NEWS

Browns notebook: Lewis playing like rushing champion

Steve Doerschuk

Could Romeo Crennel have sat through Sunday’s brutal weather as a paying customer?

“If I’m a dedicated fan,” the Browns head coach said, “I sit there and get it done.”

His job instead was to let Jamal Lewis run.

If Lewis keeps getting it done as he did during an 8-0 win over Buffalo, Crennel might stand there and sing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Lewis bruised the Bills for 163 yards on 33 carries.

As the Browns assume playoff-team personality, Lewis is playing like a rushing champion. He won’t win a rushing crown, as he did in 2003, but he might have contended had a foot injury not cost him two games. Lewis’ 89.4-yard average for his 12 full games projects to 1,252 yards over 14. Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker leads the NFL with 1,317 yards, with San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson next at 1,311.

As it is, Lewis has 1,084 yards, seventh-best in the NFL, with a competitive 4.3 per-carry average.

Here’s one perspective of Lewis vs. the big cheeses. During the last five games, Lewis has 569 rushing yards, Tomlinson 578 and Parker 444.

“It seems like, here at this time of the year, he’s running with more abandon, more sense of purpose,” Crennel said. “He’s being the bell cow as far as the running game goes and to a degree, as far as the offense goes.”

Running wild

Lewis ran for 166 yards vs. Buffalo on Sunday. His only bigger yardage games as a pro:

- Nov. 19, 2000, 187 yards vs. Dallas

- Nov. 26, 2000, 170 yards vs. Cleveland

- Oct. 6, 2002, 187 yards at Cleveland

- Sept. 14, 2003, 295 yards vs. Cleveland

- Dec. 7, 2003, 180 yards vs. Cincinnati

- Dec. 21, 2003, 205 yards at Cleveland

- Sept. 26, 2004, 186 yards at Cincinnati

- Jan. 2, 2005, 167 yards, vs. Miami (career-high 34 carries)

- Sept. 16, 2007, 216 yards vs. Cincinnati

Note: Lewis and the Browns play Cincinnati on Sunday.

For the defense

The snow had something to do with it, but a shutout still counted for something on a Browns team that had been allowing 27.7 points a game.

“They played a physical game,” Crennel said. “Those guys were hustling all day. They seemed to be enjoying themselves in the conditions out there.”

Safety Sean Jones was a factor early and often. He sniffed out a screen pass to make the final tackle of the game, with the Bills knocking on the door.

“That says he’s paying attention in the meetings,” Crennel said.

The trophy case

Tight end Steve Heiden, who threw several key blocks to spring Lewis, got a game ball. Phil Dawson got one for kicking two field goals through the snow machine.

Crennel said, “I’m going to give the whole defense game balls for the shutout.”

Crennel singled out linebacker Andra Davis, who made three tackles for loss. “That was his most productive game.”

Peek condition

Linebacker Antwan Peek was the only Brown who missed the Cincinnati game with an injury. Peek, who grew up in Cincinnati and played for the Cincinnati Bearcats, could be back in time to face the Bengals.

“We expect everybody to be there,” Crennel said.

Extra points

- QB Derek Anderson gave Braylon Edwards an early heads up that he might be winging it into the wind in hopes the wideout could win a jump ball. Edwards was open deep on the first play of the game. “We took the chance,” Crennel said. “Sometimes it’s better to take a chance early than later.” Wind knocked down the throw.

- Eric Wright returned to a starting cornerback role for the first time in four games, following an injury.  “He has a good nose for the ball,” Crennel said. “He’ll tackle. You need that when you match up against Chad (Johnson) and (T.J.) Houshmandzadeh.”

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com