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Game day blog: Browns at Lions (preseason opener)

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 10, 2012

Here's the game story:

DETROIT: Brandon Weeden is 28 years old, but he’s still new to the NFL and prone to the types of miscues that often haunt rookies.

It showed during the Browns’ 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions in the preseason opener for both teams Friday night at Ford Field.

Browns fourth-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis led the team to a late scoring drive, setting up Jeff Wolfert’s game-winning 45-yard field goal with 28 seconds left. Safety David Sims then intercepted a pass to seal the Browns’ win.

Still, the performance of Weeden and the other starters is far more important than a meaningless final score.

Weeden, whom coach Pat Shurmur named the Browns’ starting quarterback on Monday, committed two turnovers in three series. He completed 3-of-9 passes for 62 yards with one sack, an interception and a fumble before his debut ended and quarterback Colt McCoy took control late in the opening quarter.

“I felt in complete control, and I told you guys that the other day that was my main focus was feeling in control,” Weeden said. … “Yeah, the numbers aren’t great, but I didn’t really expect them to be. I knew I was going to make some mistakes here and there, but it’s just how can we fix those mistakes, what can we do to make them better, not do them again and go forward.”

Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, got off to a hot start. He completed his first two passes, 11 yards on a hook route to Mohamed Massaquoi and 43 yards on a fade along the sideline to Travis Benjamin.

But right tackle Mitchell Schwartz had consecutive rookie mistakes of his own that helped kill the Browns’ opening drive. He was called for false start on third-and-10 from the Lions’ 23-yard line. Then on third-and-15, Lions defensive end Willie Young beat Schwartz with an inside pass-rush move and hit Weeden as he tried to get rid of the ball. It was called a fumble, a ruling that stood following a review from the replay assistant, and Young recovered at the Lions’ 30.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on,” Schwartz said. “I think [I allowed] too much pressure. [I’ve] just got to keep getting better, stuff that I think is more of a physical nature where you can clean it up in practice with better technique, better pass sets, better hands.”

Four plays later, the Browns got the ball back when cornerback Sheldon Brown intercepted a pass from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was rushed by the pressure of defensive end Emmanuel Stephens. Brown returned the pick 25 yards to the Browns’ 39.

However, Weeden and Co. failed to capitalize. The drive stalled a couple plays after Lions cornerback Dwight Bentley dropped an interception from Weeden.

Bentley, though, redeemed himself during the Browns’ next possession, which started a couple plays after defensive end Juqua Parker sacked Stafford for a 4-yard loss on second down. On third-and-3 from the Browns’ 32, Weeden threw a short pass slightly off target to wide receiver Greg Little, allowing Bentley to intercept it.

“The ball was probably a touch low, but we’ve got to make those throws and catches in tight coverage,” Shurmur said. “I was [ticked] at both [Weeden and Little].”

Three plays later, Lions running back Keiland Williams rushed for a 5-yard touchdown between Browns defensive linemen Brian Sanford and John Hughes. Jason Hanson made the extra-point kick to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

Hanson missed a 48-yard attempt with 10:12 left in the second quarter. Browns kicker Phil Dawson countered by making a 37-yard field goal with 7:21 left in the first half.

The Lions built a 14-3 halftime lead after quarterback Shaun Hill connected with running back Stefan Logan for a 3-yard touchdown pass in the front corner of the end zone with 2:10 left in the second quarter. Logan beat the coverage of Browns linebacker Craig Robertson during the play.

Quarterback Seneca Wallace started the second half for the Browns. He rolled right and lofted a short pass to rookie fullback Brad Smelley, who ran about 3 yards and dived into the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 8:12 left in the third quarter. The Lions led 14-10 at the end of the third quarter and extended their lead to seven points when Derek Dimke made a 40-yard field goal with 10:25 left in the fourth quarter.

The Browns cut their deficit to 17-16 when undrafted rookie running back Adonis Thomas rushed left for a 3-yard touchdown with 6:05 left. He was then stuffed well short of the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt, but the Browns got the ball back with 2:18 remaining, enough time to set up Wolfert’s decisive field goal.

Here's the notebook:

DETROIT: Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi entered the Browns’ preseason opener with momentum, but, unfortunately, his problem with head injuries doesn’t seem to be behind him.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Massaquoi suffered a concussion during the team’s first offensive play from scrimmage in its 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Friday night at Ford Field. He caught an 11-yard pass from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and then took a shot to the helmet from free safety Erik Coleman.

However, Massaquoi replied to someone on Twitter who asked if he had a concussion by writing late Friday night, “No! Precautionary! Can’t wait to get back to work!”

Not long after absorbing the hit, Massaquoi walked to the locker room without wearing a helmet and accompanied by a trainer. He did not return to the game.

“I’m always concerned about injuries, and I think he’s gonna deal with this and we’re gonna go through the process,” Shurmur said. “And when he’s healthy enough to play, then we’ll put him back out there and not before that.”

In the offseason, Shurmur and President Mike Holmgren challenged Massaquoi to have a breakout season, and he responded with strong performances during spring practices and training camp. He appeared to be on the right track.

His most recent setback, though, won’t help his cause. He has been plagued by concussions in each of the past two seasons.

In 2010, Massaquoi missed a game after absorbing a vicious hit from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. In Week 7 of the 2011 season, he suffered another concussion against the Seattle Seahawks, keeping him out of action for three-plus games.

