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3 big takeaways: Analyzing the highs and lows of Browns loss to Buccaneers

TAMPA -- Three quick reactions to the Browns' 30-13 loss Friday to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium...

Winston shines vs. Browns defense

The first two weeks of the preseason were tough on the Browns run defense. Friday, it was the pass defense that struggled on a night in which second-year quarterback Jameis Winston shined.[

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The Buccaneers didn't punt until late in the second quarter, as they piled up big gains through the air and carried the load while the Doug Martin-led running attack took a backseat to the action. Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Adam Humphries each had a reception of longer than 20 yards in the first half, and Evans had two on a single possession, hauling in a 47-yard pass down the right sideline and catching a 34-yard touchdown two plays later.

Winston wasn't just throwing to open targets. The former Heisman trophy winner was deft at avoiding Browns pass rushers and used his patience and mobility to extend plays and move the chains. His first touchdown pass of the night, a 3-yarder to Charles Sims on third-and-goal, was, perhaps, his best play of the night. The Browns were never able to sack Winston and were called for penalties on two of the plays when they made contact with him as he threw.

Winston completed 16-of-25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. The Buccaneers rushed for just 46 yards and averaged a little more than 3 yards per carry in the first half against the Browns' first-team defense.

Griffin-Gordon make quick connection

Earlier in the week, ClevelandBrowns.com asked Terrelle Pryor about the importance of chemistry between a wide receiver and quarterback. Pryor delivered an interesting answer when it pertained to his connection with Robert Griffin III, saying "it's not really about chemistry. He's going great in terms of reading my body on certain routes."

With just a week or so of time together on the field in live, 11-on-11 settings, Griffin and Gordon haven't had a ton of time to connect on the kind of deep passes that worked Friday. On this night, it didn't matter, as the pair was a perfect two-for-two on long ball connections that served as the top highlights for Cleveland's first-team offense.

The first came on the Browns' fourth offensive play of the game. Griffin quickly reacted as Gordon created yards of separation between himself and Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes. The result was a 44-yard catch that put the Browns in Buccaneers territory and set up a field goal.

After the Buccaneers rattled off 24 unanswered points, Griffin and Gordon got Cleveland back on the board when the quarterback heaved it to a spot where Gordon was able to make a play. The big wide receiver played the ball perfectly and came back toward the field from the right sideline to make the catch and step into the end zone.

Untimely penalties, sacks hurt Browns offense

The period in between Gordon's big catches weren't the best for Cleveland's offense. A solid running attack, led by Isaiah Crowell's eight carries for 39 yards, wasn't enough to overcome the negative yardage caused by sacks and penalties.

After taking just one sack in the first two preseason games, Griffin was dropped five times in Friday's first half. On a number of other plays, he was under duress and either threw the ball into coverage or slid for small gains.

The Buccaneers kept it up in the second half and finished with eight sacks.

On the two drives following Cleveland's productive opening possession, the Browns lost 4 and 3 yards, respectively. A holding penalty on an 8-yard Griffin scramble on third-and-6 negated any possible momentum on the first drive, and nothing ever got going on the second.

By the time Cleveland took over for its fourth possession of the game, the score was 20-3.

The Browns rolled out their first-team offensive line of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Cameron Erving, John Greco and Austin Pasztor for the first quarter. Dan France filled in for Thomas in the second quarter.

The Browns take on the Buccaneers in Tampa for the third preseason game.

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