CLEVELAND: Rookie running back Trent Richardson scored two more rushing touchdowns Sunday, putting himself on a similar level as Jim Brown.
Richardson tied Brown’s 1957 team record for rushing touchdowns by a rookie with nine. Richardson’s 10 total touchdowns also ties him with Brown and Eric Metcalf (1989) for the most touchdowns by a Browns rookie.
“Something like that is an honor,” Richardson said. “Jim Brown is an icon and always will be. He’s one of those guys you want to follow in his footsteps every which way you go in the football division.”
On Richardson’s first touchdown, he took the ball near the 1-yard line, dived like a missile for the goal line, became horizontal and somehow still landed on his feet. Even he was surprised he ended the play standing up.
“I was just trying to dive in,” Richardson said. “I just kept me up. I was pretty surprised. Somebody was trying to hit my legs and I’m like, ‘I’m in the end zone.’ ”
Richardson only ran for 42 yards in the Browns' 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs but did damage when it counted. And his ability to find a hole in tight space and punch it into the end zone is a welcome sight for rookie Brandon Weeden.
“As a quarterback, it’s nice to have a guy in the backfield that can kind of take the pressure off you, especially on the goal line ’cause the field’s so small,” Weeden said. “Any time you’re inside the 5, he gets a look in his eye. When he takes the ball out of your hand, you can tell he’s on a mission to get across the goal line. ... He’s just running the ball extremely hard down there.”
In the second quarter, Richardson received a little extra physicality, courtesy of former Browns defensive lineman Shaun Smith. Smith tackled Richardson after a 3-yard gain and fell on top of him before the two tussled on the ground. Tight end Alex Smith and others began shoving Smith to separate the two.
“People are going to try to get in my head and get me out of the game, but I just responded by scoring touchdowns and we won the game,” Richardson said. “My team had my back, the defense had my back. ... They did what they did and we won.”
Montario Hardesty was a bright spot for the Browns, running for 52 yards on 10 carries, including a career-long 25-yard gain, while spelling Richardson.
“He’s done that all year,” Weeden said. “He’s a nice little change-up. He comes in, he’s a little spark plug. To have a guy like Montario that can give Trent a break — Trent takes some shots, he runs so hard — that’s huge for our offense.”
Hardesty’s most noteworthy play, though, was his goal-line fumble early in the fourth quarter. Hardesty took a carry on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, tried to extend the ball over the goal line and fumbled. He quickly fell on the ball before being taken out in favor of Richardson, who scored his second touchdown of the game on the next play.
Coach Pat Shurmur was upset with himself afterward for taking Hardesty out and supported his effort on the play.
“I am so upset with myself though for not giving Hardesty that opportunity to score there,” he said. “I’m [mad] at myself for doing that. There was nothing to it, it just happened. Montario, as you could see, earned the right to carry the football. I trust him in every situation.”
As the media asked Hardesty about the play in the locker room, Shurmur poked his head into the huddle of reporters to show his support and again explained that it was a good play, saying Hardesty’s been “great.”
Hardesty, of course, wanted to stay in the game but was in good spirits.
“It’s all good,” he said. “I would have loved to have [the touchdown]. Either way, we still got a W. ... [Shurmur] told me that he trusted me.”
The Browns’ defense didn’t exactly get off to the best start Sunday. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles took the first play from scrimmage 80 yards for a touchdown. But over the final 59-plus minutes, the Browns’ defense was virtually immovable, only allowing 230 total yards, sacking quarterback Brady Quinn five times and intercepting one of his passes.
“You just got to stop the nosebleeds,” safety T.J. Ward said. “In the past sometimes we might let a nosebleed keep running, and affect us the rest of the game. Right now, one thing goes wrong and we are onto the next play and looking to make a better play.”
Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson attributes some of that to having a healthy defense and the younger players gaining experience.
“We had a lot of guys in key roles that were a little immature at the beginning of the season," said Jackson, who had seven tackles. They’ve grown up a bit and it’s trickling down from everyone.”
After Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis went a couple of verbal rounds with left tackle Joe Thomas during the week about Hillis’ tenure with the Browns and his contract situation throughout the 2011 season, Hillis was virtually a nonfactor Sunday.
He carried the ball only five times for 11 yards despite a rib injury that kept Charles out for a couple of series. As Hillis ran the ball for the first time, he received a chorus of boos from Browns fans both during the play and as he ran to the sideline.
Hillis spoke with Browns running backs coach Gary Brown, tight end Ben Watson and some others after the game.
GM, coaching rumblings
Another report linking the NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi to the Browns surfaced Sunday. Citing two unnamed NFL sources, Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe reported Lombardi could become the next general manager of the Browns if owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner decide to make a switch from Tom Heckert after this season.
According to the report, Heckert might force his way out if Banner assumes the personnel controls, especially financial, that he had during his time as president of the Philadelphia Eagles. Banner and Lombardi worked together when the latter was in personnel with the Eagles from 1997-98.
The report also tied Lombardi’s potential arrival with the Browns with University of Alabama coach Nick Saban possibly becoming the next coach of the Browns.
Saban went 15-17 as coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06. If Saban doesn’t return to the NFL and Lombardi still lands with the Browns, University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a Canton McKinley graduate, would be the next two names on the Browns’ list, according to the report.
Lombardi worked in personnel for the Browns from 1987-95. He also worked for the Eagles, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. He was fired by the Raiders in 2007 and hasn’t worked for an NFL team since.
Jason La Canfora of CBS and Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly have also reported that Lombardi will likely return to the Browns to run their personnel department.
Last month, Banner was asked about the Lombardi speculation in an interview with the Beacon Journal.
“Well, since I haven’t even decided whether the people that are here are staying or going, I think speculation that I’m actually deciding or have decided who I’d bring in if we made a change is not right,” Banner said. “And then getting into comments about who we would be looking at if we made a change when we haven’t made a decision whether to make a change is not anything I’d engage in.”
Weeden and Gavin
During its Sunday NFL Countdown broadcast, ESPN ran a special presentation on Weeden’s special relationship with Gavin Kuykendall, a 6-year-old from Oklahoma City born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Weeden, who played college football at Oklahoma State, is trying to help out with an endowment fund, which he hopes can be used to bring a top-of-the-line heart surgeon to Oklahoma City.
With his fifth win of the season, Weeden set a Browns rookie quarterback record (Bernie Kosar won four games as a rookie in 1985). And with 217 yards, Weeden also became just the third Browns quarterback to eclipse 3,000 yards in a season (Derek Anderson and Tim Couch) since 1999. ... Receiver Josh Gordon’s eight catches were a career high. ... Phil Dawson’s first of three field goals was the 300th of his career. He also eclipsed 100 points on the season, the sixth time he has done that in his career and first time since 2008. Because of the milestone, Dawson conceded that he was nervous before the game. ... With five sacks, the Browns have 33 for the season, surpassing last season’s total of 32. ... Defensive tackle Phil Taylor (ankle) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (bruised thigh) suffered injuries but finished the game, Shurmur said. ... Dimitri Patterson, the Browns’ top nickel cornerback, played for the first time since Oct. 7. He sat out seven consecutive games with a left high ankle sprain and a torn ligament. Special-teams ace Ray Ventrone was also active after missing the past three games with an injured calf. Cornerback Trevin Wade, safety Eric Hagg, running back Brandon Jackson, fullback Owen Marecic, defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron, guard Jarrod Shaw and wide receiver Josh Cooper were inactive for the Browns.