The Cleveland Browns came into their Week 7 game against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night hampered by injuries to almost every position on the field.
Next man up mentality was key and Cleveland delivered.
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Browns running D’Ernest Johnson had a breakout performance to power Cleveland to a 17-14 win.
Johnson, who is the third-string running back behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt made his first start, showed out with 146 rushing yards on 22 carries and scored his first career touchdown in the first quarter. It was on his back the Browns won the game.
He signed with the Browns in 2019 after his time with the Alliance of American Football abruptly ended. He played eight games for the Orlando Apollos before he joined the Browns later in the year. He’s spent the last few seasons in a backup role before Chubb and Hunt would go down in back-to-back weeks.
While talking to FOX’s NFL sideline reporter Erin Andrews, an emotional Johnson was at a loss for words. He said it was a dream come true to play in the NFL.
“It’s unexplainable. First off, I want to give thanks to God. Without him I wouldn’t be here,” Johnson said. “I want to give thanks to coach (Stump Mitchell) for just believing in me and coach (Mike Priefer) for just believing in me and giving me a chance. It feels great. Like I say it was always a dream come true for a chance to come out here and play this game and just be able to start.”
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Before Johnson signed with the Browns, he was working as a fisherman in the Florida Keys. Andrews asked whether he thought any of this was possible while he was fishing.
“Playing in the NFL was always my dream. But being on the fishing boat and just … coming where I come from, man, it’s a blessing. Not too many people make it out with what I did and I just got to give thanks to God because without him, like I say, I wouldn’t be here. I’m just soaking it all in and being thankful for the opportunity.”
LeBron James even took notice of Johnson’s performance.
Case Keenum played as well as the Browns could’ve hoped for. Starting for an injured Baker Mayfield, he was 21-for-33 with 199 passing yards and didn’t throw an interception. Jarvis Landry had a team-high five catches for 37 yards. Johnny Stanton had Keenum’s one touchdown pass.
Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 23-for-33 with 187 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Courtland Sutton had five catches or 68 yards. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III each had touchdown catches in the loss.
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The Browns move to 4-3 on the season. Denver drops to 3-4 with four consecutive losses.