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Behind Isaiah Crowell, Browns finding identity in bruising run game

LANDOVER, Maryland — The Browns are still trying to get over "the hump" after an 0-4 start, but they just might have found an offensive identity in the process.

After a 31-20 loss to the Redskins that watched Cleveland commit three late turnovers, there were few smiles in the locker room Sunday afternoon and head coach Hue Jackson expressed disappointment for his players in another narrow defeat.

But the Browns continue to run over opponents, and Washington's defense wasn't spared as the team totaled 163 yards on 28 carries.

It was a display that seemed to underscore the evolution of a run game that's now ranked first in the NFL with 149.3 yards a game and one that hasn't offered any signs of slowing down.

On Sunday, Isaiah Crowell finished with 112 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while Duke Johnson Jr. handled nine touches for 53 yards.

"I know for sure that had them worn down," Crowell said of the Redskins. "We were pounding the rock and we've just got to keep going."

Crowell, who said he wanted to rush for 1,000 yards at the beginning of the season, finds himself as the league's second-leading rusher in total yards and yards per game while his 6.4 yards a carry leads the NFL.

"I said it a long time ago, I think he's one of the better backs in this league. He's playing good, and I still think there's more in there," Jackson said. "He's got a chance to be a very dominant player but again he's got to keep working at it … he's playing good, he really is. I'm proud of him for taking the next step, the next jump in his ability to get better and he's done that."

"I feel like I haven't scratched the surface of what I'm capable of but I trust coach and I know he believes in me and I appreciate that," Crowell said. "I just want to keep going out there and playing hard for him and just playing hard for my teammates."

That belief was evident when the Browns fell behind 14-0 and continued to feed Crowell.

"It's so early in the game that so much stuff can happen. I think when you go to pass too early it really messes up the gel of an offense, especially with our game plan with (rookie quarterback) Cody (Kessler) and Crow running the way he is and Duke running the way he is," left guard Joel Bitonio said.

"We've got to stick to the run and we know it's a long game and we've got a chance to catch up, which we did."

Crowell, whom Jackson lauded this past spring as having "extreme" talent, said he's seeing the field better than ever in his third year in the league.

"I feel like I'm kind of more comfortable and I feel like I'm getting more opportunities so I appreciate my coaches for trusting me," Crowell said. "I appreciate that because I know he trusts me and trusts the offensive line to go out there and get it done to create space."

And because of that, the Browns have something to build around, even after a painful loss.

"It was unfortunate we couldn't convert all that into points," Bitonio said, "but I feel like the last couple of weeks we've really started to establish a running game and try to establish an identity for the offense."

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