D’Ernest Johnson runs wild in leading Browns to victory over Broncos

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The Cleveland Browns are noted for having the best one-two running back punch in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. On Thursday night, D’Ernest Johnson proved that the punch goes even deeper.

Johnson ran for a career-high 146 yards on 22 carries in his first career NFL start in leading the Browns to a 17-14 win over the visiting Denver Broncos. The fourth-year reserve had a phenomenal game filling in for the injured Chubb and Hunt, also catching two passes for 22 yards.

“It’s unexplainable,” Johnson told the FOX Sports crew after the game. “The O-line did a great job setting things up for me.”

Johnson took quite a path to helping the Browns break a two-game slide. Undrafted in 2018 out of South Florida, Johnson worked as a fisherman while also getting his professional football career started in the now-defunct AAF. When that league fell apart, he latched onto the Browns practice squad.

He showed Cleveland glimpses with a nice performance in last year’s shootout with Dallas, but this was Johnson’s first time as the featured performer. His banged-up team needed every one of his first downs.

Cleveland outplayed Denver on both sides of the ball but struggled to convert yards into points. After Denver cut the lead to a field goal late, coach Kevin Stefanski had no qualms about trusting Johnson to run the clock out. Johnson responded with 56 rushing yards on six carries, racking up four first downs. Mission accomplished.