The Browns defeated the St. Louis Rams in the preseason opener for both teams tonight at First Energy Stadium 27-19. Below is our game day blog.
End 4Q: Browns 27, Rams 19
With just over four minutes remaining in the game, defensive lineman Hall Davis tipped a Kellen Clemens pass that undrafted rookie outside linebacker Justin Staples picked off. Staples is a St. Ed’s grad, and it was a St. Ignatius grad who capitalized. Hoyer, still in at quarterback, found a wide-open Cordell Roberson for a 26-yard touchdown with three minutes to go. The rams added a quick score and failed a two-point conversion. The game came down to a Hail Mary by Clemens that was picked off in the end zone by Justin Cole. Hoyer finished the game 10-14 for 100 yards and a touchdown for a QB rating of 115.2. Punter T.J. Conley also had a great 37-yard punt that was downed on the 1-yard line by receiver Mike Edwards.
End 3Q: Browns 20, Rams 13
Brian Hoyer entered the game for the Browns and missed his first two throws by a pretty wide margin. On his second drive, Hoyer was improved, hitting his first seven pass attempts for 38 yards. That drive stalled on a 3rd and 10 in which Hoyer targeted Naaman Roosevelt on a deep ball down the sidelines. Roosevelt came away with it but was out of bounds. Bogotay then missed a 54-yard field goal attempt. The kick had plenty of leg but was wide left. Before that drive, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein hit a 55-yard field goal to bring the score to 20-13.
End 2Q: Browns 20, Rams 10
The Browns found the end zone on their second drive of the game with a nine-play, 74 yard drive. Weeden has a perfect 5-5 on the drive for 60 yards, including a two-yard touchdown pass to Dion Lewis on the first play of the quarter. Shayne Graham hit the extra point. The Browns struck again a few moments later. Travis Benjamin took a punt at the Browns’ 9-yard and with key blocks from Barkevious Mingo and Trevin Wade, took it to the house for a touchdown. A few plays later, Wade was torched by Rams WR Chris Givens for a 59-yard pass play that set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Bradford and Givens once again. Jason Campbell and the second-team offense took over at the 10:54 mark. Campbell had a nice play to extend the drive on a 3rd and 6, scrambling out of the pocket for 12 yards. Receiver Josh Cooper had a nice block. Graham nailed a 41-yard field goal with 4:31 to go to make it 20-7. Brandon Weeden finished the game 10-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown for a 127.7 QB rating. Mingo had a sack waived off late in the second quarter. Mingo spun off of an offensive tackle and swatted Rams backup quarterback Austin Davis. The swat alone was enough to get him down. But a Rams penalty that was accepted took the sack off the books. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein hit a 54-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
End 1Q: Browns 3, Rams 0
The Browns scored on their opening drive of the season, capped by a 25-yard field goal by Brandon Bogotay. Quarterback Brandon Weeden was 5-8 for 52 yards in that possession. Greg Little made a great leaping catch after a pass went off the hands of tight end Jordan Cameron. Little out-jumped two Rams defensive backs like he was grabbing a rebound. Weeden also completed a 21-yard pass to Josh Gordon. On 3rd and goal from the 7-yard line, Weeden had a pass go off of Little’s hands in the end zone. That initial drive took 7:12 off the clock. Dion Lewis returned the opening kickoff and was the starting running back with Trent Richardson not playing. On the Rams’ opening possession, St. Louis drove into Browns territory quickly but had their drive ended when Phil Taylor wrapped up Isaiah Pead, forcing a fumble that Buster Skrine recovered at the 26-yard line. On the Browns second drive, Weeden again took to the air with a 30-yard pass to Cameron that put the ball at the Rams’ 6-yard line. The quarter ended on a 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Top storylines: 1. Offense looking for rhythm: Quarterback Brandon Weeden and the offense hope to find a spark. The offense has been sluggish throughout training camp, and Weeden must make the right reads and quick decisions to guide it out of its funk in time for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the visiting Miami Dolphins. Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, will make his exhibition debut under the organization’s new coaching staff. A good first impression certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause as he attempts to convince the new regime he can be its quarterback of the future. The Browns are expected to play most of their starters for about one quarter. 2. Dream job: Rob Chudzinski will make his preseason debut as an NFL head coach. Chudzinski grew up a rabid, dog-biscuit-eating Browns fan in Toledo, and now he has his dream job. Chudzinski, the sixth full-time head coach of the Browns during their expansion era, will try to stop the revolving door that has haunted the franchise and its coaches for so many years. 3. New systems on display: Preseason games are glorified practices, so the Browns won’t reveal all the wrinkles of their schemes. However, they will provide a sneak peek at the vertical, downfield passing game installed by Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator and the 3-4, multi-front, attacking system implemented by new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. 4. The replacements: With running backs Trent Richardson (right shin) and Montario Hardesty (hamstring tendon) sitting out, third-string tailback Dion Lewis is expected to start. Lewis, whom the Browns acquired this offseason via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, has been one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp. If Lewis can capitalize on his opportunities in the preseason, he could become Richardson’s primary backup. Right guard Jason Pinkston will start in place of Shawn Lauvao, who injured his left ankle Monday and was carted off the field. It's unclear how long Lauvao will be out. Pinkston has 22 starts under his belt, but he missed the final 10 games last season after doctors discovered a blood clot in his lung. Johnson Bademosi, meanwhile, will fill in for starting strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring). Bademosi converted from cornerback to safety this offseason, a position he had never played before. 5. Position battles: Keep an eye on the cornerbacks because Buster Skrine is fighting to win the starting cornerback job opposite Joe Haden. Skrine's top competition, cornerback Chris Owens, is a surprise scratch tonight with an injured foot. Owens sprained his foot, but is not expected to miss a significant amount of time, a team spokesman said. Skrine and Owens have been splitting time with the first-team defense throughout camp. Kickers Brandon Bogotay and Shayne Graham are competing to fill the big shoes left behind by Phil Dawson, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March. Lewis and Bademosi are in a race to become the primary kickoff returner, and T.J. Conley and Spencer Lanning are squaring off to win the punting job. 6. NFL debuts: The Browns’ rookies will face another NFL team for the first time, and all eyes will be on outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick in the draft. Mingo is expected to work with the second-team defense once starters Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger take a seat.
Inactive players – Browns: Richardson (right shin), Hardesty (hamstring tendon), Lauvao (left ankle), Ward (hamstring), Owens (foot), safety Jamoris Slaughter (hamstring), cornerback Leon McFadden (groin), wide receiver David Nelson (knee), fullback Brock Bolen (calf), tight end Brad Smelley (hamstring), defensive end Dave Kruger (concussion) and offensive linemen Ryan Miller (concussion), Chris Faulk (knee) and Oniel Cousins (ankle). Rams: Safety Matthew Daniels, running back Terrance Ganaway, linebacker Jabara Williams, defensive end Sammy Brown, wide receiver Andrew Helmick, tight end Lance Kendricks and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo.
Lineup changes -- Browns: Bademosi will start at strong safety in place of Ward; Pinkston will start at right guard in place of Lauvao; and Lewis will start at running back in place of Richardson. Rams: None.
Links to preview stories via Ohio.com: 1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden hopes to guide offense out of its lull in preseason opener against Rams. 2. Notebook -- Trent Richardson, T.J. Ward among those ruled out for preseason opener against Rams.