CLEVELAND—It was the day of the rabbit.
Travis Benjamin scored three touchdowns to lift the Browns to a 28-14 win over the Tennessee Titans in the home opener for the Browns, but he nearly broke the all-purpose yardage record for the Browns falling just 47 yards short. Benjamin had 269 all-purpose yards (115 receiving, 154 punt returns) in the win. The record is 316 held by Josh Cribbs, set on Dec. 20, 2009.
“I didn’t know that,” Benjamin said laughing. “I probably would have went to Flip (John DeFilippo) and had him dial up another play.”
Benjamin had touchdowns of 50-and 60-yards, beside the 78-yard punt return for a score. He is the first player in Browns history to record two receiving scores and a punt return in the same game and the first NFL player to do so since the Rams’ Tavon Austin did so on Nov. 10, 2013. Benjamin’s 269 combined yards today are tied for the seventh-most in a single-game in team history, while his three career punt return scores are tied for second.
Benjamin said he wasn’t surprised by his start in the first two games, with four of the Browns five touchdowns.
“I always envision greatness, knowing that every time I’m on the field I’m coming out and putting my best foot forward.”
Benjamin didn’t have to wait long to respond when asked why he’s been so open on deep balls.
“Being fast,” he said. “It just comes to a point where, if a defensive back is five to six yards close to me and I have the deep ball, I just tell Johnny or Josh to put it in the air and I’ll go get it for them.”
Benjamin scored on the second play from scrimmage for the Browns as he streaked by Coty Sensabaugh and caught the strike from Johnny Manziel to give the Browns a quick 7-0 lead.
“Based on coverage, we knew that we would get a certain coverage,” Benjamin said. “Before Johnny and I even came on the play in that series, I told him if you get this coverage just launch the ball and I’d go get it.”
With 53 seconds to play in the half, Benjamin scored on a 78-yard punt return to give the Browns a 21-0 lead. Benjamin received the ball in the corner of the field on the Browns sideline and took off with a wall of blockers running back to the Titans’ sideline and sprinted down the sideline before hurdling punter Brett Kern, who had been knocked down by Pierre Desir.
“It was designed,” Benjamin said “We had a field return and Tennessee is always trying to spread the field. I saw a crease and once I hit it, I was untouched until the end zone.”
Benjamin had six punt returns for 154 yards. Besides the 78-yard touchdown return, he had returns of 14-, 25-, 16-, 9- and 12-yards. Benjamin ties Josh Cribbs, Dennis Northcutt, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell behind only Eric Metcalf for the most punt returns for touchdowns in Browns history. Benjamin owns the record for punt return yards in a game with 179.
After the Browns offense had sputtered on their first three possessions of the second half, Benjamin once again got open and Manziel found him with 2:51 to play in the game for a 50-yard touchdown to give the Browns a two touchdown lead at 28-14 after Tennessee had cut the deficit to 21-14.
“It was one of those downs where we needed to stay on the field,” Benjamin said. “Once I saw Johnny rolling left, I knew I just had to get in his vision. He just saw me and launched the ball and I ran up under it.”
On the day, Benjamin had three receptions of for 116 yards with two touchdowns, in addition to the punt return for a score.
Benjamin said he has always had confidence in himself.
“I wouldn’t say it’s swagger,” he said. “I’m always confident. I know that just believing in God and just going out there and playing at my highest ability possible, good things are going to happen.”