Cleveland – Talk about going from the penthouse to the outhouse.
That's what it was like for running back Sultan McCullough as he scored a touchdown to give the Browns a 20-16 lead with just over five minutes to play.
However, McCullough fumbled the next time he touched the ball at the Browns' 43 and the Panthers made the Browns pay for the miscue.
Efrem Hill scored a 21-yard touchdown on a pass from Chris Weinke with 45 seconds to play to give the Carolina Panthers a 23-20 win over the Browns. The Panthers went 43 yards in six plays for the score.
A touchdown by McCullough with 5:32 looked like it would be enough to get the Browns their third win of the preseason. However, the loss makes the Browns 2-1 as they prepare for their final preseason game at Chicago next Thursday.
Rookie quarterback Charlie Frye was at the helm on the drive that was aided by two personal foul penalties against the Panthers that kept the Browns drive alive.
There was some good news and there was some not so good news as the teams played they're starters into the final five minutes of the third quarter. In the match up of first teams, the Panthers had a 16-10 advantage. The Browns starting units played the first two series of the second half.
Coach Romeo Crennel was encouraged by the defense's play in the first half.
"I thought the defense stood out—the whole defense," Romeo Crennel said. "They did a nice job.
"Overall, I thought the defense played a reasonable game, considering some of the situations they were in," he said. "They had to go out in tough field position and were able to hold them to field goals, so I felt good about that."
The first team defense forced the Panthers to punt twice on their first two possessions after the intermission.
Crennel wasn't as pleased with the offense and special teams' play in the first half.
"I need more consistency from the offense," Crennel said. "And I need smarter play on the special teams, particularly in two-minute situations."
The Browns offense scored one touchdown during their time in the game. They also converted one field goal from Phil Dawson, while Dawson missed a 35-yard attempt on the second series of the third quarter.
Quarterback Trent Dilfer was 15-of-23 for 168 yards. He was sacked once and he threw one interception on a deflection. Dilfer's longest throw was a 39-yard toss to Dennis Northcutt down the sideline to set up the Browns' first touchdown.
William Green continued his quest to win the starting running back job by scoring a touchdown on a four-yard run. He finished with 30 yards on seven carries and caught two passes for five yards.
The Browns Panthers moved the ball but the Browns defense stiffened and held them to two field goals on their first two possessions. The second drive was just 17 yards and ended with a 45-yard field goal by Kasay. The second field goal was set up by a 24 yard punt by Richardson. Kasay kicked his third field goal of the first half from 34 yards out to give the Panthers a 9-0 lead.
The Browns first got on the board on a Dawson 26-yard field goal after linebacker Ben Taylor recovered a fumble at the Panthers' 16 to make it 9-3.
The Browns went 53 yards on five plays in 2:38 to take the lead at 10-9 with 36 seconds to play in the first half on a four-yard run by William Green. The big play of the drive was when Dennis Northcutt got behind Ken Lucas and Trent Dilfer hit him for a 39-yard pass to the Panthers' nine. Green had a five yard rush followed by the touchdown.
The Browns 10-9 lead was short-lived as the Panthers answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass form Delhomme to Steve Smith. The Panthers went 53 yards in just three plays to take a 16-10 lead at the half.