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Browns running game looks to get back on track as heading into Week 13

The Browns rushing production in the last two weeks has been minimal


Despite its usual run-first approach this season, the Browns offense has been passing more frequently when QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has started.  In three games this season with Thompson-Robinson as the starter, the Browns running backs have a total of 59 carries.

After the Week 4 loss to the Ravens – which was Thompson-Robinson's first career start – RB Kareem Hunt mentioned that the team needed to go back to a run-first offense. 

"We wanted the coaches to stick with the run and play through us," Hunt said after Week 6 win against the 49ers. "I believe we are a run-first team no matter what. We need to run the football to open up the pass game. We need teams to fear the run."

At different points of the season, the Browns have found that balance of using the run game to open up the passing game. In Weeks 6 through 11, the Browns had at least two running backs with double-digit attempts. However, in Week 12 against the Broncos, none of the running backs were able to reach double-digit attempts.

"We felt like we had some good opportunities there, both in the run and the pass game," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "We had some missed opportunities, unfortunately, and that's the frustrating part of we have to hit some of those opportunities again, both in the run and the pass, to score more points."

The Browns threw the ball 42 times on Sunday against the Broncos and had 24 rushing attempts. In Week 11, the Browns threw the ball 43 times and rushed 29 times. In both games, Thompson-Robinson started.

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Broncos by the Browns photo team

The Browns offense had a different look with QB Deshaun Watson under center. In Week 10 against the Ravens, the Browns had 36 carries versus 34 pass attempts. In Week 9, the Browns rushed 40 times versus only throwing the ball 30 times against the Cardinals.

The Browns said a quarterback change shouldn't affect the offensive game plan. But in three games with Thompson-Robinson, the offense looked different. Some of that is matchup-based. The Browns need to get back to running the ball first because the offense scores more points when the run game is leading the charge. This season, the Browns have 11 rushing touchdowns versus nine passing touchdowns.

Hunt has the most touchdowns on the team this season, with six in nine games played. Hunt is the secondary running back who usually is put in to get the tough short-yard gains. All six of Hunt's touchdowns this season came when the Browns were on the goal line. He is the vocal leader for the running back group and has the most experience.

They also have RB Pierre Strong Jr., the third running back who has had big runs this season despite not getting many attempts. He has 35 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown this season. Against the Ravens in Week 4, Strong broke loose for a 40-yard run, which turned out to be the only big play for the Browns that game. 

RB Jerome Ford is the primary running back for the Browns, as he has carried the ball 145 times, and rushed for 628 yards this season, the most on the team. His versatility sets him apart from Hunt, as he is equally adept at running and catching the ball. This season, he has been willing to do whatever his coaches ask of him, making him an invaluable asset to the team.

"Like coach said before the game, it's a do your job game," Ford said. "So no matter whether we're running the ball, I'm in pass pro, or running a route, I'm out there to do my job. And that's pretty much all I focus on, is whenever I'm on the field, whatever play is called, I'm just out there making sure that I do my job." 

The Browns will take on the Rams on Sunday, but who will start at quarterback is undecided as Thompson-Robinson is in concussion protocol. No matter who starts, the Browns can look to find a way to involve the run game to help balance their offense.