Browns Johnson overpowers Broncos in first NFL start

Los Angeles (AFP) – D'Ernest Johnson caught fire in his first NFL start, rushing for a career-best 146 yards and scoring a touchdown to power the injury-riddled Cleveland Browns to a 17-14 victory over the Denver Broncos.


The undrafted 25-year-old Floridian finished with 22 carries and also had 22 receiving yards on Thursday for the Browns, who snapped a two-game losing skid in the battle between two banged-up NFL teams.

The Browns were without their first-string quarterback Baker Mayfield and two of their top running backs, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, who missed his second straight game with a calf injury. Hunt also has a sore calf and Mayfield has an injury in his throwing arm which could keep him sidelined for awhile.

"I just trusted my ability. It is a great feeling," said running back Johnson. "It is unexplainable. The coaches believed in me and gave me a chance."

This was Johnson's first start in this third year in the NFL. Heading into this game he had carried for just 11 yards this season.

In just one game, Johnson came close to surpassing his previous season-best rushing yards total of 166 from last season.

Johnson was undrafted out of the University of Southern Florida, where he rushed for 1,796 yards and 16 touchdowns in four seasons.

The New Orleans Saints invited him to training camp but Johnson didn't catch on. He then worked on a fishing boat while waiting for his NFL opportunity to come along.

Johnson eventually landed a job in the Alliance of American Football league. The Browns saw him play and invited him to train with the team.

"Playing in the NFL is my dream, but being on a fishing boat was a blessing," Johnson said. "Not too many people make it out of from where I been."

Backup quarterback Case Keenum passed for 199 yards and one touchdown while starting in place of Mayfield and Johnny Stanton caught his first career scoring pass in the win.

Denver's Teddy Bridgewater completed 23 of 33 passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while playing on a sore foot. Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams caught touchdown passes for the Broncos, who lost their fourth consecutive game and dropped to 3-4 on the season.