The Browns, in search of an offensive spark, are turning to Peyton Hillis and second-year running back James Davis.
How much Davis plays against the Bengals on Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium will depend somewhat on how Jerome Harrison rebounds from a thigh injury that prevented him from playing in a 24-17 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. Harrison was on the inactive list in the Ravens game.
Even before the thigh injury, Harrison was a shadow of the player who rushed for 561 yards in the finals three games of 2009. Over the first two games this season Harrison had 25 carries for 85 yards. One of those rushes gained 39 yards, which means he averaged 1.9 yards on the 24 other carries.
"I believe in miracles," Davis said. "This is something I've been thinking about. Why can't this be the moment? I don't know what's going to happen, but I can tell you I'll be ready."
Until he had four carries for nine yards in Baltimore Davis did not touch the ball in a game since Sept. 27 last season which, coincidentally, was against the Ravens. He carried the ball five times for 10 yards and the next week suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in practice.
Nobody in the Browns' backfield is as fast as Davis, yet speed alone wasn't enough to earn a carry in either of the first two games.
A bullish Hillis inside and an eager Davis outside give the Browns a chance to keep the Bengals off balance. It would also be good for the Browns if they get Harrison back, because last year in a 23-20 overtime loss to Cincinnati in Cleveland, Harrison carried 29 times for 121 yards.
"I'm sure we're going to be balanced and do what we do best," Davis said. "I know what the game plan is, but I don't know how the plays are going to be called. It will depend on how the game goes."
Hillis rushed for a career high 144 yards on 22 carries against the Ravens. He scored a touchdown on the ground and caught seven passes for 36 yards.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers thinks the running game will be a trend. The Browns did not turn the ball over against the Ravens -- a first form them this season.
"That's exactly what you're going to see -- smash-mouth football. I'm going to bring it every week. Peyton is going to bring it every week. That's just how our group is."
The Browns averaged six yards a carry in Baltimore.
TRENDING: Five starters were among the Browns' eight inactives in Baltimore. Among the missing was linebacker Marcus Benard. He led the Browns with 2.5 sacks after the first two games. Benard is not a starter but he is a critical part of the pass defense. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had plenty of time while throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
BY THE NUMBERS: 22 -- Penalties committed by the Browns this season. They were flagged eight times in Baltimore after being penalized nine times the week before. Coach Eric Mangini says that has to change for the Browns to get in the win column.