CINCINNATI — Just two games into his professional football career, Trent Richardson already understands why it’s so difficult to play for the Browns.
Richardson rushed for 109 yards on just 19 carries, caught four passes and scored two touchdowns in a dynamic performance Sunday, but it was all for naught as the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Browns 34-27.
“I had a big stat day, but it don’t mean nothing because we didn’t win,” the third overall pick in the NFL Draft said. “Offensively, we fought hard, but we can’t get used to this losing.
“I do know this. It’s gonna get much better. Once we all get together, this is gonna be a good team.”
More photos below.
While the Browns’ offense, defense and special teams are all question marks to varying degrees, there is no denying what they have in Richardson.
The 5-foot-9, 230-pounder is a blue-chip talent who is destined to be the face of the franchise for years to come. And based on the way Richardson shredded the Bengals, his reign has officially begun.
“Trent is special. He’s a special player and he’s a difference maker — and today, he showed that,” Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden said.
“We asked a lot of him, not only in the running game, but he caught some balls out of the backfield and did some things there. I was really excited about the way he played.”
With good reason, as Richardson’s first two NFL touchdowns were highlight-film quality and came in front of a sellout crowd at Paul Brown Stadium that included incoming Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III.
The All-American from Alabama turned what should have been a modest gain into a 32-yard rushing score midway through the second quarter. He completed the play by doing a half-flip dive into the right front of the end zone.
“I don’t know why I did that,” Richardson said, laughing. “When I got near the end zone, I just thought about D’Qwell (Jackson) last week. He definitely dives better than me, though. He even told me so after I did it.”
One quarter later, Richardson outdid himself by eluding a half-dozen potential tacklers after taking a short checkdown pass from Weeden. His footwork on the 23-yard TD reception was nothing short of electric, considering he underwent left knee surgery on Aug. 9.
“I’m ready to see it on tape because from my angle, it was one of the most explosive plays — unbelievable plays — that I’ve seen in a while,” Weeden said of the play that also became his first NFL touchdown pass. “He played great.”
How impressive was Richardson? Even the soft-spoken Jackson couldn’t resist taking a playful shot at him after the game.
“It was about time he showed what he could do,” Cleveland’s defensive captain deadpanned. “We’re gonna expect a lot from him every game now. It’s going to be a grind, no doubt about it, but I liked what I saw today.”
Richardson, who gained 145 yards from scrimmage and averaged 6.3 yards per touch, also won over one of his critics in Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga.
Earlier in the week, Maualuga said Richardson “didn’t do nothing spectacular” in his NFL debut against Philadelphia, when he only rushed for 39 yards on 19 carries.
After seeing “T-Rich” in person, he changed his tune considerably — not that it mattered to the subject of his derision.
“I used that as motivation, but I talked to Maualuga after the game and he said, ‘I respect your game,’” Richardson said. “That’s OK. We’re playing football. It doesn’t matter what you say.
“I’m just blessed with a certain talent that God gave me. I don’t know how I do some of those things, they just happen. It’s just a blessing, and I’m very grateful for the places He has taken me.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.