ST. LOUIS — Jamal Lewis was listed as questionable on the injury report Friday, but there was no doubt he made a difference Sunday in the Browns’ 27-20 win over the Rams.
Lewis, who had missed all but one play of the previous two games with a foot strain, carried 17 times for 61 yards. He was pivotal in the Browns’ comeback as he carried five times for 34 yards on a 67-yard, second-quarter touchdown drive that closed the gap to 14-10. He opened the possession with runs of 12 and 10 yards.
“Coach stuck with the run,” he said of coordinator Rob Chudzinski. “He talks about us keeping our poise. He kept his poise.
“It does send a message to the defense. That’s why big plays open up.”
Lewis didn’t sound optimistic Friday about his chances to play, but he started the game.
“I was really trying to get that first step to push off of it. That was the big thing,” he said. “I warmed it up before the game. The foot felt great. I had no problems out of it.”
Lewis was spelled by Jason Wright (four carries, 19 yards) and Jerome Harrison (five carries, 32 yards). The threesome totaled 112 yards on 26 carries for a 4.3 average.
“I know I can take a breather and not worry,” Lewis said. “Coach (Romeo Crennel) was trying to keep me fresh. He felt like I might have been a little out of shape. They didn’t know that I was working out while I was off (on the bye).”
Quarterback Derek Anderson credited the running game for opening up plays downfield in the passing game.
“All three running backs ran the ball very well today,” he said. “When you do that, you can mix and match things.”
Lewis was asked if it was fair to discuss the playoffs with the Browns 4-3 and on a two-game winning streak.
“I can’t even say that word right now,” he said. “But I think we’ll be all right.”
Rams running back Steven Jackson, who totaled 2,334 yards from scrimmage last year, was forced out of the game when his back tightened up in the first quarter. He had missed the previous four games with a groin injury and said the back injury was from overcompensating for the groin.
“We brought the chiropractor down and he tried to crack me up and stretch me,” said Jackson, who had 41 yards and the Rams’ first rushing touchdown of the year on eight carries. “We really worked on it to get it to loosen up, but that muscle didn’t want to cooperate with us.”
With Jackson out, rookie Brian Leonard got five carries for 33 yards. He was stuffed twice on fourth-and-1, including once late in the fourth quarter. This was the first time this year the Browns didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher.
“He’s an electric guy and he got hurt and it changed our team, plain and simple,” quarterback Marc Bulger said of Jackson. “When he’s in there, you can see we’re explosive.”
Browns linebacker Andra Davis didn’t have any sympathy.
“That’s their problem,” he said. “It had nothing to do with us.”
Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, the team’s leading tackler, left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return. He will likely undergo an MRI today.
Special teamer Kris Griffin suffered a slight sprain of the Achilles’ tendon in the first quarter, according to Crennel, and didn’t return. Griffin said he’d have an MRI today.
• Bulger missed part of a drive with a thumb injury. X-rays were negative, so he had it wrapped and returned.
The Rams, who were already decimated on the offensive line, lost right guard Richie Incognito in the first quarter. None of the five guys who finished the game began the year as the starter at that spot.
Yet the Browns managed just one sack (nose tackle Ethan Kelley) and four quarterback hits.
The Browns were penalized 14 times for 102 yards, both season highs.
On the drive to start the third quarter, receiver Joe Jurevicius was called for a block in the back, right tackle Ryan Tucker and left tackle Joe Thomas had back-to-back false starts and tight end Kellen Winslow had a false start. The Browns still managed a touchdown after Jurevicius had 24- and 29-yard catches on third-and-long.
“We missed some communications a few times,” Anderson said.
He added that the dome wasn’t overly loud, but the noise echoed.
Day of rest
For the second time in three weeks former starting nose tackle Ted Washington was inactive. Kelley has replaced him as the starter. Defensive back Kenny Wright (personal reasons), special teamer Nick Sorensen, guard Isaac Sowells, tackle Nat Dorsey, receiver Travis Wilson and defensive lineman Louis Leonard were also inactive. Ken Dorsey was the third quarterback.
For the Rams, former Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman, center Brett Romberg (ankle), kick returner Dante Hall (ankle) and defensive end Leonard Little (toe) were inactive.
Darnell Dinkins played special teams with his hand in a cast. He caught a short kickoff and returned it 19 yards.
• Linebacker Willie McGinest batted down consecutive passes in the second quarter.
• Joshua Cribbs had an 18-yard punt return and an 18-yard end-around.
• Kevin Shaffer and Tucker rotated at right tackle.
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