June 30, 2016

Mostly clear

Colt looking like a true thoroughbred

The New York Jets had just escaped with a 26-20 overtime win over the Browns on Sunday afternoon. By all rights, they should have been tooting their own horn and celebrating their eighth straight road victory.

But when linebacker Trevor Pryce saw a handful of Cleveland reporters near his locker, he went out of his way to address the group.

“Quote me on this: They have a quarterback now,” the 13-year veteran said about Browns rookie Colt McCoy. “I’m glad I’m not in the AFC North anymore so I don’t have to see him get better.

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“They’ve had quarterback problems for a long time. They now have a legit quarterback. He plays with a lot of confidence and he plays with a lot of poise.” In many ways, McCoy’s fourth NFL start was much like his first three. The former University of Texas standout showed no fear and never pan­icked against one of the league’s top defenses.

He completed 18 of 31 throws for 205 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and an 88.8 passer rating. There was one huge difference, though, in his performance against New York.

It included his first clutch, do-or-die drive.

After the Jets punted with 2:42 left in regula­tion, Cleveland took possession at its 41-yard line, needing a touchdown to force OT.

“I just told the guys to look in my eyes and believe,” McCoy said. “I said, ‘We’re going to go down and score, we’re going to tie it up and we’re going to win in overtime.’ I told them, ‘One at a time, one play at a time. Receivers get extra yards, we’ve got timeouts. Let’s just play.’ “We marched it right down and scored.”

The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder calmly led a 10-play, 59-yard drive that tied the score at 20.

It lasted just 1:58 and featured nine McCoy passes and one McCoy run — and ended with his 3-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Mas­saquoi as the sellout crowd erupted.

“He commanded his troops today and he did a great job,” Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis said. “I take my hat off to him and I’m glad he’s my quarterback.

“For him to come in as a rookie and play these great teams — these four great teams in a row — I mean, you have to give it to him.”

Since making his pro debut Oct. 17, McCoy has kept the Browns competitive in Pittsburgh, soundly defeated the Saints and Patriots, and came within one play of upsetting the Jets.

That resume should allow him to keep the job on a permanent basis, even after Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace return from right high ankle sprains.

Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, however, has yet to declare McCoy “the man” for the rest of the season. But he does appear to be getting closer to doing so.

“I’m really impressed with Colt, his resilience, and the things that he’s done,” Mangini said. “He’s shown great poise under pressure against a lot of outstanding defensive schemes and a lot of outstanding defensive personnel. For a young guy, he has been really impressive.” Yes, he has, which is why ex-Ravens standout Pryce felt compelled to sing his praises — unsolicited — to writers he has never met before.

McCoy, though, still sees plenty of room for improvement. He may have won the statistical battle with Jets counterpart Mark Sanchez, but he repeatedly pointed out that Sanchez won the game. “Anytime you’re in a game like that, you just cannot lose,” he said. “We never thought we were going to lose the game. We always thought we were going to win.

“Being at home with the fans going crazy, that’s what it should be like. It was awesome. It was fun. But we’ve just got to find a way to win.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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