With how many sacks our defense has this year, it almost seems criminal that I am not giving a game ball to one of our defensive linemen this week. Instead, I'm giving it to running back Montario Hardesty, who made his first career start in place of Peyton Hillis.
Hardesty seemed well-prepared for the last minute substitution and played a lot of snaps, even though he only had 14 carries for 67 yards. What I like to look at is this: on the drives the team scored on, who came through and provided a spark? Last week, it was Joshua Cribbs, who helped set up three touchdown plays. This week, Hardesty assisted in setting up three scores, even if his output wasn't as flashy as what Cribbs did.
On the first touchdown drive in the second, the two plays prior to the 33-yard touchdown pass involved Hardesty -- a 7-yard carry to set up a 2nd-and-3, and then an 8-yard reception for a first down.
On the team's field goal in the third quarter, Hardesty started the drive off with a bang, having carries for 9, 3, and 19 yards. The 19 yards was particularly uplifting because it was the team's second biggest offensive play of the game at that point.
And then, on the final touchdown drive of the game, Hardesty's number was called on a 4th-and-4 play. In a post-game interview, Hardesty pretty much knew he was going to get the ball, explains McCoy:
(On whether the play was set up for RB
Montario Hardesty on the fourth down play)- "He was the number one read in that. We ran that play earlier in the game and they had covered it. They pressured a lot, they came after us. When they brought their pressure in the middle, the defensive end peels off with the running back. I told Montario ‘just go, just get out’. The defensive end was behind him and it was a big play."
You never know if a safety or cornerback is going to light you up as soon as you turn around to go upfield on a play like that, so I believe there's a lot of pressure in making that reception even if he was wide open. Hardesty came through, and five plays later, the Browns scored the go-ahead/game-winning touchdown.