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Hoard Leads Browns Over Patriots : AFC: On windy day in Cleveland, running back has 123 rushing yards and scores on a pass play.

November 07, 1994|From Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Leroy Hoard isn't merely a running back. He's an adventure.

"I make everybody nervous," Hoard said with a grin Sunday after he ran for 123 yards, scored the only touchdown and kept the opposition--and even his teammates--off balance in the Cleveland Browns' 13-6 victory over the New England Patriots.

The Browns (7-2), off to their best start since 1965, matched their victory total for all of last season. New England (3-6) lost its fourth in a row.

Hoard had the most productive rushing day of his five-year career, both in carries (21) and yardage gained. He is the first Cleveland back to gain 100 yards since Tommy Vardell did it in September of last year, and his 123 yards were the most by a Brown back since Kevin Mack ran for 133 in 1987.

The Browns generally don't give Hoard that many chances because he has a tendency to try too hard--and fumble in the process. But when he holds onto the ball, Hoard can be magnificent.

He broke loose for a 39-yard run--Cleveland's longest of the year--on the second play of the game, and picked up most of the rest of his yardage in short, slashing bursts.

The running game was critical to both teams because winds gusting to 40 m.p.h. and intermittent rains made passing difficult. Even New England, which because of Drew Bledsoe's arm is as one-dimensional a team as there is in the NFL, let Marion Butts run 25 times for 86 yards.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know you're not going to be able to throw in that wind," Hoard said. "We have one of the best punt returners in the league (Eric Metcalf), and he couldn't even catch the ball out there today."

Hoard put the Browns ahead to stay at 10-3 with an over-the-shoulder grab of Mark Rypien's one-yard pass on third down early in the fourth quarter. Hoard made it look harder than it should have been, juggling the ball before pulling it in as he fell to the ground.

"The wind blew the ball. It kind of floated," Hoard said. "I kind of jumped for it and I jumped too early. But I tipped it and caught it."

The Browns withstood two New England threats at the end. Stevon Moore gathered in an onside kick with 2:10 to play, and Mike Caldwell intercepted Bledsoe's Hail Mary pass as time expired.

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