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Game Balls: 4 standouts who helped lead the Browns to a Week 7 victory

Three offensive players filled in for starters and rose to the occasion while the defense generated a much-needed rebound performance

The Browns won, 17-14, on Thursday over the Denver Broncos, which means it's time to give away a round of game balls to those who helped Cleveland secure its fourth win of the season.

Game Ball No. 1: RB D'Ernest Johnson

Johnson waited three years to receive his first NFL start, and he made it known from the first snap he was going to dominate.

His first carry of the game resulted in his longest run of the night — a 20-yard rush that set up his first career touchdown two plays later and ignited the Browns sideline and fans. Johnson, who spent a year working as a fisherman before cracking the Browns' training camp roster in 2019, was perhaps the top story of a memorable Thursday night in Cleveland and did a masterful job filling in for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who were both sidelined with calf injuries.

"I can single out a bunch of guys, but D'Ernest Johnson to me is just a warrior," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Great teammate. What he's fought through in his career, and then to go have a night like that and end it how he did on that third down, I thought that was just outstanding."

Game Ball No. 2: QB Case Keenum

In his first start since 2019, Keenum delivered the ball to the right receivers and kept the offense moving against a fairly strong Broncos defense. That's all the Browns could ask of him after he learned Wednesday he'd start due to the shoulder injury to Baker Mayfield.

His biggest play of the night was when he scrambled for a first down on fourth-and-3 from the Broncos' 6-yard line in the third quarter. The 33-year-old Keenum slipped through an initial tackle attempt from a defender to get there, and his conversion set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to FB Johnny Stanton on the next play.

Overall, Keenum finished 21-of-33 with 199 passing yards, one touchdown and no interception. The most important stat, though, was the win.

Check out photos of the Browns against the Broncos in week seven

Game Ball No. 3: OL Blake Hance

Broncos LB Von Miller said he was "going to kill" whichever tackle lined up against him a few days before facing the Browns.

That man was Blake Hance, who replaced Jack Conklin at right tackle in the starting lineup and was only making his third start of his career.

Hance, a one-year veteran, won against Miller, an eight-time Pro Bowler. Miller didn't record a single sack and was relatively quiet until he departed the game in the second quarter with an injury.

Hance held his own for the entire night and has largely delivered for the Browns ever since he made his debut in the fourth quarter of their playoff win over the Steelers last season. He's made starts in the last three games and has proven to be a dependable backup piece for an O-Line that has dealt with injuries at the tackle positions for most of the season.

Game Ball No. 4: John Johnson III

The defense deserves more credit than just one game ball, but we'll let Johnson represent the group after he recorded his first interception of the year and the defense's first interception since Week 4.

Johnson made the play on a deep-ball attempt from Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater. The throwing decision was a poor one on Bridgewater's part — receiver John Brown was in double coverage — but Johnson's positioning was perfect, which made the catch a fairly easy one.

That play was the top highlight for a much-needed rebound night from the defense. After allowing 84 points in the last two weeks, they held the Broncos to just 223 net yards and limited their run game to 41 yards. Both of those stats are the lowest from Denver all season.