It was a cloudy and rainy day in Cleveland that went through into the first quarter of the Browns home game against the 49ers at Cleveland Browns Stadium. It wasn't until RB Kareem Hunt's 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Browns their first score of the game that the sun immediately peaked out from behind the clouds. At that moment, the run game began to improve.
The Browns rushed for a total of 160 yards, the most they have since Week 2 when RB Nick Chubb was starting. RB Jerome Ford rushed for 84 yards, and Hunt rushed for 47 yards.
"We wanted the coaches to stick with the run and play through us," Hunt said. "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."
The coaching staff relied on the run game more Sunday, as Hunt (12) and Ford (17) had their most rushing attempts of the season. This is also the first time since Week 2 that the run game was the driving force for the Browns offense.
Both Ford and Hunt had memorable runs in the game Sunday. Ford's longest run came in crunch time. With 2:22 remaining in the game, he ran for 22 yards, giving the Browns a crucial first down. It put the Browns at the 49ers 14-yard line, giving K Dustin Hopkins a chip shot kick to put the Browns up 19-17.
"I appreciate coach putting his faith in us and putting us in position to make plays," Ford said. "That is a big part of it, trusting in coach throughout this week and the gameplan."
On that 22-yard run, Ford said that he saw a "trap," which the Browns had been practicing throughout the week of practice. They had seen the "trap" work against the 49ers defense film and were able to use it on Sunday to their advantage.
"That was a great play call by coach," Ford said. "As soon as he called it, I knew what to do with it."
Ford's run was clutch, but his running mate started off the action for the tandem. Hunt scored his first touchdown of the season off a wildcat play where TE Harrison Bryant took the snap and pitched the ball to him. Hunt found a hole in the defense and ran the 16 yards into the end zone.
"It felt good to be in that end zone again," Hunt said. "I have been there many times in my career. I'm grateful to be able to play the game for my hometown and just to be out there."
Hunt said that the bye week was crucial in boosting his morale, enabling him to deliver his best performance of the season on Sunday. On Sept. 20, he signed with the Browns and quickly returned to the field after not playing with pads, doing football workout or being around a team during the offseason since he was a free agent. It was the most carries Hunt has had since signing with the Browns this season, and Hunt said he's excited to build off his success from Sunday's game moving through the remainder of the season.
HC Kevin Stefanski noticed that same pickup in Hunt throughout the game, and said it is a solid sign for Hunt moving forward.
"I think we've talked about Kareem getting back into football shape and he's there or he's getting there," Stefanski said. "He hadn't been tackled in a while but felt like we wanted to get him going early. So started him in this game and got him a screen early. But I can't say enough about Kareem and Jerome (Ford) those guys are running hard, hitting it. It's not always pretty, but I'm really proud of those guys."