CLEVELAND: Tight end Evan Moore is a West Coast guy who just might be the perfect weapon for quarterback Colt McCoy in the Browns’ West Coast offense.
Moore, a native of Brea, Calif., and a graduate of Stanford University, caught three passes from McCoy for 40 yards and two touchdowns Friday night in the Browns’ 30-28 preseason loss to the visiting Detroit Lions. The final score doesn’t detract from Moore’s performance. He has stood out throughout training camp, and his production in the team’s second exhibition game of the year confirmed that he could be poised for a breakout year.
Perhaps the only factor that could hold him back is his health. Moore has a history of injuries – he finished last season on injured reserve and had surgery to repair a hernia in the offseason.
On Friday, he got up slowly after taking a hard hit on a 17-yard reception in the second quarter. He stayed in the game, but he later fled to the locker room before halftime. Browns coach Shurmur said Moore suffered a head injury, and no other details were provided.
Before the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Moore left the action, he created matchup problems for the Lions (2-0 in the preseason) and was a force for the Browns (1-1).
“He can really run and catch the football,” Shurmur said of Moore. “That’s how we’ll try to use him throughout this deal. I think he’s improved as a blocker, but I think his real value is a pass catcher.”
Six plays after Browns rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard forced a fumble and recovered it at the Lions’ 34-yard line, McCoy connected with Moore for a 2-yard touchdown. Officials reviewed the play under the advisement of the replay assistant, but the touchdown was upheld.
The Browns’ defense put the finishing touches on a three-and-out to start the second quarter, and Jordan Norwood returned a punt 20 yards to the Lions’ 21. McCoy capitalized by throwing a 21-yard pass to Moore, who barely got his feet inbounds while falling out of the end zone. Officials originally ruled the pass incomplete, though the call was overturned after Shurmur challenged it.
“We got a couple of short fields, and when that’s the case you have to punch them in,” Shurmur said. “We did a good job there.”
The starting offense played for nearly the entire first half. Satisfied with McCoy taking more than 30 snaps, Shurmur put backup quarterback Seneca Wallace in the game with 1:44 left in the second quarter. The Browns led 21-13 at halftime.
McCoy completed 10-of-18 passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, finishing with a passer rating of 110.2. McCoy absorbed a few hits, but he avoided any vicious blows from Lions standout tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Rookie wide receiver Greg Little caught McCoy’s third scoring strike with 4:45 left before halftime and celebrated by punting the ball into the stands. McCoy’s 17-yard pass to Moore and a 27-yard pass interference penalty committed by Lions cornerback Nathan Vasher as he covered wide receiver Josh Cribbs set up Little’s score.
Shurmur was not pleased with Little’s kick. He let Little know on the sideline after the play.
“I told him don’t do that,” Shurmur said. “Basically he made a great play, and I said, ‘In my opinion, you tarnished a great effort by booting the ball in the stands.’ So I don’t want that. He knows I don’t want that. It’s been addressed, and I don’t expect to see that again.”
Plagued by penalties, the 10-play, 83-yard touchdown drive cappped by Little’s grab was a microcosm of the game. The Lions finished with 14 penalties for 123 yards, and the Browns had 12 for 88 yards.
“The efficiency, I don’t think we were quite as efficient as we were in some areas as last week [in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers],” Shurmur said. “We have to get that cleaned up. We had more penalties. We’re doing some things that we can’t do if we’re going to be a good team and beat good teams. That’s what we have to get going. Everybody’s playing hard. Nothing’s different that way. We just need to be a little more efficient.”
The backups took over in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Browns extended their lead to 28-13 after undrafted rookie running back Armond Smith broke loose off left tackle for an 81-yard touchdown. However, Smith later assisted the Lions’ comeback by losing two fumbles.
“The fumble always takes away from my run,” Smith said. ‘‘… This league is based off of what can you do on a consistent basis, and that wasn’t showing consistency.”
The Lions bounced back with two touchdown passes from quarterback Drew Stanton. They took the lead for good when Dave Rayner made a 48-yard field goal with 9:51 left in the final quarter.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.