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Game day blog: Browns at Packers (preseason game No. 2)

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 16, 2012

The Browns (2-0) defeated the Green Bay Packers (0-2) in the second preseason game for both teams tonight at Lambeau Field.

Here's the game story:

GREEN BAY, Wis.: With Jimmy Haslam III monitoring his latest major investment from the visiting owner’s box at Lambeau Field, the Browns showed some signs of progress.

Riddled with injuries and coming off a lackluster preseason opener last week, the Browns’ starters needed to build some hope and confidence. They were far from perfect, but they did gain some momentum in a 35-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Haslam will certainly want to see wins once they count during the regular season, and it will likely be an uphill battle for a young, inexperienced team. Nevertheless, at least Haslam was able to witness his soon-to-be team triumph in its second exhibition game of the year and the first one he attended since striking a deal to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner on Aug. 2.

“I think we put a good game together, and we finished coming out from halftime,” said Browns running back Montario Hardesty, who had 12 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown. “I think we have a lot of good things to build on. I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, and the other starters on offense played for the entire first half, which amounted to seven series. Weeden completed 12-of-20 passes (60 percent) for 118 yards without committing a turnover, though he had a couple of close calls.

“For the most part, I think I threw the ball where it needed to be thrown and threw it on time,” Weeden said. … “My guys made plays for me, which is good. So, yeah, I think it was progress. I think I felt really comfortable. I saw things coming. I saw where they were blitzing from. I knew [the blitzes] were picked up. That’s the start. You’ve just got to build off that and go from there. Definitely an upgrade over last week.”

In the Browns’ preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, Weeden played only three series and finished with an interception and a lost fumble. He completed 3-of-9 passes for 62 yards without leading a scoring drive before the backups carried the Browns to a 19-17 win over the Lions.

This time, Weeden helped the Browns earn a 16-7 halftime lead.

“He moved the team,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “We found a way to drive the ball. He completed a couple of third downs that were important. What comes to mind are a couple other third downs on plays that we’re just kind of getting a feel for that he’ll do better the next time. He’s like any of the young ones out there working. He’s gonna look at the film and say, ‘Darn it. I can’t do that.’ So he’s got a couple of those. But for the most part I thought he executed pretty well.”

The offense, though, started the game with a dud. Hardesty fumbled during the first play from scrimmage after linebacker A.J. Hawk and defensive end C.J. Wilson hit him, and strong safety Charles Woodson knocked the ball loose. Packers cornerback Casey Hayward recovered the fumble at the Browns’ 23-yard line with 14:45 left in the opening quarter.

Three plays later, the Packers capitalized when quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Jordy Nelson connected for a 20-yard touchdown with 13:57 left in the first quarter. Nelson beat Browns cornerback Joe Haden on a fade route during the Packers’ first play from scrimmage, but Rodgers overthrew his target. On the second try, Nelson jumped grabbed Rodgers’ pass in the end zone with Haden in front of him.

After his turnover, Hardesty bounced back with five carries for 26 yards during the next series. His running helped set up Phil Dawson’s successful 53-yard field goal that trimmed the Browns’ deficit to 7-3 with 8:43 left in the first quarter.

“I thought he really ran the ball hard,” Shurmur said of Hardesty. “We can’t have ball security issues. He knows that. But I do like the fact he went out there and responded. He ran as well as I’ve seen him run, but we’ve all been talking about how he’s a different-looking Montario this year since he’s healthy. He looks just different to me. So let’s hope it stays that way.”

Dawson then made a 47-yard field goal with 4:47 remaining in the opening quarter. That kick was set up by the defense. Cornerback Sheldon Brown stripped wide receiver Randall Cobb of the ball, defensive end Emmanuel Stephens caught it and returned 19 yards.

Weeden found a rhythm late in the first quarter and led the Browns on a six-play, 45-yard scoring drive. His 24-yard pass to wide receiver Greg Little preceded Hardesty’s 1-yard touchdown run with 14:55 left in the second quarter.

“I was definitely down about the turnover,” Hardesty said. “I haven’t had a fumble since high school. But the O-line came back out and blocked well for me and it was good to get back in the end zone after that and kind of make up for the mistake.”

Dawson tacked on a 52-yard field goal with 1:19 remaining in the first half.

In the third quarter the Browns built their lead with safety David Sims’ 38-yard interception return for a touchdown and running back Brandon Jackson’s 1-yard rushing touchdown.

