EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - With the Browns clinging to a two-point lead in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday - and the Browns needing every win they can get in their push to the playoffs - quarterback Derek Anderson stepped into the huddle and told the offense it needed 4 yards for a first down that would all but guarantee a win.
Running back Jamal Lewis has been around a lot longer than Anderson. He knew 31 yards and a touchdown would really get the job done, so he broke through the line, bounced out off a couple of tackles and carried three Jets on his way to the end zone.
The lead was back up to nine and the Browns prevailed 24-18.
"The best play he made all day was his touchdown," coach Romeo Crennel said, using his gift for understatement.
The Browns were up 17-15 and flirting with disaster when Joe Jurevicius recovered an onside kick and returned it to the 37-yard line. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski went to the run to protect the ball in the snow and rain, and burn the Jets` timeouts. Lewis gained 3 yards on back-to-back runs and the Jets were down to one timeout.
Crennel and Chudzinski decided to stay conservative on third-and-4 - and Lewis made them look like geniuses, tearing through an opening on the left side.
"I finished things off," he said. "It wasn`t that open. I just kept my legs going, stayed low and ran hard."
"He was a mad man," receiver Braylon Edwards said.
For Lewis, this year is all about showing the NFL he`s the same Jamal Lewis that ran for 2,066 yards in 2003 for Baltimore. That`s why Lewis signed a one-year deal.
"Jamal Lewis never went anywhere," he said. "I have a great supporting cast, a great team. That`s it.
"I feel like I can make a difference. I want the ball in my hands enough that I can make things happen."
For the third time in four games, Lewis got at least 20 carries. He responded with 118 yards on 21 carries to give him 921 yards and a 4.2 average for the season. He has nine rushing touchdowns.
"November and December are the months you want to run the football," Lewis said. "That`s just how it is."
The offensive linemen love when they`re asked to pound the ball on the ground late in games. On Sunday, the snow and rain and lead dictated the play calls. The results guaranteed a similar strategy in the final three games.
"He was awesome," right tackle Kevin Shaffer said. "We stayed with the run, and that`s what`s gonna happen."
It was Lewis` third 100-yard game of the year and 33rd of his eight-year career. He showed his versatility by catching a 7-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead in the first half. Anderson faked a handoff to Lewis, then they both rolled right and Lewis was wide open.
"In practice it wasn`t wide open," Lewis said. "Once I saw the man on the end of the line came down and bit, I knew it was going to be open. I`m happy I caught it."
Lewis went to the playoffs with the Ravens, which makes him a rarity inside the Browns locker room. He had a quick answer when asked about Cleveland`s drive toward the postseason.
"We are in the playoffs right now," he said. "We have three more games left. We will try to win all of them."
He will have a lot to say about the outcome.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or email@example.com.