The Browns (1-2) defeated the Minnesota Vikings (0-3) 31-27 today in a wild game at the Metrodome. Below is our game day blog.
Final: Browns 31, Vikings 27
Down 27-24, Hoyer and the Browns got the ball back at their own 45-yard line with 3:21 left in the game. Hoyer hit Gordon twice, Cameron once and Ogbonnaya once to get into the red zone with under a minute remaining. On third and goal from the 7-yard line, Hoyer hit Cameron in the end zone with a nice pass over his back shoulder for a touchdown, Cameron’s third of the game, to give the Browns a 31-27 lead with 51 seconds left in the game. The Vikings drove into Browns territory but as time expired, defensive end Desmond Bryant sacked Ponder to end the game. Hoyer finished the game 30-of-54 passing for 321 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Gordon had 146 yards receiving and a touchdown on 10 receptions. Cameron caught six passes for 66 yards and three touchdowns.
End 3Q: Browns 24, Vikings 24
Both offenses were slowed down in the third quarter. Hoyer was intercepted on the half’s opening drive by Chad Greenway. Adrian Peterson then fumbled a few plays later, forced by D’Qwell Jackson and recovered by Jabaal Sheard. The Browns later faced a fourth-and-4 at the Vikings 37-yard line and went for it, but Hoyer’s pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage. On the ensuing drive, John Hughes and rookie Barkevious Mingo each recorded sacks, forcing Minnesota to punt. Hoyer was intercepted a third time today after his arm was hit as he was throwing. Erin Henderson came down with the lame duck and returned it to the Browns’ 9-yard line. Ponder then ran in his second touchdown of the day, this one from eight yards on third-and-goal, to tie the game at 24-24.
End 2Q: Browns 24, Vikings 17
The Browns had fun in the second quarter. On the first play, Hoyer found Jordan Cameron in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7. Christian Ponder and the Vikings responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by Ponder’s six-yard touchdown run. The Browns were stopped on their next drive but on the punt, safety Josh Aubrey took a direct snap 34 yards for a first down. That led to a 38-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff to push the Browns ahead 17-14. Thanks in large part to Josh Gordon, the Browns easily drove into Vikings territory again but were slowed in the red zone. On the field goal attempt, punter Spencer Lanning, the punter, took the snap but passed to the outside to Cameron, who lined up uncovered, for an 11-yard touchdown pass and a 24-17 lead. The Vikings added a late field goal after Travis Benjamin muffed a punt. Minnesota had another scoring chance resulting from a Hoyer interception, but Jabaal Sheard sacked Ponder and forced a fumble that Craig Robertson recovered to end the half. T.J. Ward also had an interception in the quarter. Hoyer is 14-of-23 passing for 174 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Gordon has 103 yards receiving and 22 yards rushing. New signee Willis McGahee also made his first carry with the Browns.
End 1Q: Browns 7, Vikings 7
Josh Gordon, making his regular-season debut for the Browns, had a heck of a first-quarter. After the Vikings scored on the first drive of the game, capped by an Adrian Peterson touchdown run, Brian Hoyer found Gordon streaking down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. Later in the quarter, Gordon took an end-around and ran for 22 yards. Davone Bess, making the start for Greg Little, dropped the first pass of the game.
Inactives: Browns – Quarterback Brandon Weeden (sprained right thumb), outside linebacker Quentin Groves (high-ankle sprain), offensive linemen Patrick Lewis and Martin Wallace, right guard Shawn Lauvao (high-ankle sprain), tight end Keavon Milton and defensive end Armonty Bryant. Notes: Left defensive end Ahtyba Rubin is active and expected to start. Rubin was listed as questionable heading into today. He sat out the first two games of the season with a strained right calf. Lauvao was listed as doubtful entering today. He was limited in practice last week and has yet to play this season. Vikings – Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, tight end Rhett Ellison, safety Mistral Raymond, linebacker Gerald Hodges, guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker and defensive end George Johnson.
Lineup changes: Browns -- Quarterback Brian Hoyer will start in place of Weeden and right guard Oniel Cousins will start in place of Lauvao. Note: A Browns spokesman said the formation will dictate which running back starts. Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey are the options. Vikings – none announced.
Link to story from this morning: Browns fielding offers, open to trading receivers Josh Gordon, Greg Little, ESPN reports. The team also reportedly covets Houston Texans running back Ben Tate and has shut down teams calling about trading for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.
Ryan Lewis’ top storylines: 1. Brian Hoyer will make his Browns debut against the Vikings today after starting quarterback Brandon Weeden was ruled out with a thumb injury. Hoyer gets the nod over Jason Campbell, effectively jumping from No. 3 on the depth chart to No. 1. Coach Rob Chudzinski wouldn’t commit to Weeden once he’s healthy, so this is a tryout of sorts for Hoyer. 2. After the Trent Richardson trade to the Indianapolis Colts, the Browns signed former Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee on Thursday. McGahee takes over the No. 1 running back role in the backfield, though it’s unclear how much he’ll be able to contribute right away. McGahee is still recovering from a knee injury that led to his release in Denver. 3. After a couple of more drops last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and more traffic violations a day later, Greg Little has been benched in favor of Davone Bess. Little will still receive a high volume of snaps but won’t get the start. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon, the Browns’ top wide receiver, will make his 2013 regular-season debut today. Gordon missed the first two games this season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. 4. The Browns’ quarterback situation is a mess but the Vikings have questions at that position as well. Christian Ponder was selected high in the draft (12th overall in 2011) but hasn’t taken charge like the Vikings hoped he would. This year, Ponder has thrown for just 463 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions on 34-of-58 passing. When he took care of the ball, though, the Vikings won. Ponder went 7-1 last year when he didn’t throw an interception. 5. The Browns’ front seven is still not healthy. Outside linebacker Quentin Groves has been ruled out for the game with an ankle injury. The good news for the Browns is that defensive end Ahtyba Rubin is expected to return from a calf injury that sidelined him for the first two games. And rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo could play a bigger role after his NFL debut last week.
Links to preview stories via Ohio.com: 1. After a wild week, Browns face tough matchups against Vikings. 2. Browns vs. Vikings matchup: Ray Horton's defense aims to stop the best -- Adrian Peterson. 3. Five numbers you need to know for Sunday. 4. Predictions from Nate Ulrich, Marla Ridenour and Ryan Lewis. 5. How they rank on offense and defense. 6. Quote of the week. 7. Browns notebook: Running back Willis McGahee confident despite being as ‘old as Methuselah’. 8. Browns: Joe Thomas thinks he’s expendable as fallout continues from Trent Richardson trade.