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Cleveland Browns Lose Leading Rusher Nick Chubb In Win Over Cowboys

What was the more impressive takeaway from the Cleveland Browns’ wild 49-38 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday? That the Browns rushed for 307 yards? Or that they did most of it without their leading rusher, Nick Chubb?

There will be plenty of time to ponder those questions, because the Browns found out on Monday that they will be without Chubb for their next several games. The team’s leading rusher only carried the ball six times Sunday before leaving the game with an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

An MRI done on Chubb’s knee Monday morning revealed the extent of the injury. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Chubb will miss “several weeks” but the team does expect him back sometime later in the season. If there was any good news it was that Chubb won’t need surgery. He will be placed on the injured list, meaning he will miss at least the Browns’ next three games, against Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

In six carries prior to getting injured, Chubb gained 43 yards. For the season overall he ranks second in the NFL with 335 yards rushing. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns. Last year Chubb finished second in the league in rushing, with 1,494 yards.

Strange as it sounds, after losing Chubb to injury on Sunday, the Browns didn’t miss a beat. Three other players rushed for over 70 yards in the game, led by seldom-used D’Ernest Johnson, who had only carried the ball once in the Browns’ first three games. But after being pressed into service following Chubb’s injury, Johnson rushed for 95 yards on 13 carries, an average of 7.3 yards per carry.

Kareem Hunt rushed 11 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns, and receiver Odell Beckham ran for 50 yards and a touchdown on a reverse late in the fourth quarter. But it was Johnson’s emergence that was the biggest, and most timely surprise for the Browns.

“D’Ernest is a hard worker. I was just happy for him. He did a great job of filling in for Nick,” said Hunt.

“Credit to the players,” Stefanski said. “We had varying run schemes going there. We had different guys toting the rock. I think (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan does an outstanding job putting the plan together, and all the coaches really contribute to that. We stuck with the plan and had some explosive runs, but credit to the players.”

The Browns lead the NFL with 818 rushing yards. They also lead the league in yards per carry (5.9), and touchdowns rushing (eight). Maintaining those numbers for the next several games without Chubb will be a challenge. But the unsung heroes in the Browns’ emergence as the best rushing team in the league so far have been the offensive line.

Right tackle Jack Conklin was signed as a free agent. Right guard Joel Bitonio, center JC Tretter, and left guard Wyatt Teller are holdovers from last year, and rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills was the team’s first round pick (No. 10 overall) in this year’s draft.

Stefanski also points to Callahan, in his 22nd year as an NFL coach, his first with the Browns, as a big reason for the team’s vastly improved running game.

“He just does an outstanding job. He gets together with the other coaches and puts a plan together that is sound and that has our best players touching the rock in different ways,” said Stefanski. “He is great on gameday for me, I can tell you that. I really, really lean on him heavily. I appreciate everything he brings. Just on a personal level, a good man who is great for me. He is right next to my office so I can pop in there at any time. He is a former head coach so there a lot of things I can bounce off of him. He is doing an outstanding job.”

Stefanski, Callahan, the Browns’ running backs, and the offensive line will all face a challenge Sunday vs. the Colts. In addition to playing the game without Chubb, their leading rusher, the Browns offense will face a Colts defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in fewest yards rushing allowed.

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Written by Tom

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