Blessing in Disguise?

With Hillis sidelined, Hardesty saw more snaps than expected.

BEREA — No one with the Browns will admit it, but the illness to Peyton Hillis might have been a blessing in disguise. The Browns had talked about using Montario Hardesty more in the backfield.

"We wanted to play him more, but not 61 snaps," Pat Shurmur said. "But, that's the way it worked out. I think he did a terrific job."

With the illness sidelining Hillis, there was no choice: Hardesty was the guy.

Hardesty responded with 67 yards on 14 carries for 4.8 yards per carry average. He also caught three passes for 19 yards, including a 10-yard pass on fourth and 4 with 1:11 to play. The Browns earned a first down at the Dolphins' 27-yard line.

"It was a great opportunity for me," Hardesty said after the game. "An opportunity presented itself and I wanted to go out there and play well and play hard, so it was fun.

"I haven't played much football in a long time and it was fun. To do it on this stage, plus to get a win like that, it was great for our team and we have to take that momentum and keep moving forward."

Shurmur liked what he saw of Hardesty and feels the best is yet to come.

"He's a very instinctive runner and as he approaches 100 percent, we'll see more," Shurmur said.  "He did some good things."

Arguably, the one-two punch of Hillis and Hardesty could be the team's offensive strength.

That begs the next question. Why not play both backs in the backfield at the same time the majority of the time, not just on occasion?

"I think they can play together," Shurmur said.

He indicated that the duo might have been on the field together quite a bit if Hillis wasn't sick.

"Right before the game our roster changed," Shurmur said. "We had plans to have both in there. There's a place for them both."

One reason two traditional halfbacks cannot be on the field at the same time is if one cannot block. Shurmur said that both Hillis and Hardesty can block.

"They do have to block," Shurmur said. "Both are good blockers and I think they are with the run and the pass."

Notebook

Hillis Back: Shurmur said that Peyton Hillis returned to Berea on Monday. Hillis was apart of the team meetings after missing Sunday's game with strep throat.

Brown Down: The injury of the week appears to be the groin. Defensive back Sheldon Brown injured his groin late in the game and was replaced by Buster Skrine and Dimitri Patterson in the final series. Linebacker Chris Gocong strained his groin and wide receiver Josh Cribbs played with his groin injury.

Defensive lineman Phil Taylor also suffered a sprained MCL, according to Shurmur. Taylor walked off the field during the game and later returned to play a majority of defensive snaps.

"He's fine," Shurmur said of Taylor. "He only missed two plays."

He also said that Cribbs is "no worse for wear" as is Mohamed Massaquoi.

Shurmur said offensive lineman Joe Thomas suffered a knee strain, but he should be fine. Shurmur said that linebacker Titus Brown and defensive back Eric Hagg should be able to do more in practice this week. He also said that right tackle Tony Pashos will make a stronger effort this week.

Lockdown Joe: For the first time this season, cornerback Joe Haden was paired up with one wide receiver. Previously, Haden had been playing only on one side. Against the Colts, Sheldon Brown covered Reggie Wayne a large part of the game. Against the Dolphins, Haden followed Brandon Marshall all over the field. Marshall had four catches for 43 yards.

"It was intentional," Shurmur said. "This is a game of matchups and we might do that again, depending on who we play and if the opponent has a receiver who is much better than the other receivers, in our view."

"It was a really good challenge," Haden said. "He is a great receiver. He is so strong and big and he uses his weight and his hands really well and I think that was just another step. I thought I did a good job and Coach (Shurmur) said we did well, so it was a good day."

The Numbers: The Browns rank 26th in offense (22nd rushing, 25th passing) and ninth in defense (29th rushing, third passing).

Over Jubilant:  Shurmur said that the celebration penalty was for having two players on the ground.

"It's a rule when you go to the ground and if the officials think it is choreographed," Shurmur said. "That's why they threw the flag."

Receiver Time: Two of the receivers didn't have any receptions until the game-winning drive in Greg Little and Massaquoi. Little caught all three of his passes on the final drive and finished with three receptions for 24 yards. Massaquoi had two for 26 yards, including the 14-yard touchdown to win the game.

"They showed up at the end and made the players," Shurmur said. "We will try to get the ball to the receivers in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter."

Brian Robiskie failed to catch a pass in the third consecutive game. On the final drive, Colt McCoy tried to hit Robiskie on a deep pass, but the ball was overthrown.


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