“I know my position,” Sims said. “I’m a free agent, so I’ve gotta go out there and make plays. I just can’t go out there and make tackles and basically do my job. I’ve got to do more than my job, so the coaches can notice me, so I can make the team.”

McCoy completed 4-of-6 passes for 58 yards in one series before Seneca Wallace entered the game to start the fourth quarter.

Defensive end Auston English pressured Packers backup quarterback Graham Harrell in the end zone as he tried to get rid of the ball. The play resulted in a safety via an intentional grounding penalty, which gave the Browns a 32-7 lead with 14:55 left in the fourth quarter.

Packers kicker Mason Crosby made a 42-yard field goal with 8:58 left in the fourth quarter. Backup kicker Jeff Wolfert extended the Browns’ lead to 35-10 by making a 34-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining.

The Browns had nine projected starters who sat out with injuries. The team’s top nickel cornerback, Dimitri Patterson, was also sidelined. Rookie Trevin Wade filled Patterson’s role and was taken from the sideline to the locker room on a cart in the fourth quarter with an injury of his own. Shurmur cited soreness, but he said he reserves the right to update Wade’s status Friday.

Here's the notebook:

GREEN BAY, Wis.: The curious case of Mohamed Massaquoi continued to unfold Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Massaquoi, a projected starting wide receiver for the Browns, ran routes, caught passes and stretched about two hours before the start of Cleveland’s exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers. He looked like he was ready to go.

Still, the Browns announced before the game that Massaquoi would sit out.

Last Friday in the Browns’ preseason opener, Massaquoi caught a 12-yard pass and absorbed a hit to his helmet from free safety Erik Coleman during Cleveland’s first offensive play. After the game, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Massaquoi suffered a concussion, a diagnosis Massaquoi disputed via Twitter.

On Sunday, Shurmur reiterated Massaquoi had a concussion. Massaquoi then participated in team drills Tuesday upon returning to practice and contradicted Shurmur again.

“I feel great, always felt great, never developed a symptom or anything,” Massaquoi said Tuesday after practice. “Everything that was done was strictly precautionary because of the type of the hit, the way that the hit looked.”

A Browns spokesman said Massaquoi was sidelined Thursday because the team was erring on the side of caution, not because he suffered a recent setback. He has been medically cleared to practice and play in games, the spokesman said.

With Massaquoi sitting out, rookie Josh Gordon, a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, replaced him in the starting lineup opposite Greg Little.

Massaquoi was one of the Browns’ nine projected starters who did not play against the Packers.

Other lineup changes

Running back Montario Hardesty started in place of rookie Trent Richardson, who’s recovering from the arthroscopic surgery he underwent on his left knee Aug. 9. Alex Smith and Evan Moore started in a double tight end-formation with Benjamin Watson (undisclosed) and Jordan Cameron (back) out.

Weakside linebacker Kaluka Maiava started for Chris Gocong, who’s out for the season after tearing his right Achilles tendon Aug. 4 and having surgery Aug. 10. Rookie strongside linebacker James-Michael Johnson filled in for Scott Fujita (left leg), and undrafted rookie middle linebacker L.J. Fort replaced D’Qwell Jackson (reported sore shoulder).

Rookie defensive tackles Billy Winn and John Hughes started in place of Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor, respectively. Rubin reportedly had surgery in the offseason to repair a slightly torn pelvic muscle and has not played in a preseason game this year despite returning to practice on Aug. 2 and not missing any of training camp since. Taylor, meanwhile, is out until at least late October as he rehabilitates his surgically repaired left pectoral muscle. Right defensive end Emmanuel Stephens filled in for Frostee Rucker (right knee)

The Browns’ top nickel cornerback, Dimitri Patterson (right ankle), was out, too. Rookie Trevin Wade filled Patterson’s role.
Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (right leg), strong safety Usama Young (reported hamstring), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (right knee) and rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin (undisclosed) were inactive as well.

In the booth

Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron called plays Thursday from the press box like he did last week against the Lions. He plans to stay in the booth all season after guiding the defense from the sideline last year.

“There are parts of both of them that are better,” Jauron said. “Upstairs, you're away from the great emotion on the field. It makes it sometimes easier to call, definitely easier to see. On the field you, can generally see the side of the field closest to you. You can't see the far side. Up in the box, I can help a little bit with personnel. … I'd rather be able to look the players in the eye and be down there [on the field] with them, but we'll see where it goes.”

