CLEVELAND — Isaiah Crowell and the Browns' run game found its footing on a snowy afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.
It was ultimately not enough to lift Cleveland -- which fell, 23-10, to Cincinnati on Sunday -- to its first win of the season but served as a bright spot in an otherwise inconsistent performance.
The Browns finished with 169 yards rushing — the most since Week 7 when they racked up 180 yards on the road against the Bengals — in what's now tied for their second-best display this season (Week 3 at Miami).
That resurgence was powered by Crowell, who carried the ball 10 times for 113 yards, including 87 in a third quarter that saw Cleveland start to trim the deficit. "I feel like our line did a great job in opening up lanes for me to run," said Crowell, who eclipsed the century mark for the fourth time this season and first time since Week 4 against the Redskins. He also broke runs of 42 and 30 yards in what were the two longest plays by Cleveland's offense.
"I think Crow was doing a great job running hard. When you get conditions that are a little sloppy and snowy, I think Crow is the perfect type of running back," left tackle Joe Thomas said.
"He runs with his whole cleat in the ground. He doesn't slip and he makes guys miss. He is the type of guy you want out there when you have tough conditions."
Browns coach Hue Jackson said he was encouraged by the performance but said he expects more from the unit. "That was another one of the areas, as I told you, that we need to get the running game back to going," he said. "That part of it we did OK, not great, but better. We have to continue to get better at it.
"This is a team sport, and we have to play well in all phases – special teams, offense and defense – to win a game. As I said before, we almost have to play close to perfect to do that. We can't play in spurts. We can't play not well enough in the first half and then come out in the second half and do some things better and think you can catch a good team because they have good players, too. We have to find a way to start faster."
Indeed, the Browns fell into an early 20-0 hole and were never able to climb out of it. And while Cleveland's pass game was largely ineffective in quarterback Robert Griffin's first start since the season opener, the run game got into a rhythm.
"I think the only switch we made was running it a few more times, and we kind of gashed them on a few of them," Thomas said. "I think that was the key to a couple of our second half drives."