TAMPA -- The ending needed reworked.
Josh McCown and the Browns offense made too much progress from the previous week to have their final series come to a halt on Kwon Alexander's crushing, third-down sack. After its lengthy scoring drive to open the game, the Browns offense went into the Raymond James Stadium locker room sputtering, but its confidence wasn't shaken.
That confidence only grew when the unit learned it would have one last shot at redemption to start the second half.
"We talked about it and said, 'hey, let's go put another one together because we felt like we could,'" McCown said. "It was just a great way to finish the preseason for us as starters being able to punch it in."
The Browns first-team offense bounced back with the same formula that allowed it to march down the field earlier in the night and exited in style. McCown's 7-yard touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge was the finishing touch on the 11-play, 78-yard drive that saw Cleveland gain 5 or more yards on all but three of the plays.
Considering how crisp it was – along with the fact it didn't include any more hard hits on McCown – the drive was arguably the first-team offense's most impressive of the preseason. It was also the last, as Browns coach Mike Pettine confirmed McCown, who went 6-for-6 for 52 yards on the possession, would not play Thursday against the Bears in Cleveland's preseason finale.
"For us to go out there and not get accomplished what we wanted to against Buffalo and respond the way we did, I'm proud of that," McCown said. "You look at the course of the three games, it's preseason football. Some ups and downs, some things you'd like to see happen and we put drives together, we finished drives and touchdowns, we had some good runs, things like that. I think for the most part the preseason has served us well as far as getting the work done we needed."
McCown and the first-team offense logged seven possessions Saturday and 11 total in the preseason. The results: Three touchdowns (all through the air), two field goals, two interceptions and four punts.
What McCown, who finished the preseason 29-of-38 for 207 yards and the three touchdown passes, took most pride from was getting all of his teammates involved in the passing game. Brian Hartline was the fifth different receiver to catch a pass on the opening possession when he hauled in a 3-yard touchdown. The same went for Barnidge, whose 7-yard touchdown catch followed receptions from the likes of Jim Dray, Terrance West, Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin.
"There's no substitute," Pettine said. "You can always look at it and say this will be different and this will be different but to actually go out and execute it and have success, that's what the NFL is; It was a win-win. We got results, but at the same time there's some great tape to teach off of that we know we're going to have to get cleaned up."
McCown said he tried to get veteran wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who made his preseason debut Saturday, involved early in the offense, but the two couldn't connect on any of the three targeted in his direction. The next two weeks of practice will be used to further establish the chemistry between the two veterans.
The same goes for a running game that sputtered early in training camp but got better with each game. Terrance West's 17-yard run on the offense's final series Saturday was the longest by a Browns' first-team back, really got the group moving downhill and put the Buccaneers on their heels.
There was no backpedaling from the offense Saturday as it looks ahead to Sept. 13, when it faces a tough New York Jets defense in the regular season opener.
"You want a positive ending and I think we were able to do that," offensive lineman John Greco said. "We're feeling good about it but there's a lot of stuff we need to figure out and we'll do that."