Only in the NFL preseason can a 35-10 win be labeled as "just OK" or "fine." The Cleveland Browns showed plenty of improvement from last week in their victory over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night, but I also wouldn't say that they lit my world on fire with their play at Lambeau Field. The truth is that the second and third team Packers were more terrible than the Browns were great. With that said, there are certainly worse ways to start off a preseason than with back-to-back road victories.
Browns beat Packers 35-10: Much better
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden looked much better in his second appearance of August, largely because his offensive line gave him time to throw the football outside of a couple of instances. Mitchell Schwartz in particular put last week's poor first quarter performance out of memory, looking like a NFL starting o-lineman on Thursday. As often happens when evaluating a QB during the season, Weeden's stats against Green Bay do lie just a bit. He completed 12 of 20 attempts, but four of his passes were dropped. Unfortunately, two of those drops were made by Green Bay defensive players who probably should have had interceptions.
Weeden again stared down wide receivers more than you'd like to see on multiple occasions, but he did well in getting rid of the football quickly, and he showed composure in the pocket. His passes had plenty of zip, and he was just a couple of yards shy of having a touchdown pass in the second quarter. Assuming that Weeden will continue to show signs of "getting there" over the next couple of weeks, I'd say that he'll be more than ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
Browns beat Packers 35-10: Old problem
Things started out disastrously for the Browns when Montario Hardesty fumbled the ball away on the first offensive play of the game. The Packers, as would any title contenders, made the Browns pay. Working from the Cleveland 23-yard line, Aaron Rodgers needed just three plays to find the end zone, hooking up with Jordy Nelson on a 20-yard pass play that saw Nelson climb the ladder and grab the ball over cornerback Joe Haden.
The Browns had their own opportunity to put points on the scoreboard following a turnover later on in the quarter. Sheldon Brown forced his second turnover of the preseason when his rip-and-strip sent Emmanuel Stephens off to the races down the right sideline. The Cleveland offense was provided with possession at the Green Bay 32-yard line, but the drive stalled after just three plays. Kicker Phil Dawson was given yet another chance to show he's in midseason form, burying a 47-yard attempt.
Championship teams earn touchdowns off of turnovers when given a short field. The Browns being forced to settle for three is nothing new, of course, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating to see. Cleveland's play-calling and execution in those instances both must get better moving forward if the Browns are going to pull off an upset or two this fall.
Browns beat Packers 35-10: Can you spare a Colt McCoy?
Those "McCoy to Green Bay" rumors aren't going anywhere after Thursday night. McCoy looked like a serviceable backup quarterback for the second straight week, and he took the Browns down the field on a 14-play 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. Graham Harrell, currently slated to be Green Bay's second option at QB, did not have such a good night. He completed 12 of 24 attempts for 100 yards, he was intercepted twice, one of which was taken to the house for a touchdown, and he would have been responsible for a second pick-six had the Browns not been guilty of a neutral zone infraction on that particular play.
Scouts from eight different NFL teams, not to mention the Green Bay coaching staff, got an in-person look at two potential backup QBs on Thursday. McCoy left Lambeau as a member of the Browns, but he could be one or two more preseason appearances from making a return to Green Bay on a more permanent basis.
Browns beat Packers 35-10: Overall
The thing I'm most happy about as a Browns fan on Friday morning is that Cleveland survived a second preseason game without losing any starters to injury. The team's offense took some baby steps against Green Bay, but the lack of depth at wide receiver without Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion worries) on the field was very noticeable. Cleveland's bench thoroughly outplayed Green Bay's second and third team players, but I honestly couldn't pick a game MVP for this one. Next Friday's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles will be very interesting considering the two teams will meet again in Cleveland on September 9.
Brilliant scheduling job, NFL.
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