Brownies

Browns play-by-play man Jim Donovan did not make the trip to Wisconsin because he was “just a little under the weather,” a team spokesman said. Andrew Catalon joined former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar for WKYC’s telecast. Catalon substituted for Donovan during the 2011 preseason as the latter recovered from a bone marrow transplant to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Donovan is expected to return for the Browns’ preseason game Aug. 24 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. … Punter Reggie Hodges, left defensive end Jabaal Sheard and center Alex Mack served as the Browns’ captains.

Pregame notes

Inactive players: Browns -- wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (head), wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (right leg), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (right ankle), strong safety Usama Young (reported hamstring), running back Trent Richardson (surgery on left knee last Thursday), weakside linebacker Chris Gocong (out for the season after suffering a torn right Achilles tendon and undergoing surgery last Friday), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (right knee), defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (reported surgery in offseason on slightly torn pelvic muscle; has been practicing since Aug. 2), wide receiver Travis Benjamin (undisclosed), tight end Benjamin Watson (undisclosed), tight end Jordan Cameron (back), defensive end Frostee Rucker (right knee), defensive tackle Phil Taylor (surgery on torn left pectoral muscle in May), strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (left leg) and middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (reported sore shoulder). Packers -- wide receiver Shaky Smithson, wide receiver Diondre Borel, running back Du'ane Bennett, fullback John Kuhn, cornerback Davon House, running back Cedric Benson, running back Brandon Saine, fullback Jon Hoese, cornerback Sam Shields, running back James Starks, linebacker Desmond Bishop, linebacker Frank Zombo, defensive end Johnny Jones, guard Ray Dominguez, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, tight end Andrew Quarless, wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Jermichael Finley.

Expected lineup changes for Browns -- rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon is expected to start in place of Massaquoi; running back Montario Hardesty for Richardson; tight ends Alex Smith or Evan Moore for Watson and Cameron; weakside linebacker Kaluka Maiava for Gocong; rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn for Rubin; defensive end Emmanuel Stephens for Rucker; rookie defensive tackle John Hughes for Taylor; rookie strongside linebacker James-Michael Johnson for Fujita; and undrafted rookie middle linebacker L.J. Fort for Jackson.

Top storylines: 1. The curious case of Massaquoi continues. The Browns announced he's not going to play, even though he warmed up on the field, running routes, catching passes and stretching about two hours before kickoff. Massaquoi said he didn’t suffer concussion symptoms after taking a shot to the helmet Friday against the Lions. His statement contradicted that of Shurmur, who on two occasions said Massaquoi had a concussion. Massaquoi practiced Tuesday and participated in team drills. Still, he's sitting out tonight. 2. The Browns’ trip to Lambeau Field represents the closest thing to a dress rehearsal they’ll have this preseason, even thought it’s only their second exhibition game. NFL teams normally designate the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal by playing their starters for about three quarters. However, the Browns play the Philadelphia Eagles in their third exhibition game and in their regular-season opener, so both teams will be careful not to reveal too much before Week 1. Instead, Browns coach Pat Shurmur will use tonight’s game to give his starters a trial run for at least a half and perhaps into the third quarter. 3. In what should be his most extensive playing time of the preseason, starting quarterback Brandon Weeden is looking to show improvement after a lackluster NFL debut. Last Friday in the Browns' 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions, Weeden played three series, completing 3-of-9 passes for 62 yards with an interception and a lost fumble. Along with several other notable rookies, Weeden is eager to correct his mistakes. 4. The Browns’ defense is also looking to build some confidence after allowing 198 rushing yards, including 115 in the first half, against the Lions. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s men struggled against the run last season, ranking 30th in the NFL (147.4 yards allowed per game). Jauron knows he must fix the problem, though it’ll be tough with six of the starting front seven sitting out tonight. 5. Speaking of injuries, the Browns can’t afford any more. The following nine projected starters are sidelined tonight: Massaquoi, Richardson, Watson, Gocong, Rubin, Rucker, Taylor, Fujita and Jackson.

Preview stories via Ohio.com: 1. Rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz expects improvement against the Packers. 2. Weeden and wide receiver Greg Little are working to get on the same page. 3. My list of 10 Browns players to watch tonight when they play the Packers.

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