Cleveland Browns defeat the Chicago Bears 33-13
The Cleveland Browns desperately needed their first-team offense to look sharp on Thursday against the Chicago Bears. Most NFL teams rest their starters during Week Four of the preseason. Browns head coach Mike Pettine rolled the dice, risking possible injury for some much needed consistency on offense.
Pettine got the results he was looking for. The Cleveland Browns defeated the Chicago Bears, 33-13, to cap off the preseason.
On the Browns' opening drive with the football, Brian Hoyer and the offense marched 13 plays and 85 yards down the field, ending with a Ben Tate one-yard touchdown run.
"It was good to see the guys get out, play and make some plays – some real good teaching moments still on tape for us," said Pettine. "It was good experience. It was a risk-reward situation on the fact that we came out of it healthy, as I was told, it's a real positive for us."
"It was just good to get a rhythm," said Tate. "We needed that. We've been making so many mistakes the last couple games. This game was basically us going down and not making any mistakes. That's what it's supposed to look like."
On the drive, Hoyer was 6-for-8, throwing for 69 yards and posted a 100.5 quarterback rating. An eye-opening 38 of those yards went to undrafted rookie Taylor Gabriel. The 5-foot-8 receiver found holes in the middle of the Chicago defense, hauling in two key receptions that set up the touchdown.
The touchdown wouldn't have happened without a key third-down conversion from Hoyer to tight end Jordan Cameron. Third downs have been a struggle for Cleveland in the preseason. The eight-yard pass and catch from Hoyer to Cameron gave the offense confidence. Those type of plays to Cameron will be the bread and butter of this team in 2014.
"It just shows us what we're capable of, and that's what's been the frustrating part this preseason," said Hoyer. "To go out there and just do it against a different team is important. It's a good feeling heading out of the preseason."
"[Hoyer] was sharp, made some good throws, made the right reads," said Pettine. "It was good to see our guys make some plays down the field."
The celebrations didn't end with the first unit, though. Rookie Johnny Manziel engineered his own scoring drive in rapid fashion. A Jim Dray one-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone capped off one of Manziel's most efficient drives as a professional – five plays, 80 yards.
Manziel finished the night going 6-for-17, 83 yards passing, one touchdown, zero interceptions and an additional four carries for 55 yards rushing. We'll have much more on Johnny Manziel in separate articles.
"Falls into the category of Johnny being Johnny," said Pettine. "A couple of those plays were no, no, no, yes – but that's what he does. That, to me, is what he brings to the table. He just needs to get more comfortable in his reads, take the easy throws that are there. He's certainly shown why he has the reputation that he does."
Even the third-stringers got in on the action. Undrafted rookie free agent Isaiah Crowell scampered 48 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Fellow undrafted rookie Willie Snead caught three passes for a team-high 75 yards. This live game action will make it tough on Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer to trim down the roster.
Defensively, it was the pass rush that stood out more than anything against the Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. On second-down late in the first quarter, Barkevious Mingo dropped Bears quarterback David Fales for sack, eventually making Chicago kicker Robbie Gould miss a 52-yard field goal.
"I can't take total credit for [the sack]," said Mingo. "The guys set me up great, and I just came in and made the play that was given to me."
Additionally, the Bears could not get anything going on the ground. Chicago's leading rusher, Shaun Draughn, only mustered 29 yards on 10 carries. Besides a pass interference penalty from cornerback Leon McFadden, the first-team defense gave more than satisfactory effort against the Bears.
As the game wore on, there were some lapses in the Browns' secondary. Santonio Holmes scored on a 32-yard touchdown, beating Justin Gilbert in coverage. The rookie cornerback whiffed on tackle to wrap up the veteran receiver, and Cleveland paid for the mistake. Tashaun Gipson also committed a roughing the passer penalty, extending a Chicago drives. These miscues must be cleaned up before the regular season, but overall, the defense gave an encouraging effort.
"I think we came out and did everything we set out to do coming into this game," said Mingo. "We minimized mistakes. Everybody was keyed in on their assignment and they executed. We've just got to clean up a little bit more mistakes. We'll be ready to play come next week."