BEREA — Quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson will forever be linked as the Browns’ two 2012 first-round draft choices.
Fittingly, they’ve strung together parallel performances to start their pro football careers.
Weeden and Richardson both played poorly against one of the NFL’s top defenses in Philadelphia, but bounced back with huge games against one of the league’s worst units in Cincinnati.
Their next challenge comes Sunday, when the Buffalo Bills travel to Cleveland for a 1 p.m. game.
“The game slowed down for us and we were all on the same page against the Bengals,” Richardson said Wednesday following practice. “Now, we’ve got to do it much better this week because we’ve got to put up more points. We’ve got to win.
“All those yards that Brandon threw for and all the yards that I ran for, it doesn’t mean anything if we’re not winning, so we’ve got a lot to prove.”
Though the Browns lost 34-27 to Cincinnati in Week 2, Weeden and Richardson became the team’s first 300/100 combination since quarterback Derek Anderson and running back Jamal Lewis turned the trick against the Bengals on Sept. 16, 2007.
Weeden threw for a Cleveland-rookie record 322 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns, while Richardson rushed for 109 yards on just 19 carries and found the end zone twice at Paul Brown Stadium.
“I think we scored more points in that game than we probably scored offensively as ones in the entire preseason, so confidence-wise, it was good for me,” said Weeden, whose initial scoring pass came on a 23-yarder to Richardson. “Now, I just have to build off of it, be consistent and do it two weeks in a row.”
Fortunately for the Browns, Buffalo’s defense sits somewhere in-between Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
The Bills boast the free-agent prize of the offseason in defensive end Mario Williams — a sack machine who spent his first five years with the Texans — and defensive tackle Kyle Williams, a vastly underrated interior lineman.
Yet, Buffalo’s secondary is suspect — it allowed 48 points against the Jets in Week 1 and has permitted opposing quarterbacks to post a glossy 99.1 passer rating to date.
“I don’t have to block (those linemen), so I’m not worried about it,” the ever-confident Weeden said. “Why? Because I’ve got complete confidence in my five guys up front.
“I know Buffalo has got a good defense, but last week showed me that I can play at this level. It gave me the self-confidence that I can make all of those throws and I can do things to put my team in position to score points.”
Despite his coming-out party against the Bengals, Weeden still owns the NFL’s second-worst season passer rating at 57.6 and its fourth-lowest completion percentage at .528.
The No. 22 overall pick’s historically awful, four-interception, 12-for-35, 5.1-rating dud against Philadelphia is going to take a long time to overcome statistically.
Richardson, on the other hand, has already shot up to 14th in the league in rushing yards with 148. His 39-yard, 19-carry effort against the Eagles is already a distant memory, as is his fear of being hit on the left knee.
“Coming into the first Sunday, I had never been hit before in the NFL, so I was being extra cautious on my knee and stuff,” said the No. 3 overall pick, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 9. “The second week, I was just more confident. It was just like, ‘I’m ready to go.’”
Richardson will have additional motivation against Buffalo as Hall of Fame running back (and noted Richardson critic) Jim Brown plans on attending the game as part of the Browns alumni weekend.
As has been the case since the NFL Draft, Richardson spoke respectfully when asked about Brown in the locker room.
“He’s a legend and I’m just trying to fill his shoes here,” he said. “Just to meet him is an honor, so I’m going to try and do that again Sunday after the game.”
First, though, Richardson and Weeden plan on picking up their first wins at football’s highest level.
“You want to win them all, but you especially don’t want to put yourself into a hole that you can’t dig out of,” Weeden said. “We’ve got to start winning games. That’s all there is to it — and there’s no better week to start than this week.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.