Although the Cleveland Browns lost on Sunday to the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, it wasn't due to lack of heart. It also wasn't due to the lack of a workhorse running back.
For Browns fans, most of the attention on Sunday's game was focused on rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, and the kid played better than anyone could have expected. What may not have stood out as much was another tough, gutty performance from Browns running back Peyton Hillis.
The Browns were playing from behind for most of the game, so Hillis did not get the number of carries he needed to really stand out, but anyone who saw the game would have to be impressed with the way he played and the way he continues to play on every down.
By now, everyone in Cleveland is well aware of who Peyton Hillis is and what he brings to the running back position for the Browns. Hillis is a throwback bruiser who gives maximum effort on every single play. Now his passionate, brutal style of running is gaining Hillis attention around the league, and not just from the defenders he runs over.
Everyone knows of running backs Michael Turner, Chris Johnson, Cadillac Williams and Ray Rice. They are household names and considered among the best in the league at the running back position. Did you know Peyton Hillis gained more yards per carry than any of them against Pittsburgh's No. 1-ranked run defense?
I bet a lot of people didn't.
However, Hillis' impact goes far beyond the amount of yards he gains when pounding the ball through the defense. His physical play, and no-quit attitude showcase the heart of a Browns team that refuses to give up.
In addition to his big hits and broken tackles, Hillis often makes the highlight reel with his athleticism and receiving ability. For every defender he trucks to the ground, there is a defender he runs by, a player he leaps over, or a spectacular catch for a big gain.
While Pittsburgh held Hillis without a touchdown for the first time this season, his 90 total yard on 18 touches were still impressive, especially against a defense that has allowed less than 300 total yards per game in 2010.
Not bad for a player fans had all but written off before the start of the regular season.
Through six games, Hillis has gained 391 rushing yards, another 192 yards through the air and five total touchdowns. If Hillis plays in every game this season, he is on pace to finish with 1,554 total yards and 13 touchdowns. Those are numbers that are hard to ignore. After 2010 is said and done, Hillis may finally get the respect he rightfully deserves.
He already has the respect of Browns fans, and that's not an easy thing to obtain.