Ready or not, Browns wrap up preseason
CLEVELAND – The Browns are ready to start the regular season.
Not ready in a sense they’re a fine-tuned machine ready to spin out a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ready in that the NFL schedule forces them to play a game that counts Sept. 7.
In finishing exhibition play with a 33-13 win over the Chicago Bears Thursday at First Energy Stadium, the Browns avoided a winless preseason while opening more discussion about the possibility of another four- or five-win season. Yes, the first-team offense scored on its first possession of the game, but it was against a defense that was littered with third- and fourth-team players. The Browns’ defense bent against Bears’ reserves on one series that produced a Robbie Gould field goal.
The Steelers won’t be playing their substitutes Sept. 7, and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau won’t be using vanilla defenses.
Optimists will say it was a win, and the Browns needed something positive to happen in a week when receiver Josh Gordon’s appeal of a one-year suspension was denied by an arbitrator.
Hoyer looked sharper than in any of the first three games. He was 6-of 8 for 69 yards on his lone drive. The 13-play, 85-yard possession culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by Ben Tate.
“It was great to get out there and just move right down the field,” Hoyer said. “We said tonight wasn’t about them. It was about us. Regardless of who’s playing for them – they were nameless and faceless opponents – we just wanted to go out and make everything about us. It’s good to go down and have an 85-yard drive and just execute and get in the end zone.”
Hoyer finished the preseason with two touchdown passes and one interception. He was named the starter in his competition with Johnny Manziel earlier this week, but his play wasn’t up to the standards of a quality NFL quarterback.
Coach Mike Pettine liked what he saw from the offense, but in all fairness the bar had been set low.
“It was just good to get a rhythm,” Pettine said. “We needed that. We’ve been making so many mistakes the last couple games. This game was basically us going down and not making any mistakes. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.”
Pettine saw improvement in Hoyer’s play. Another bad effort might have made him question his decision to go with Hoyer.
“He was sharp, made some good throws, made the right reads,” Pettine said. “It was good to see our guys make some plays down the field.”
Manziel entered after the Browns’ first possession and played into the third quarter. He flashed some of his “Johnny Football” moves but was inconsistent with his accuracy. He was 6-of-17 for 83 yards and a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jim Dray.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called more read-option plays for Manziel, who excelled in that style of play at Texas A&M. He rushed for 55 yards on four carries with a long run of 22 yards.
“Falls into the category of Johnny being Johnny,” Pettine said. “A couple of those plays were no, no, no, yes – but that’s what he does. That, to me, is what he brings to the table. He just needs to get more comfortable in his reads, take the easy throws that are there. He’s certainly shown why he has the reputation that he does.”
The Bears opened the scoring with a 39-yard field goal by Gould. Tate’s touchdown run was followed by a 32-yard touchdown pass from David Fales to Santonio Holmes. A 23-yard field goal by Gould extended Chicago’s lead to 13-7.
The Browns scored 26 unanswered points on Dray’s touchdown, field goals of 22, 37, 47 and 29 yards by Billy Cundiff and a 48-yard run by Isaiah Crowell, who’s making a strong push to make the 53-man roster. Crowell had 13 carries for 102 yards.