Peyton Hillis didn’t have the greatest game of his career in his return to the field, but it was still notable. After a few weeks seeing the Browns suffer along with practice-squad signees it was good to have Hillis back rumbling for yardage. I don’t mean to take anything away from Chris Ogbonnaya and his 100-yard game a week ago against Jacksonville, but that performance is probably the exception and not the rule for a guy like Ogbonnaya.
Back to Peyton’s day. He only had 65 yards on 19 carries for an ordinary 3.4 yard average, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s just a different level of talent when looking at Hillis work. In general, pass plays are higher risk. While Hillis is known to fumble a little too frequently, handoffs are still less risky. The Browns ran the ball for 9 of their 16 first downs in the game. Hillis accounted for five of those first downs which is huge for a developing offense.
This doesn’t even encapsulate the improved down and distance when a guy like Hillis takes what should be no gain or a one yard loss and moves the pile 3-5 yards. Hillis had some negative plays in the second half when the Bengals stacked against him, but it still seemed like Hillis found ways to improve on situations that could have been worse.
This one performance probably won’t be enough to re-ignite contract talks and have the Browns clamoring to pay him huge dollars, but it is a nice first step for Hillis and the Browns. Even in a loss, I am confident that the Browns realize that life with Hillis is still better than life without him.
It certainly seems like Pat Shurmur agrees. Despite taking heat earlier in the year for not using Hillis enough in the Tennessee game, Shurmur took a surprise appearance by Hillis and made it count. Hillis carried the ball 19 times compared with Ogbonnaya’s three carries and Greg Little’s one. The timing couldn’t be better either. The Browns welcome the Ravens to Cleveland this weekend and will need as many options as possible on hand. The Ravens are third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.