With most of their starters on the sidelines for the second consecutive preseason game, the Browns used some timely second-half points and several key defensive stops to defeat the New York Giants, who completed two joint practices with the Browns before Sunday's final meeting at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett and others wore pads, but stayed on the sideline and watched as the Browns paced themselves to a 17-13 win behind strong performances from a handful of players fighting for depth roles on the regular season roster. Case Keenum started at quarterback and led the offense in the first half while rookies CB Greg Newsome II and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah highlighted top players to start on defense.
"I thought it was some good work for the guys out there," head coach Kevin Stefansi said. "It was hot. They were battling. It took 60 minutes. Got some good situational football work – a two-minute at the end of the first half, a two-minute drive there on defense at the end of the second half and a two-point play – so I think there are a lot of things going on that the guys did a nice job communicating and ultimately battling throughout. Good win."
The Browns opened the game with a 10-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Keenum, who started the game, hitting receiver KhaDarel Hodge on fourth-and-goal for a 7-yard touchdown. Keenum fit the pass through a tight window into the left corner of the end zone, and Hodge jumped to make the athletic snag. RB D'Ernest Johnson was the primary catalyst of the drive, however, and rushed three times for 34 yards.
The Giants — who also held out several of their starters, including quarterback Daniel Jones, and their top receivers — responded on the next drive with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Devontae Booker leaping over the line of scrimmage for a goal-line touchdown to even the score at 7-7.
All scoring was halted for the rest of the first half, though. Kyle Lauletta replaced Keenum at quarterback on the final drive of the second quarter. Keenum finished 9-of-12 for 74 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The clunky offensive performances continued until the Browns' second drive of the second half when Lauletta and fullback Johnny Stanton IV connected on two first-down passes that moved the Browns 33 yards downfield. Running back John Kelly closed the drive with two runs — one for 18 yards and the other for 5 yards that ended with a dive inside the pylon for the score and 14-7 lead.
Following the Giants' first quarter touchdown, the Browns forced New York into five consecutive punts until they found the end zone for a second time with 7 minutes left. Brian Lewerke hit David Sills V for an 8-yard score and attempted to take the lead with a two-point conversion, but a Browns penalty negated the first attempt, which fell incomplete. Giants RB Gary Brightwell took a handoff on the second attempt but was stuffed by Elijah Lee.
The stop was Lee's biggest play of the game, one in which he finished as one of the top defensive standouts and led the Browns with nine tackles. Other standouts included LB Malcolm Smith, who recorded six tackles in the first half, and DT Malik McDowell, who recorded five tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits.
Offensive standouts included Kelly, who took over at running back in the second half and registered nine carries for 58 yards and one touchdown. WR Davion Davis recorded three receptions for 45 yards, leading the Browns' receivers in that category for the second consecutive week. Rookie Demetric Felton was used as a receiver in the first preseason game but moved to running back Sunday and finished with eight carries for 25 yards. He was also used as a punt returner and totaled with three returns for 21 yards.
Kicker Chase McLaughlin sealed the final Browns points when he nailed a 49-yard field goal to extend Cleveland's lead to four points with 2:29 left, while safety Richard LeCounte III recorded his second interception of the preseason on the final Hail Mary play from the Giants.
CB Greedy Williams (groin), LB Montrel Meander (ankle) and OT Alex Taylor (ankle) exited the game early with injuries.
Cleveland heads to Atlanta next Sunday for its third and final preseason game.