The Cleveland Browns blasted the Green Bay Packers 35-10 on Thursday night at Lambeau Field, dropping the Packers to 0-2 in the preseason.
On the first offensive play of the night, Charles Woodson stripped Montario Hardesty and Casey Hayward recovered, giving Green Bay the ball at Cleveland's 23. On first down, Jordy Nelson toasted standout third-year cornerback Joe Haden, but Aaron Rodgers missed what should have been an easy touchdown. Rodgers must have been seeking a higher degree of difficulty, because on third-and-7, he threw a dart to a well-covered Nelson for a 20-yard touchdown.
"Yeah, just taking a shot in a one-on-one matchup," Rodgers said in halftime quotes distributed by the team. "Jordy consistently wins those. A good corner, the throw was a little lower than I wanted but Jordy made an incredible catch. That's why he is one of the top guys in the league."
That made it 7-0 just 1:03 into the game.
It was all downhill from there, however, and it will increase worries about the Packers' quarterback situation should something happen to Rodgers. Backup Graham Harrell needed nine possessions to finally lead a scoring drive.
After Cleveland answered Nelson's touchdown with a 53-yard field goal, Rodgers mounted a promising drive. Randall Cobb, however, was stripped after a catch and run to the Browns' 32, with Emmanuel Stephens' return giving the Browns' possession at the Packers' 32. That resulted in a 47-yard field goal, which cut the margin to 7-6.
Rodgers was on the field for one more possession, which ended on downs when he couldn't connect with Donald Driver on fourth-and-2 near midfield.
It got ugly from there, starting with Cleveland taking a 13-7 lead on the ensuing drive on Hardesty's 1-yard touchdown run against a mix of starters and backups on defense.
Harrell had a miserable night after struggling for most of last week's game at San Diego. In his first eight possessions gained 44 yards, picked up three first downs and gave the Browns nine points – seven on a pick-six in which intended target Ryan Taylor fell and the final two on a safety when he was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone. That made it 32-7 with 14:55 remaining in the game.
After going 8-for-18 for 38 yards on eight possessions entering the fourth quarter, Harrell went 4-of-6 for 62 yards, with completions of 25 and 28 yards to Jarrett Boykin to lead a drive that resulted in a 42-yard field goal.
While Harrell couldn't move the ball, finishing 12-of-24 for 100 yards, two interceptions and five first downs, Colt McCoy impressed as Cleveland's backup. As Packer Report reported during the draft, the Packers and Browns had talks about a trade. McCoy's probably on the market, and he was solid with 4-of-6 for 58 yards in leading a 75-yard touchdown drive.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.