The Cleveland Browns lost on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-27, but the sky won’t be falling on Monday. In fact, there will actually be a great deal of hope. Thanks to the performances of quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, Browns fans are breathing a sigh of relief.
Both players looked nothing like the struggling rookies that showed up against the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener. Instead, Richardson looked exactly how a third overall pick should look, and Weeden likely silenced many of his critics with a solid performance.
Richardson finished the day with 19 rushes for 109 yards and a touchdown to go along with four catches for 36 yards and another score, which was the result of a highlight-reel run on his part. He was the first Browns player to record a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game since running back Jamal Lewis in 2007. More so, he was the first Browns rookie to rush for more than 100 yards since Lee Suggs (186) in 2003. Richardson was a true difference-maker for the Browns, which opened the door for Weeden’s big day.
Weeden, who was a major subject of debate during the week, completed 26 of 37 passes for 322 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He looked much more comfortable, deftly stepping up in the pocket and continuing to develop chemistry with wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who finished the day with five catches for 90 yards. Better yet, those 322 passing yards were a Browns rookie single-game record.
But, of course, a loss is still a loss. The Browns gave up a punt return for a touchdown to Adam Jones, which ended up making a huge difference. The secondary – missing cornerbacks Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown – was consistently torched by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Cornerback Buster Skrine was especially victimized, though rookie cornerback Trevin Wade was beaten badly on what would end up being the deciding touchdown.
Not everything on the defense was a disappointment, though. The Browns do appear to be developing a strong pass rush, evidenced by six sacks on Dalton and constant pressure. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson notched three sacks of his own, making him the first Browns player to record three sacks in a game since defensive end Kenard Lang did so in 2004.
So yes, the Browns are sitting at 0-2, about to take on the Buffalo Bills at home. But what was this season other than an opportunity to make strides in development? With so many young players, the key will be to not experience a letdown next Sunday.
Until then, though, fans will revel in the glimpse of what kind of team this can become. A loss is a loss, sure, but Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson have suddenly brightened the future of the Browns.