near the end zone. However, the play the Browns ran on Sunday looks closer to a version that the Chiefs ran last year.
Both plays move the defenses in similar ways.
By bringing most of the offense to the right, the defense is forced to respond in kind. Then just when the defense is catching up to the play, the quarterback pivots the entire direction of the action back to the middle, where the tight end, who had been selling a block at the start of the play, is sitting wide open just past the line of scrimmage.
The defense is left flat-footed, and the touchdown is in before the defense can react.
The Chiefs pulled off a similar play earlier in the 2020 season, this time with fullback Anthony Sherman serving as the fake-blocker-turned-touchdown-scorer.
Shovel passes aren’t new to the NFL, but this design is something that more teams have started taking note of, given the success of the Chiefs.
The NFL is a league of thievery, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Good job by the Chiefs for designing innovative plays, and well done by the Browns to take what works from them and make them their own.