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Chubb’s injury, Watson’s poor play saps optimism of Browns fans

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) grimaces as he lies on the ground.
Matt Durisko
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) grimaces in pain after being injured during an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh.

Hope has turned to despair once again for Browns fans, after another loss in Pittsburgh and a season- ending knee injury to star running back Nick Chubb. The team confirmed he'll undergo surgery.

Chubb was hit by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the second quarter of Monday's game.

"So, suddenly, Nick Chubb who's seemingly indestructible, is down on the field. His teammates come to help him up and he waves them off,” said our sports commentator Terry Pluto.

Pluto said it was tough for fans to see Chubb in agony.

“The thing about Nick Chubb is, while some players it seems like you breathe on them hard, they lie on the field, they're drama queens. Chubb prides himself on, like, ’Nothing bothers me. I get up.’ And we see him there and suddenly he's, like, taking his helmet off and he can't move. And they close in on his face and I’m going, 'This is really bad,'” Pluto said.

The impact buckled the same knee that Chubb injured in 2015 at Georgia and had surgically reconstructed.

“And he tore three different ligaments. In fact, that's part of the reason that he didn't go as high in the draft as he should have,” Pluto said.

For the Browns, it’s a big blow both on and off the field.

“He's been with the Browns since 2018. I have never received a negative email, a negative tweet, a negative comment from a fan about Nick Chubb. It's really hard to get anybody agree on anything. But the casual fan, the hardcore fan, the New Age fan, the old-style fan. They all agreed. Nick Chubb was a great running back and boy, he sure seems like a great guy. Even Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, he would call him, ‘We need to stop Mr. Chubb’. And believe me, that was a term of endearment. Chubb is what you want the Cleveland Browns to be all about,” Pluto said .

Suddenly, Pluto said, the opening game win against the Bengals seems like a distant memory.

Because it's not just the loss, it's losing Chubb," Pluto said. "And, you know, it's like you lost the best running back in the in the NFL, and that's only half the story. You lost your best guy in the clubhouse."

Pluto said now the team will rely heavily on backup running back Jerome Ford and it’s possible they’ll acquire another running back. But he says ultimately, the weight rests on quarterback Deshaun Watson’s shoulders, who struggled during the game against Pittsburgh.

He just really, to me, looked rattled. And this is something I've noticed since he's got here. I would just call it a lack of poise," Pluto said. "He’s just struggling with, ‘What am I doing out there?’ They call it the speed of the game. You call it whatever you want, (he) doesn't have the same confidence that he had before, you know, all his personal problems and sitting out.”

Pluto said Watson’s performance is especially important because the defense has been excellent.

“The Browns defense has allowed one touchdown in two games. They don't need Deshaun Watson to be great. They need Deshaun Watson not to make destructive plays and to be pretty good. If he can do that, they can be pretty good." he said.

The Browns are now 1-1 and return home to face the Tennessee Titans (1-1) on Sunday. Pluto said it’s a big game.

“I think it's huge because you turn around, you lose at home to the Titans, who are just a so-so team, and Deshaun Watson plays poorly. You know how the Browns fans are. They're mad. They all love Chubb. He's hurt," Pluto said. "Then they thought, well, maybe they could win a game anyway if Watson could just be okay. He wasn't. So, they'll turn on him. You know, a lot of it rests on the coaches, but I'm really making the point that I want to see Deshaun Watson act like, say, a grade B quarterback."

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