Injuries pile up

In the first half against the Lions, the Browns announced more injuries (four) than points (they trailed 14-3 after the first two quarters). In addition to Massaquoi, defensive tackle Scott Paxson (right knee), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (right ankle) and Jordan Cameron (back) were hurt.

Paxson walked off the field with trainers with 11:50 left in the second quarter after he suffered an injury on an 8-yard run by Keiland Williams of the Lions. Paxson had his right knee wrapped by a trainer on the sideline and was ruled out for the rest of the night. With starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor out until at least late October with a torn left pectoral muscle he suffered in May, the Browns are already thin in the trenches. Paxson was one of the players being relied on to help fill in for Taylor.

During the next play, Patterson took some friendly fire when safety Ray Ventrone rolled on his right leg. Patterson was examined by trainers on the sideline and later walked to the locker room. His return was listed as questionable.

Then with a little more than nine minutes left in the second quarter, tight end Jordan Cameron injured his back when he hauled in a 42-yard pass over the middle from quarterback Colt McCoy and Lions safety Sean Jones landed on him. Like Patterson, Cameron walked to the locker room after being checked on the sideline, and his return was listed as questionable.

Defensive adjustment

Instead of calling plays from the sideline like he did last season, Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron issued orders from the booth upstairs on Friday.

New defensive backs coach Tim Hauck relayed Jauron’s calls to the players on the field. Jauron was Hauck’s defensive backs coach from 1990-94, when Hauck played safety for the Green Bay Packers.

“I knew he was completely trustworthy and professional, and he’s a very good coach,” Jauron said of Hauck. “He’s invested the time. He’s worked at it. He’s very into it. He’s got a great love of the game.”

Several starters out

The Browns headed into Friday night short-handed. Seven projected starters, including five on defense, were sidelined with injuries.

Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (replaced in the starting lineup by Paxson), middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (Benjamin Jacobs), right defensive end Frostee Rucker (Emmanuel Stephens) sat out. Kaluka Maiava started at weakside linebacker in place of Chris Gocong, who’s out for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon. Rookie defensive tackle John Hughes, a third-round selection, started instead of Taylor.

On offense, the Browns were without projected starters at running back, Trent Richardson (replaced by Montario Hardesty) and tight end, Benjamin Watson (Cameron). Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday.

Strong safety Usama Young and fullback Eddie Williams also were on the inactive list.

Quiet night

Josh Cribbs was not used as a return man, but Shurmur said Cribbs is OK.

“There was a couple guys that I just felt give them another week to get going,” Shurmur said. “He’s fine, plus we wanted to see in the return game, we wanted to see the young guys do it.”

Pregame notes

Inactive playersBrowns: strong safety Usama Young, running back Trent Richardson, fullback Eddie Williams, weakside linebacker Chris Gocong, middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, defensive end Marcus Benard, defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, tight end Benjamin Watson, defensive end Frostee Rucker and defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Lions: wide receiver Titus Young, running back Mikel Leshoure, safety Louis Delmas, safety Don Carey, cornerback Chris Greenwood, running back Jahvid Best, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, wide receiver Ryan Broyles, defensive tackle Sammie Hill, defensive end Cliff Avril and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Lineup changesBrowns: Scott Paxson started at defensive tackle for Rubin; Emmanuel Stephens at right defensive end for Rucker; Benjamin Jacobs at middle linebacker for Jackson; Jordan Cameron at tight end for Watson; Montario Hardesty at running back for Richardson; John Hughes at defensive tackle for Taylor; and Kaluka Maiava at weakside linebacker for Gocong. Lions: Lawrence Jackson is expected to start at defensive end for Avril; Willie Young at defensive end for Vanden Bosch; Dwight Bentley at cornerback for Smith; John Wendling at strong safety for Spievey; and Erik Coleman at free safety for Delmas.

Top storylines: 1. Weeden, whom coach Pat Shurmur named the Browns' starting quarterback on Monday, will feel the heat of an opponent's pass rush for the first time at the professional level. He must be aware of Lions standout defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has delivered some of his most vicious hits on quarterbacks during exhibition games (see former Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme circa 2010 and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton last year). It’s important for Weeden to feel the rush, stand in the pocket and capitalize on his rocket arm. It’s even more important for him to come out of this game -- and the rest of the preseason -- healthy. 2. The Browns’ defense will be missing at least two starters and possibly four when the regular season starts Sept. 9. Weakside linebacker Chris Gocong is out for the year with a torn right Achilles tendon. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor is out until at least late October with a torn left pectoral muscle. And strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (allegedly involved in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal) and cornerback Joe Haden (reported failed drug test) are in danger of serving suspensions for three and four games, respectively. The likely replacements for those players -- Kaluka Maiava (Gocong); rookie John Hughes (Taylor); rookie James-Michael Johnson (Fujita); and Dimitri Patterson (Haden) -- must capitalize on the preseason by jelling as much as possible with the other defensive starters in live action. 3. Browns running back Montario Hardesty has been impressive during training camp, and he’ll get a chance to show he can keep the momentum going as he replaces Richardson tonight in the starting lineup. Two years ago, Hardesty missed his rookie season with a torn ACL in his left knee. He then tore a muscle in his right calf last season, forcing him to remain idle in six games. If Hardesty can finally stay healthy, he could be a key piece for the offense, especially if Richardson doesn’t bounce back from his recent knee surgery as well as the Browns hope he will.

Preview stories via 1. Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is eager for his NFL debut. 2. Nate Ulrich’s list of the top 10 Browns players to watch against the Lions. 3. Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson’s NFL debut delayed by the second arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee in six months.


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