The Browns opened up preseason Thursday night with a strong performance against the St. Louis Rams, and most importantly stayed healthy doing it.
Brandon Weeden was sharp, completing 10 of 13 passes for 112 yards and a two yard touchdown pass to Dion Lewis. He led the Browns on scoring drives in both of his series under center. The opening drive included a 21 yard pass to Josh Gordon over the middle, a third down completion to Davone Bess to keep the drive going and a 14 yard pass to Greg Little who leaped up to catch a ball deflected off Jordan Cameron’s hands. It ended with a Brandon Bogotay 25 yard field goal.
“I thought we looked pretty good.” Weeden said of the first drive. “We maneuvered well, we didn’t have any penalties, we didn’t do anything to move backwards. 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 good things.”
In Weeden’s second possession, he hit Dion Lewis on a screen pass for 16 yards and found a crossing Jordan Cameron for a big 30 yard run and catch. On third and goal Weeden lined up in the shotgun and hit Lewis out of the backfield for a touchdown.
Coach Rob Chudzinski was pleased with Weeden’s performance. “I thought he did a good job. He was efficient and led us to some drives. Ultimately, doing that is what his job is all about.”
Dion Lewis, starting for Trent Richardson rushed five times for 12 yards and caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Jackson ran 11 times for 32 yards.
The starting defense held the Rams in check for the most part, forcing a fumble on their first drive. The fumble was forced by Phil Taylor who chopped the arm of running back Isaiah Pead on a run to the left. Buster Skrine was the Brown who dove on the loose ball. On St. Louis’ second possession, Cleveland held the Rams to a three and out.
Travis Benjamin took advantage of his speed in his first punt return opportunity. Benjamin took the booming punt at the nine and escaped to his left and down the sideline with a key block from rookie Barkevious Mingo. Once outside Benjamin had an escort down the field and into the end zone.
“I saw an open opportunity.” Benjamin said of the punt return. “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.”
Brandon Weeden was impressed with Benjamin’s return. “Freaky fast. That guy has a lot of ability.” The high praise from Weeden continued, “If he gets a crease then watch out, he’s one of the fastest guys I’ve ever been around.”
St. Louis got on the board in the second quarter with a five play, 83 yard drive. The big play was a Sam Bradford pass deep to WR Chris Givens who had beaten Trevin Wade on the play covering 59 yards.
Jason Campbell took over for Brandon Weeden in the second quarter and led the offense on a 12 play, 61 yard drive culminating in a Shayne Graham 41 yard field goal. Campbell scrambled for 12 yards on a third down play during the drive. Campbell’s second drive was a three and out after an 11 yard sack. Campbell finished six of seven for 37 yards.
The Rams were able to get a late second quarter field goal to make the game Cleveland 20, St. Louis 10 at the half.
The second half was much more sloppy as can be imagined. Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback for the Browns.
Rookie Barkevious Mingo played well into the third quarter, getting pressure on the quarterback several times. He was credited with a pair of quarterback hits and had a sack negated by a penalty.
Brian Hoyer found a wide open Cordell Roberson for a touchdown with just over three minutes left in the game. Hoyer finished the game 10 of 14 for 100 yards and a touchdown pass. The Browns as a team completed 76% of their passes for the game for 249 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
The Rams came right back with a quick touchdown of their own, but missed the two point conversion.
St. Edwards grad Justin Staples picked off a St. Louis pass after being deflected at the line of scrimmage by Hall Davis. The Rams had one more shot for a tie, but Kellen Clemens’ desperation heave was intercepted in the end zone by Justin Cole.
The final score was Cleveland 27, ST. Louis 19.
(Photo: Rick Grayshock for WFNY)