CLEVELAND — Jimmy Haslam exited the Cleveland Browns locker room Sunday afternoon following his team’s 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Haslam was clutching a game ball in his left hand and a smile on his face.
But it was when that ball was in the hands of Trent Richardson earlier in the afternoon that gave Haslam his first win as the official team owner.
Richardson finished with 122 yards rushing and one touchdown against a Chargers defense that entered the game ranked second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game at 71.2
Richardson did more than just score the only — and what proved to be winning — touchdown Sunday. But let’s start there. It was the Browns’ opening possession of the game and on the 12th play of the drive, Richardson broke two tackles and ran 26 yards for the score.
“I got past the safeties and all these linemen just started pushing me,” Richardson said. “They were saying, ‘Go, go, go.’ It was fun.”
From there, the Browns’ offense stalled and it became the Reggie Hodges show. With 7:37 left in the game, the Browns took over at their own 3-yard line. The previous eight offensive possessions ended with a punt and the Browns faced a third and 6 from their own 7-yard line with 6:48 left to play.
Weeden dumped it to Richardson out of the backfield and he went for 12 yards.
I told Brandon if they’re going to blitz, look for me,” Richardson said. “I know if I was going to get the ball I would get the first down.”
Although that possession would eventually end with Hodges’ ninth consecutive punt, it put the Chargers at their own 12-yard line with 2:36 left to play.
“We had to take some time off the clock,” Shurmur said. “We had to flip the field because they’re very explosive and all they needed was a field goal.”
On that final drive, Richardson accounted for 33 of the team’s 48 yards. He rushed three times for 21 yards and caught the one ball for 12.
“He was the spark that we needed,” Weeden said. “He played his tail off. We were able to run on a very good run defense.”
Richardson made plays. He was reliable. He willed the team to a victory. It is exactly what you expect when you draft an offensive skill position player with the third overall selection.
It was a selection that was well worth it, according to Jim Brown, who was in the team’s locker room after the game.
“It means a lot (he was here), he’s always been an icon,” Richardson said. “That’s just big to see him out there waiting on me. I was in the training room when someone said that he was out there waiting on me. I jumped up and went to go see him.”
Brown was quite complimentary of the rookie running back.
“When you have a runner like that it makes the defense feel bad as if they are being controlled by a great runner,” Brown said. “So that choice was a good choice and the attitude he brings to the organization is a great attitude. He’s a leader at this stage of his career. His work ethic and attitude is going to be great for this team and city.”
The same is being said about Haslam, who is now 1-0 as team owner after the previous regime finished 69-145.
With eight games remaining in the Browns’ 2012 season, there are positive signs sprinkled around their 2-6 record. Hope remains in Brownstown and it also remains with the players.
“I was getting ready for my ‘see you Wednesday’ speech in the locker room,” Shurmur said. “Before I could get that out they said, ‘Nope, coach. See you tomorrow.’ I admire they know how important it is to get back to work. They know we have a by week on the horizon and they want to work. That’s an impressive thing for our team.”