What started well, did not end well.
The Browns lost for the 11th-straight time on opening day as they were blown out by the New York Jets, 31-10 on the road in East Rutherford, NJ. The Browns led 10-7 in the first half, before the Jets scored 24 unanswered points in the win. The Browns turned the ball over five times, which was the most by the team since the 2009 season. They also committed 12 penalties.
More importantly, the Browns might have lost their starting quarterback, Josh McCown, for an undetermined time as he suffered a concussion in the first quarter.
Mike Pettine said there was no question the mistakes set the Browns back all day.
“It was disappointing,” Pettine said. “We have to get those things cleaned up. You can’t win in this league that way. Most (of the penalties) happened on positive plays that were called back.”
The Browns defense stopped the Jets on the opening drive and then the Browns offense took over on their own 20-yard line. Reminiscent to the long, efficient drives executed in the preseason by McCown, the Browns moved the ball methodically 17 plays down to the Jets’ nine-yard line. However, after a false start by John Greco, the Browns found themselves in third-and-goal from the 14. Finding no one open, McCown took off and tried to get into the end zone but lost the ball as he was hit by Calvin Pryor and the ball was recovered in the end zone by the Jets.
Not only did the Browns not score, they lost McCown for the rest of the game as he was taken to the locker room under the NFL’s concussion protocol. He did not return and no timetable was given for his return. In his only series of the game, McCown was 5-of-8 for 49 yards. He also rushed three times for 23 yards.
Pettine wouldn’t criticize McCown for trying to score.
“I don’t know how you coach a running quarterback, a real competitor to slide there,” Pettine said.
Enter Johnny Manziel, who briefly provided a spark as he hit a streaking Travis Benjamin for a 54-yard touchdown to give the Browns a 7-0 lead. On his third possession, Manziel led the Browns to a field goal and a 10-7 lead. However, after that mistakes, particularly penalties and turnovers sealed the Browns fate.
Pettine said Manziel did some good things but just can’t turn the ball over three times.
“I think it’s tough for any number two quarterback that has to come in,” Pettine said. “He did some good things with his feet. The throw to Travis was outstanding. but he’s got to be more protective of the ball. You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win and that’s something he’s got to get better control over. But overall, for him coming in cold, he did some good things.”
Manziel agreed to has to eliminate the turnovers, but if he needs to continue playing next week, he will be ready.
“I think it was a good start,” Manziel said. “I didn’t expect Josh to be knocked out like that, but you never know what will happen.”
On Manziel’s first series he threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin on third-and-19 down the sideline as Benjamin streaked by Antonio Cromartie. One play earlier, Manziel took off on third-and-4 for what appeared to be a 20-yard gain and a first down inside the Jets’ 15. However, a chop block called on RB Isaiah Crowell set up the third-and-19.
“I think it was a good building block and we can build on it going forward.”
Manziel led the Browns on a field goal drive in the second quarter on his third possession, which gave the Browns a 10-7 lead with 2:46 to play in the half.
Manziel threw an interception in the third quarter that set up a touchdown for the Jets to give the a 21-10 lead. Marcus Williams intercepted Manziel on a pass that was intended for Brian Hartline and he returned it to the Browns’ 28.
Overall, Manziel finished 13-of-24 for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception and two fumbles. He was the Browns leading rusher with 35 yards on five carries. He would’ve had much more but had two runs for over 20 yards called back on penalties.
Pettine said although the team is disappointed in the start, he has no doubt they will bounce back for next week’s home opener with the Titans.
“It was disappointing,” Pettine said. “I know the resolve of the guys in that locker room.”
No Rush Defense: The Browns made a concerted effort to correct their 32nd ranked rushing defense from a year ago, but the results weren’t much better. After holding the Jets to just 42 yards rushing in the first half, the Jets put up 112 in the second half to finish with 154 yards. RB Chris Ivory had 91 yards and two touchdowns, while RB Bilal Powell had 62 yards.
“(It was) not good enough,” Pettine said.
The Crow: RB Isaiah Crowell rushed 10 times for 21 yards in the first half, including a long of just eight yards. He finished with 12 rushes for 20 yards and caught two passes for 13 yards. Meanwhile, RB Duke Johnson, Jr. was on the field to start the game and had 22 yards on seven carries.
The Rabbit: WR Travis Benjamin showed his big play ability early as he caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from QB Johnny Manziel. He also had a 15-yard catch in the first half and finished with three receptions for 89 yards. TE Gary Barnidge had three receptions for 38 yards, while WR Andrew Hawkins had three for 24 yards. WR Taylor Gabriel had two receptions for 20 yards, as did WR Brian Hartline, who had a spectacular one-handed catch for 11 yards.
Solomon Down: After winning the starting outside linebacker job, LB Scott Solomon injured his ankle on the first defensive series of the game and was carted off. He did not return.
Shut Out of Sacks: The Browns were unable to sack QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. LB Karlos Dansby, CB Joe Haden and DB Donte Whitner led the defense with four tackles.
A Lot of Orange: The Browns work orange pants and brown jerseys in the season opener.
Buster in Green: Former Browns CB Buster Skrine signed a big unrestricted free agent contract with the Jets in the off-season. He was the Jets third cornerback until DB Antonio Cromartie went down in the first half.
Bowe Inactive: Browns WR Dwayne Bowe was inactive, presumably due to his hamstring injury. Bowe was listed as questionable on Friday. Others were: QB Austin Davis, DB Justin Gilbert, RB Robert Turbin, LB Nate Orchard, TE E.J. Bibbs and DL Xavier Cooper.