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Big plays spark victory over Rams

Posted Aug 8, 2013

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Browns made multiple big plays in the first half of their 27-19 victory over the St. Louis Rams in their preseason opener at FirstEnergy Stadium Thursday.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When there was a big play to be made, the Cleveland Browns delivered in their 27-19 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the preseason opener at FirstEnergy Stadium Thursday.

Whether it was wide receiver Greg Little catching a deflected pass that kept a drive alive and led to a field goal, quarterback Brandon Weeden finding tight end Jordan Cameron for a 30-yard gain on a drive that running back Dion Lewis capped off with a two-yard touchdown, or wide receiver Travis Benjamin returning a punt 91 yards for a touchdown, the Browns made the necessary plays to preserve the win.

“I was pleased with how hard our guys came out and responded early offensively, defensively, and special teams,” coach Rob Chudzinski said following the win. “We were able to make plays early in the game. I was really pleased with that. There were a number of performances of guys stepping up and making some big plays.

“It was a combination of all phases doing it, a lot of the little things that we talk about. Certainly, it is one game and a preseason game, but I am pleased with the way the guys came out to play.”

Little started the big-play barrage when his catch prevented a red-zone turnover early in the first quarter.

On third-and-nine from St. Louis’ 22-yard line, Weeden dropped back and targeted Cameron across the middle of the Rams’ defense. The pass ricocheted off Cameron and went straight up into the air. With defenders closing on a potential interception, Little high-pointed the ball and harkened back to his basketball-playing days to secure the rebound.

Three plays later, Browns kicker Brandon Bogotay put the team in front with a 25-yard field goal.

“That was big time,” Weeden said of Little’s catch. “I don’t know if I scared Jordan Cameron or what. I hit him right between the eyes. We were laughing about it after, but it was a great, heads-up play by Greg. The ball seemed like it was in the air forever. Those are the worst. As a quarterback, you want to run over and do something, bat it down. It was a great play by Greg, kept our drive going.”

Weeden himself made big plays as he engineered scoring drives in his only two series of the game.

Overall, the second-year signal-caller finished the day 10 of 13 for 112 yards and one touchdown. On his second drive, he tossed the two-yard touchdown pass to Lewis. During his final drive of the night, Weeden completed all five of his pass attempts for 60 yards.

He also had four passes that went for at least 14 yards.

“Looking back, I felt pretty good, pretty comfortable,” Weeden said. “I just wanted to manage the game, have positive plays, don’t go backwards, and do my part to help our offense do that. I think, overall, the communication was great, which allowed us to play a little faster. For the most part, I made pretty good decisions tonight, and we had guys make big plays. It’s early, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

During Weeden’s two series, the Browns went four for five on third-down attempts.

“It all started with third-and-manageable,” Weeden said. “We weren’t third-and-10. You get third-and-10 in this league, and it’s tough. We were able to run our plays that we felt good about. We did our work on first and second down to get it to where we could manage it on third. Third downs are tough in this league, but if you can do that, your chances have got to go up.”

BUILDING MOMENTUM

Although the Browns did not turn the ball over and committed only 52 yards worth of penalties against the Rams, they are focused on improving as they prepare for the remainder of the preseason. They want to fulfill the potential that is within the team.

“We’re excited,” Weeden said. “We’ve got a lot of potential on this football team, but with that being said, we still have a lot of work to do. We’ve got three more preseason games to iron out the kinks and find the areas where we need to improve to get where we need to be. We’ve got a lot of pieces in place. Guys are excited. Guys are doing the things we need to do, but we’re nowhere near satisfied yet.”

BREAKING IN THE ROOKIE

Before Thursday’s preseason opener, rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo said putting on the Browns’ jersey for the first time would be a “dream come true.” In his first NFL preseason game, Mingo registered two quarterback hits and one special-teams assist.

“It was fun, everything I thought it would be,” Mingo said. “I enjoyed being out there with my teammates. I just really enjoyed getting back to playing football.”

Mingo impressed his teammates with the way he played.

“He did a great job,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “It’s tough, going from practice, then, to go to game speed, and be able to rush the passer every down. He did a tremendous job. He showed great poise and condition.

“He was in great condition, and that’s the first battle. When you start playing these games, the level of intensity goes up through the roof, and he was able to match that intensity. We all have a lot of work to do, and it’s a good start for Mingo.”