By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns running back Edwin Baker had faith he could succeed in his NFL regular-season debut, but he also wanted concrete evidence.
He got it Sunday in the form of eight carries for 38 yards (4.8 average), including a 2-yard touchdown, to go along with four catches for 46 yards. The Browns blew a fourth-quarter lead for the third week in a row and lost 38-31 to the Chicago Bears, but Baker provided a bright spot and injected lift into a running game that has struggled throughout the season and finished the weekend ranked 27th in the NFL (84.9 yards per game).
“In the back of your head, you wonder, ‘Man, can I really do this?’ ” Baker said Monday. “But by having a game like that and really showcasing my talent and proving to myself that I belong, it’s just uplifting.”
The Browns (4-10) signed Baker off the Houston Texans’ practice squad a week ago because they needed another running back after Willis McGahee suffered a concussion Dec. 8 against the New England Patriots. McGahee didn’t practice last week and sat out against the Bears. But even if McGahee is medically cleared to play Sunday on the road against the New York Jets (6-8), that shouldn’t preclude the Browns from extending Baker’s audition.
“That’s something that we’ll talk about as a staff certainly,” coach Rob Chudzinski said Monday. “From what he did in the game, I think he earned a lot of respect and earned my respect. He made good on his opportunity.
“He came in and gave us a spark. He looked explosive out there, had some juice and made some nice runs and actually a nice catch or two.”
When Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the coach of the San Diego Chargers last year, they drafted the 5-foot-8, 210-pound Baker out of Michigan State in the seventh round (250th overall). He believes Turner “sees something special” in him, and he hopes to show more of it in the final two games of the season.
“I like the spotlight,” Baker said. “I like to put things on my shoulders because I was always the one to uplift the team. I just want to play my part, play my role and help this team get the win.”
Baby Chud arrives
Chudzinski’s wife, Sheila, gave birth to a baby boy Monday morning, the team announced. Sheila and the baby are well, a team spokesman said.
For weeks, Chudzinski knew he would head to the hospital Sunday night after the Browns played the Bears. By early Monday, the couple’s fourth child and third son had arrived.
Outside linebacker Paul Kruger won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last season before signing a five-year, $40 million deal with the Browns. Since then, he’s been a part of only four wins, the most recent on Nov. 3.
Kruger conceded the adjustment has been tough. Still, he insists he has no regrets about coming to Cleveland.
“Absolutely not. It just gives me that much more desire and passion to want to win, and I know we’re building something here,” Kruger said. “I know we’re making the right moves. We just need to figure out how to win at the end of the game. That’s the bottom line. And if we can do that, as you guys can see, we would have a pretty good record right now.”
The offense’s most dangerous weapon, wide receiver Josh Gordon, was only targeted once and had zero catches in the first half Sunday.
“Sometimes it’s going to be that way,” Chudzinski said. “It may be a quarter, it may be a half that he doesn’t get a lot of work, and then all of a sudden he could get a lot of throws. That’s the cycle it goes in. We’re always going to work to get him the ball and certainly he’s a big part of what we want to do.”
Gordon finished with three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 10 times, nine in the second half.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.