Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Browns Show Well in 'Dress Rehearsal'

Browns Thrash Tampa Bay 31-7 in the third preseason game

Things started and ended well for the Browns first team offense. 

As the Browns thrashed the Buccaneers 31-7 in Tampa Bay for their first win of the preseason in the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the 2015 NFL season. 

Josh McCown returned to Tampa Bay and moved the Browns 80 yards in 16 plays on the first offensive possession, capping the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline

“It was a drawn up play,” Hartline said.  We had a naked (bootleg) called, and Josh did a great job with his feet and getting out of the pocket. Given the opportunity, I was glad I could make the play.”

It was Hartline’s only catch and it was originally ruled incomplete, but Mike Pettine challenged the call and after the review, the reception was ruled complete for a touchdown. 

McCown was 6-of-7 for 36 yards and rushed twice for 21 yards on the drive. The drive was methodically with the longest play being a 10-yard run by Isaiah Crowell McCown’s longest pass completions on the drive were three, nine-yard passes, two to Travis Benjamin and one to Crowell. 

In the first half, McCown finished just 11-of-17 for 65 yards. He was sacked once. McCown came out for the first series of the second half and led the Browns on a 78-yard drive for a touchdown ending in a seven-yard pass to tight end Gary Barnidge. On the drive, McCown was 6-of-6 for 52 yards. West had a 17-yard run, while McCown hit Benjamin for 11- and 10-yards on the drive. 

“We did some good things offensively,” Mike Pettine said at halftime. “We had some self-inflicted (mistakes).” 

McCown finished with a 113.9 quarterback rating and was 17-of-23 for 117 yards with two touchdowns. On the two touchdown drives, McCown was 12-of-13 for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed three times for 24 yards. On the other five series, McCown was just 5-of-10 for 29 yards.

“The takeaways: Good opening drives in both halves,” McCown said. “That’s the way you always want to start the half, but we dipped. We had offensive penalties and things that stalled out drives that we can’t have. For the most part, when you go out in a little over a half and put up 17 points on offense, you feel good about it. We certainly did some good things and finished really well with the touchdown to  Gary (Barnidge). All in all, we’re pleased with what we did.”

Extra Points

For the Defense: The Browns first team defense allowed no rushing yards allowed in the first quarter. In the second quarter, RB Doug Martin broke loose for a 19-yard touchdown run as he cut inside LB Paul Kruger and out raced DB Donte Whitner. Overall, DB Tashaun Gipson thinks the defense played well.

“Specifically the first quarter, we were flying around there and playing fearless football,” Gipson said. “It was something that you could look at and say, ‘Hey, that looked like the Cleveland Browns defense.’ We just have to make sure our twos come in and keep up the good work and continue to push us. I thought we looked good out there, especially the first quarter when we had all of our starters out there.”

“I thought we did a better job of getting off of the field on third down,” Haden said. “That’s something that we’ve worked on really hard. It was a good start.”

For the game, Tampa Bay was limited to just 73 yards rushing.

Duke, Desir Hurt: The much anticipated debut of RB Duke Johnson didn’t last long as he was hit in the head and taken to the locker room for concussion evaluation on an incomplete pass. He rushed one time for four yards and caught one pass for one yard. CB Pierre Desir was taken to the locker room in the second quarter for evaluation of a concussion.

No Pryor: WR Terrelle Pryor was expected to see his first action of the preseason as a wide receiver, but was held out with the hamstring injury. Pryor practiced Wednesday and Thursday and Pettine said he expected Pryor to play, but it was decided to hold him out. Heavy rains in the Tampa area softened the field and might have contributed to him not playing.

The Rabbit: It didn’t take PR Travis Benjamin long to show that he’s back in the punt return game as Benjamin took the first punt back 53 yards for a touchdown with 13:22 to play in the first quarter. The defense forced a three-and-out after sacking QB Jameis Winston on third down by DL Desmond Bryant.

“That was good for Travis’ confidence,” Pettine said at halftime.

Benjamin was the leading receiver with four receptions for 39 yards.

Sack Attack: The Browns had six sacks led by DL Desmond Bryant who sacked QB Jameis Winston on the first series after LB Paul Kruger first hit him. On the second defensive series, Bryant hurried Winston into an incompletion and then sacked him again for a seven-yard loss. Rookie DB Ibraheim Campbell sacked Winston on the final play of the first half. DL Jamie Meder, DL Mike Reilly and DB Landon Feichter also added sacks. Campbell led the Browns with five tackles, along with Meder.

Good Gaines: CB Charles Gaines Jr. intercepted QB Jameis Winston on the final play of the first quarter and returned the ball to the Tampa Bay 12. The Browns ended up scoring on a 36-yard field goal by K Carey Spear. Gaines broke up a pass intended for WR Vincent Jackson in the second quarter. Gaines had to leave the game with a hamstring injury.

Bowe Starts: WR Dwayne Bowe started and played for the first time in the preseason. He dropped the first pass thrown to him and ended with no receptions. WR Taylor Gabriel had four receptions for 30 yards, while WR Travis Benjamin had four receptions for 39 yards. Rookie WR Josh Lenz caught one pass for 48 yards.

Crowell Starts: RB Isaiah Crowell was listed in the starting lineup in the dress rehearsal, but RB Duke Johnson was on the field for the first play. Crowell had seven rushes for 25 yards and caught two passes for 12 yards.  RB Terrance West had just five yards on five carries in the first half but had a 17-yard run and finished with 26 yards on seven carries. He also caught a pass for five yards. The Browns rushed for 119 yards.

LB: Christian Kirksey and Scott Solomon were in the starting lineup on the defense. 

Thaddy Lew: QB Thad Lewis took over after the first drive in the second half and played the remainder of the game. Lewis scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run and finished 4-of-5 for 66 yards and two rushes for 11 yards.

For Starters: In the dress rehearsal, OL John Greco started at right guard in place of OL Cameron Erving. Erving was the Browns second, first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Top draft choice DL Danny Shelton started at nose tackle in place of DL Phil Taylor, who made his preseason debut.

Cut Down Coming: NFL rosters must be trimmed from 90 players to 75 by Sept. 1. After that, rosters must be to 53 by Sept. 5.

Browns not playing were: Johnny Manziel (elbow), QB Connor Shaw (right thumb), WR Marlon Moore (ribs), DB Justin Gilbert (hip flexor), DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (knee), DB Robert Nelson Jr. (hamstring), DB Jordan Poyer, (concussion), DB K’Waun Williams (abdominal), RB Glenn Winston (knee), FB Luke Lundy (concussion), Nate Orchard (back), LB Barkevious Mingo (knee),  OL Michael Bowie (shoulder), DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (shoulder), TE  Randall Telfer (foot), WR Terrelle Pryor (hamstring).

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