DETROIT –– The preseason opener Friday night looked like a lot of Browns games over the last 13 years. The starting quarterback committed two turnovers in less than a quarter, the offensive line didn’t protect well and injuries outnumbered points for much of the game.
There was one significant difference: The Browns walked out of Ford Field on the winning side.
Fourth-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter and the Browns beat the Lions 19-17 on backup kicker Jeff Wolfert’s 45-yard field goal with 28 seconds left.
Even before the comeback, it wasn’t all bad.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden didn’t get hurt in his professional debut. He also completed his first two passes, the second a gorgeous 34-yarder dropped over the shoulder of rookie receiver Travis Benjamin down the left sideline.
But Weeden’s lack of experience –– even if he is 28 years old –– was also evident. He didn’t feel the pressure from defensive end Willie Young and fumbled on third-and-15 from the Detroit 28-yard line to end Cleveland’s first drive.
He was almost intercepted on the left sideline by rookie cornerback Dwight Bentley –– he should’ve returned it for a touchdown –– then was picked by Bentley on a short third-down pass for receiver Greg Little over the middle. Little stopped his route and the throw went slightly outside, directly to Bentley.
Weeden, the No. 22 pick in the draft, played three series and finished 3-for-9 for 62 yards, a sack, a fumble, an interception and a 19.0 rating.
“I thought Brandon did a good job,” Shurmur said. “It looked like the game was slow for him. He was out there and he executed pretty well.
“I think he would want that one back on the interception. It was in tight coverage. The ball was a pretty good ball and we’ve got to make that play. I think for the most part, he executed in a way that I thought he would.”
Weeden’s debut shared the spotlight with a rash of injuries to key players. The Browns were already without running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick who had knee surgery Thursday. And linebacker Chris Gocong is out for the year with a torn Achilles suffered last week.
On the first offensive play, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi caught a 12-yard hook, only to be hit high by safety Erik Coleman. Massaquoi, who has a history of concussions, got up wobbly and was sent to the locker room with what was announced as a “head injury.”
In the second quarter, in a span of nine plays, defensive tackle Scott Paxson (knee), nickelback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and tight end Jordan Cameron (back) left the game and didn’t return.
General manager Tom Heckert has improved the team’s depth in his three years, but it can’t withstand many injuries to pivotal players.
Not only is Patterson a solid nickelback in the slot, he would be the first choice to replace No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden if he’s suspended for the first four games after reportedly failing a drug test. Buster Skrine, a fifth-round pick in 2011, is next on the depth chart.
Paxson is first in line to take Phil Taylor’s spot in the starting lineup. Taylor tore a pectoral in the offseason and is expected to be out until November.
Cameron has been the star of training camp and was injured while making a leaping 42-yard catch down the seam from backup Colt McCoy. Cameron landed hard on his back and remained down for a couple of minutes.
McCoy finished the first half and was 6-for-8 for 88 yards with two sacks – one on an attempted Hail Mary when left tackle Oniel Cousins was badly beaten – and a 110.4 rating. He had a scramble for 20 yards, threw deep multiple times and led a scoring drive that ended with Phil Dawson’s 37-yard field goal.
McCoy was told this week he lost the starting job he held last year to Weeden.
“Colt stayed in there and battled pretty well,” Shurmur said.
Montario Hardesty started for Richardson and carried four times for 16 yards with a long of 7. Weeden tried unsuccessfully to throw two screens to Hardesty.
Shurmur said before the game he was looking for efficiency, but he didn’t get it. In addition to only three first-half points, the Browns committed eight penalties for 55 yards.
Rookie receiver Josh Gordon, a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, was targeted three times but held without a catch. Rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round pick in the regular draft, started the game and was beaten by Young on the strip-sack.
The Lions took advantage of Weeden’s interception for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by Keiland Williams. A 3-yard Stefan Logan catch from Shaun Hill made it 14-3 in the second quarter.
The Browns cut it to 14-10 in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass from Seneca Wallace to rookie H-back Brad Smelley. Wallace, who’s competing with McCoy to be the backup, scrambled right and lofted a short pass to Smelley.
The Browns had a chance to take the lead with 6:20 left in the game. Undrafted rookie running back Adonis Thomas scored from 3 yards after a long screen pass to cut the deficit to 17-16.
Shurmur, to avoid overtime, went for the 2-point conversion. Thomas’ draw up the middle was stopped short.
But the defense forced a punt and Lewis led the winning field goal drive in the final 2:18. He completed passes to tight end Dan Gronkowski and receiver Bert Reed to move into field-goal range.
Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
Print this story
Report an innappropriate comment
In order to comment, you must agree to our user agreement and discussion guidelines.
Read our user agreement and discussion guidelines ..
Need help? Email Us.