By Nate Ulrich, Beacon Journal sports writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.: The Browns proved to be big teases Sunday.
They took control early and appeared to be poised for an upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, but a total meltdown spoiled their chances of winning for the first time this season.
The Browns (0-5) allowed the Giants (3-2) to run all over them, as evidenced by running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s 30 carries for 200 yards. Their secondary was torched — wide receiver Victor Cruz had five catches for 50 yards and three touchdowns. And they committed costly turnovers.
It all contributed to the Browns squandering a 14-point lead and falling 41-27 to the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
The Browns led 17-7 after Phil Dawson made a 32-yard field goal with 13:39 left in the second quarter, but the Giants came storming back with 20 unanswered points before halftime. Several miscues by the Browns sparked the comeback.
On second-and-10 from the Browns’ 11, quarterback Eli Manning threw a pass to rookie wide receiver Rueben Randle in the back corner of the end zone. Cornerback Buster Skrine gained favorable position but dropped what should have been an interception. Two players later, the Giants eventually settled for Lawrence Tynes’ 29-yard field goal, which cut their deficit to 17-10 with 6:46 left in the second quarter.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw a pass high and behind rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon on third-and-1 from the Giants’ 25 during the following drive. Strong safety Stevie Brown intercepted the pass and returned 46 yards to the Browns’ 40. Two plays later, Bradshaw rushed for a 4-yard touchdown, and Tynes’ extra-point kick tied the score 17-17 with 2:52 left in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Josh Cribbs fumbled when Will Hill stripped him of the ball from behind. Stevie Brown recovered and returned the fumble 9 yards to the Browns’ 29. Five plays later, Cruz lined up in the slot, baited cornerback Dimitri Patterson on a fake to the inside, ran a corner route wide open in the end zone and caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Manning with 1:10 left in the second quarter.
The Giants pushed their lead to 27-17 at halftime. Skrine was called for a 24-yard, pass-interference penalty that moved the Giants into field-goal range, and Tynes capitalized by making a 40-yard attempt as time expired in the second quarter.
The Browns’ defense suffered some key injuries. Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter with a head injury. Patterson was carted to the locker room with an ankle injury early in the third quarter.
With Patterson sidelined, rookie cornerback Trevin Wade entered the game and covered the slot receiver in the nickel package while Sheldon Brown and Skrine played on the outside. During the Giants’ first possession of the second half, Cruz blew by Wade on corner route and caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Manning with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
Cribbs returned the ensuing kick off 74 yards, but the Browns failed to gain a first down after starting the drive at the Giants’ 30. They settled for Dawson’s 41-yard field goal with 3:27 left in the third quarter, trimming the Giants’ lead to 34-20.
Although the Browns squandered a 14-point lead earlier in the game, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants never fell into the same trap. The Browns flirted with rallying but never committed to it.
Brown knocked the ball away from Cruz as he tried to secure a deep pass from Manning, and free safety Usama Young caught it after it popped out. Young returned 44 yards to the Giants’ 27 with 12:53 left in the fourth quarter.
The Browns then marched into the red zone. But on third-and-goal from the Giants’ 10, Weeden’s pass intended for tight end Benjamin Watson was intercepted by linebacker Chase Blackburn, a University of Akron product, in the end zone with 9:05 remaining. The Giants then extended their lead to 41-20 after rookie running back David Wilson broke loose for a 40-yard rushing touchdown with 5:41 left.
The Browns tacked on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Gordon with 3:56 left to cut their deficit to 41-27. Still, they were never close to coming back from their colossal collapse.
Weeden finished 22-of-35 for 291 yards and two touchdowns, both to Gordon, with two interceptions.
The Browns were plagued by slow starts through the first quarter of this season, but they ended the trend against the Giants. The Browns scored on each of their first two possessions.
It all started when Bradshaw lost control of the ball after he bumped into guard Chris Snee during the first play from scrimmage. Brown recovered the fumble at the Giants’ 22. Two plays later, rookie running back Trent Richardson bolted up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown run with 14:08 left in the opening quarter.
The Browns extended their lead to 14-0 after Gordon lined up in the slot, burned Blackburn, caught a deep pass from Weeden and ran into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown with 10:03 left in the first quarter. Gordon’s first career score capped a five-play, 80-yard drive, which stayed alive after Weeden connected with tight end Jordan Cameron in the flat for a 5-yard gain on third-and-3 from the Browns’ 27.
The Giants finally countered with 3:22 left in the first quarter when Cruz beat Skrine on an out route in the end zone and caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Manning. The Giants repeatedly picked on Skrine and reaped the benefits during the 11-play, 92-yard scoring march.