Packers drop exhibition opener

CLEVELAND – In a game tailored to players sitting firmly on the bubble, the Packers got a good look of who they will keep and who will probably exit training camp in the near future.

The Packers second- and third-string reserves on defense, possibly weary from numerous repetitions in practice because of injuries to starters and top reserves, buckled on a couple of 90-plus yard Browns drives and the Packers fell, 10-3, in the exhibition opener for both teams Saturday night before 71,218 fans at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The ragged play wasn't the only bummer for the Packers. Running back Dorsey Levens suffered a broken left hand on his first carry from scrimmage and is expected to miss the next four to six weeks.

"Someone's got to step up and take his position," said Packers coach/general manager Mike Sherman. "One of those other backs. We have depth at running back, fortunately, and someone there has to step up and be that guy."

Starting linebacker Nate Wayne suffered a mild sprain to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and will be out one to two weeks.

It was Cleveland's first game under new head coach Butch Davis. The Browns are trying to resurrect a team that has gone 5-27 since it re-entered the league with the same name but brand new team and venue on the same site as the former Municipal Stadium on the shore of Lake Erie.

Typical of an exhibition opener, penalties, errant passes and blown assignments were in abundance. It either clouded the vision of coaches and player personnel chiefs trying to evaluate the 20 to 25 players whose future with the team is up in the air, or it made matters perfectly clear.

The Packers finished with 11 flags called against them for 80 yards. Cleveland had eight penalties for 74 yards.

"It looked like it was our first preseason game. That's how we played," Sherman said. "I had hoped that we would be more disciplined. Last year we were fifth in the league in least amount of penalties, and we didn't play like that tonight."

It wasn't just one area. The Packers committed penalties on offense, defense and special teams.

"This game is all about who puts their hands on who first, who can get off the ball first," said defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who had a sack early in the game on Tim Couch. "I jumped off twice just trying to get an edge. But we've got to practice that. The Browns went on two or three or four or five. They did a good job of changing (the cadence) up. We've got to be more disciplined."

Despite the penalties, the Packers had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Free agent linebacker Donte Curry blocked free agent Francesco Biancamano's punt with less than 4 minutes remaining. Green Bay recovered the ball on Cleveland's 17 yard line. Billy Joe Tolliver, fighting for the backup quarterback spot with Doug Pederson, had a golden opportunity to help his own cause and the Packers,' but typical of this game, it got sloppy.

The Packers began with a 5-yard false start penalty. Tolliver completed two passes, but Green Bay faced a fourth and 9 on the Browns' 16. As Tolliver was searching for an open receiver, he was sacked by defensive tackle Mark Word and fumbled the ball away. Tolliver recovered the fumble at the Packers' 21, but the Browns took over on downs.

The Packers had two other scoring drives deep in Browns' territory in the second half but turned the ball over.

Pederson threw overthrew wide receiver Donald Driver early in the third quarter and the pass was intercepted by rookie cornerback Anthony Henry at the 2. The Packers had another drive snuffed in the fourth quarter when running back Rondell Mealey fumbled the ball away trying to dive into the end zone from the 2. The ball was recovered by linebacker Mike Smith.

"We learn lessons from these games. You cannot turn the ball over," Sherman said. "I told the guys at halftime, you cannot turn the ball over. We came out in the second half and we did twice. Usually the coaches who lost tonight in the National Football League in the preseason will say that you shouldn't turn the ball over. That was the case tonight."

The Browns, using their new quick-strike offense, used an impressive 96-yard drive between the first and second quarters to take a 7-0 lead on Couch's nine-yard pass to running back Jamel White in the middle of the end zone. White got behind safety Scott McGarrahan and Couch floated the pass to him for a touchdown.

The Browns racked up seven first downs in the 19-play drive that consumed 10 minutes, 31 seconds, but it also came against many of Green Bay's reserves. The Packers, who played without four starters on defense, went to their second and third-string reserves at the start of the second quarter. Couch often picked on free agent cornerbacks Kevin Kaesviharn and Corey Chamblin in the drive.

Ryan Longwell closed the Packers to 7-3 by making a 47-yard field goal with 3:44 left in the second quarter. Longwell missed four out of five field goals between 47 and 49 yards in the team's intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 4, but bounced back to kick well during practice leading up to the exhibition against the Browns. Levens sparked the drive by turning a screen pass into a 16-yard gain and key first down early in the drive. On the next play, he gained 20 yards with a cutback move before getting pushed out of bounds on the right sideline.

In the second half, former Packers quarterback Ty Detmer led the Browns on a 16-play, 92-yard drive and the Browns went ahead 10-3 on Phil Dawson's 23-yard field goal.

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