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D'Ernest Johnson runs wild in spot start, leads Browns over Broncos

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D'Ernest Johnson runs wild in spot start, leads Browns over Broncos
Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson (30) scored on the opening drive and converted for a late first down in a win over the Denver Broncos on Thursday in Cleveland. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 22 (UPI) -- D'Ernest Johnson took advantage of a last-minute start, running for 146 yards and a touchdown and leading the Cleveland Browns to a win over the Denver Broncos in the first NFL game of Week 7.

The rookie running back scored on the game's first possession, and the Browns never trailed in the 17-14 victory Thursday in Cleveland. Johnson drew the start because of injuries to top Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

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"It felt great knowing that everyone believed in me," Johnson told reporters. "Coming out here and getting a win for the team means a lot.

"Being able to come out here and fight hard just go get this victory means a lot."

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Case Keenum, who started at quarterback because of an injury to Browns starter Baker Mayfield, completed 21 of 33 passes for 199 yards and a score.

The Browns held the Broncos to 223 total yards.

"Very disappointing," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "You look at the final score of 17-14 and you are going to think that 17 points is good enough defensively, but we did not play good defense.

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"We let them drive it too much. Way too many third-and-ones. We just did not play well enough to win the game."

Keenum handed off to Johnson three consecutive times to end the opening drive. Johnson ripped off runs of 20, 10 and 4 yards to find the end zone. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin made a 52-yard field goal on their next possession to increase the lead to 10 points.

The Browns carried the two-possession lead into halftime. Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Melvin Gordon on the first drive of the second half.

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Keenum answered with a 1-yard touchdown toss to running back Johnny Stanton on the next possession. Each team punted on the next two drives.

The Broncos cut the lead to three points on a Bridgewater touchdown pass to rookie running back Javonte Williams with 5:23 remaining.

The Browns ran out the rest of the clock with a 12-play, 66 yard final drive. Johnson secured the final first down with an 8-yard run on third-and-7.

"I could single out a bunch of guys, but D'Ernest Johnson to me is a warrior and a great teammate," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.

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"What he has fought through in his career and then to go have a night like that and to end it how he did, I thought was just outstanding."

Bridgewater completed 23 of 33 passes for 187 yards, two scores and an interception. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett registered 1 1/2 sacks. Browns free safety John Johnson intercepted Bridgewater.

The Browns (4-3) host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. EDT Oct. 31 in Cleveland. The Broncos (3-4) host the Washington Football Team at 4:25 p.m. EDT Oct. 31 in Denver.

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