CLEVELAND: Quarterback Colt McCoy’s first real test-drive in coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense proved to be a smooth ride.
The Browns defeated the visiting Green Bay Packers 27-17 in the preseason opener for both teams Saturday night. The final score, however, is virtually meaningless compared with the production of McCoy and the rest of the starters.
McCoy played in three series and guided the Browns’ offense to two scoring drives against the defending Super Bowl champions. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown, finishing with a passer rating of 152.1.
“I thought [McCoy] was pretty sharp,” said Shurmur, who made his preseason debut as a head coach on any level. “He executed well. He was pretty efficient with his throws. He worked us down the field twice. That’s the mark of a quarterback, getting you in the end zone.”
The Browns kicked off to begin the game and had to use a timeout before the first play from scrimmage, because their defense had 12 men on the field. They rebounded, though, and held Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Co. to a three-and-out.
McCoy then took center stage in front of a crowd of 57,077.
He completed 5-of-5 passes to lead the offense on an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive, capping it with a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who was covered by cornerback Pat Lee in the front corner of the end zone. Lee replaced standout Charles Woodson, one of five Packers defensive backs who did not play, in the starting lineup.
“We understand there’s still a lot of things to do to critique ourselves [and] perfect our craft,” McCoy said. “But I think for the first time coming out, I think as we move forward, as we go into practice Monday, we’ll have a little boost of confidence. By no means am I saying, ‘We’re here. We’re ready.’ We’ve got a long ways to go, but tonight was a good start.”
Rodgers countered during the next series by effectively working a no-huddle offense. He finished a seven-play, 73-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings. Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown covered Jennings in the front corner of the end zone, but he couldn’t make a play.
After the opening quarter ended in a 7-7 tie, McCoy started the second quarter with consecutive completions of 19 and 37 yards to tight end Benjamin Watson against a defense featuring several of the Packers’ backups. Those substantial gains set up running back Peyton Hillis’ 3-yard rushing touchdown behind the right side of the offensive line. Phil Dawson’s second successful extra-point kick gave the Browns a 14-7 lead with 13:46 left in the second quarter.
Backups from both teams entered the action not long after Hillis’ score. The Packers led 17-14 at halftime after kicker Mason Crosby made a 31-yard field goal and tight end Spencer Havner caught quarterback Matt Flynn’s 3-yard touchdown pass that appeared to be deflected by wide receiver Tori Gurley and Browns cornerback Ramzee Robinson.
The Browns battled back in the third quarter, tying the score 17-17 when kicker Jeff Wolfert made a 46-yard field goal. Quarterback Seneca Wallace, McCoy’s backup, completed four passes to help the Browns move into field-goal range. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 99 yards with one interception.
The Browns recaptured the lead when linebacker Titus Brown returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown with seven minutes left in the third quarter. Undrafted rookie linebacker Brian Smith came around the left side of the Packers’ offensive line and hit quarterback Graham Harrell in the back to knock the ball loose.
Wolfert scored the only points of the final quarter. He made a 44-yard field goal with 1:52 remaining.
Of course, McCoy shining was more important than the outcome. The Browns can also take comfort in escaping their first exhibition game of the year without any of their key players suffering major injuries.
Backup cornerback Coye Francies suffered a lower back injury during the game. He is day-to-day, Shurmur said.
Rookie strong safety Eric Hagg, who was inactive Saturday, will have knee surgery on Monday, Shurmur said. Hagg fell on his left knee during practice on Thursday. Shurmur called Hagg’s injury “a minor knee deal.”
After the game, Shurmur revealed that wide receiver Carlton Mitchell hurt one of his fingers by catching it on a jersey during practice. Mitchell had surgery on Friday, and Shurmur expects him to be out for a couple of weeks.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.