CLEVELAND - Compared to his rookie preseason debut last year, Brandon Weeden's first rehearsal in 2013 was a smashing success.
Then again, there was nowhere to go but up after his performance against the Detroit Lions in 2012. A 3-of-6 effort for 62 yards, one interception and one fumble didn't have fans thinking back to the Bernie Kosar days.
In a 27-19 win over the St. Louis Rams Thursday at First Energy Stadium, the Browns quarterback was nearly perfect. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Cleveland running back Dion Lewis (28) is congratulated by quarterback Brandon Weeden, left, and offensive tackle Jason Pinkston after catching a 2-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The Browns won, 27-19.
Escorted by Trevin Wade (26), Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin (80) races away from St. Louis’ Mike McNeill on a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter on Thursday night.
It was a positive first step in Weeden's first season in coach Rob Chudzinski's Air Coryell offense. Weeden led the way on a 15-play, 67-yard march that produced a 25-yard field goal by Brandon Bogotay on the opening possession. The Browns drove 74 yards on nine plays to score on a 2-yard pass from Weeden to Dion Lewis on their second possession. Weeden was 5-of-5 for 60 yards on the possession.
"We maneuvered well, we didn't have any penalties and we didn't do anything to move backwards," Weeden said. "We were moving forward. We got some first downs and put together a nice scoring drive. For the first game out without seeing tape, I think we did some nice things."
Most of Weeden's passes were short and mid-range throws. He took what the defense gave him, using solid protection from the line. He showed off his strong right arm with a strike to receiver Josh Gordon for 21 yards on the first series.
"When you're not going backwards and can get into a rhythm, it's easier to function," Weeden said. "We were able to do that in the short time that we were out there."
The 10 points from the first-team offense and a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown by Travis Benjamin gave the Browns a 17-0 lead. The Rams broke into the scoring column on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Sam Bradford to receiver Chris Givens against the Browns' second team defense.
"It was a good start," Chudzinski said. "The guys came to play and we had something to prove."
Benjamin's return was reminiscent of his 93-yard return for a touchdown last season in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He caught the ball on the right side of the field, with blocking set for a left return. He turned the corner and was escorted along the sideline untouched.
"I saw an open opportunity," Benjamin said. "Once I knew I had the edge, I trust my guys blocking for me. I knew if I got the edge it would be a quick touchdown."
Running back Trent Richardson was out to rest a leg injury, resulting in time for Dion Lewis and Brandon Jackson. Lewis started and rushed for 12 yards on five carries and had three receptions for 22 yards.
Defensively, it was the first opportunity for coordinator Ray Horton to show off his aggressive 3-4 system. Linebacker Quentin Groves built off his impressive training camp with a sack.
Following Givens' touchdown, Shayne Graham stayed even with Bogotay by making a 41-yard field goal. Greg Zuerlein kicked a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the half to cut the Browns' lead to 20-10.
Zuerlein tacked on a 55-yard field goal in the third period.
Browns third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer found a wide-open Cordell Roberson on a 26-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter to push the Browns' lead to 27-13.
The Rams made a push for a comeback when quarterback Kellen Clemens and receiver Raymond Radway hooked up on 53-yard scoring play. The attempt for a two-point conversion failed.
The Rams had one more chance to score late in the game. A lob by Clemens into the end zone was intercepted by Justin Cole.
The Browns host the Detroit Lions Thursday.