CLEVELAND — Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden celebrated his 29th birthday in style Sunday by winning his first NFL game.
The rookie from Oklahoma State passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns, helping Cleveland to a 34-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Birthdays aren’t as fun as they used to be, but when you win games like that, they’re pretty damn fun,” Weeden said, chuckling. “(My wife Melanie and I) have reservations at a nice steak place tonight, so we’ll get a quick bite to eat, then I’ll go home and lay down and watch some more football.
“I’ll tell you this: Going to work tomorrow will be a whole lot more fun that it has been for the last five weeks.”
Weeden completed 17 of 29 throws, including a 71-yard TD pass to wide receiver Josh Gordon and a 3-yard TD strike to tight end Benjamin Watson. He also was intercepted once and posted a 92.7 passer rating on an unpredictably windy afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“Me and (Bengals quarterback) Andy Dalton were throwing the ball around before the game and the wind was all over the place,” said Weeden, who raised his season passer rating to 68.1.
“We just looked at each other and laughed because we knew it was going to be one of those days where you didn’t know where the ball was going to end up.”
Weeden’s favorite play of the daywas a 28-yard sideline pass to wide receiver Josh Cooper on Cleveland’s fifth play from scrimmage.
Cooper, who made his NFL debut after being promoted from the practice squad Friday, previously played with Weeden for four years at Oklahoma State. He signed with the Browns as an undrafted rookie on May 9.
“That’s my boy, that’s my boy!” a beaming Weeden said. “I was so pumped for him, I could barely call the next play in the huddle. He caught a back shoulder wheel route, and it was a heck of a catch, but that didn’t surprise me because that guy can flat-out play.
“I was excited for him personally and I was also excited for us because we want to have fun and win games — and we finally got that notch on our belt.”
- Defensive end Emmanuel Stephens sacked Dalton and forced him to fumble the football in the fourth quarter, which defensive tackle Billy Winn picked up and returned 35 yards. Though it was Stephens’ initial NFL sack, sixth-round draft pick Winn kept the pigskin as a souvenir. “This was my first fumble recovery, so I’m going to put it in a lock box and keep it someplace that I can always see it for motivation,” Winn said.
- Cornerback Buster Skrine notched a career-high 10 tackles, while Cleveland’s defense picked off three passes to give it 10 on the year (one more than in all of 2011).
- Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs’ 60-yard punt return was the fourth longest of his career, but came with some controversy as Cincinnati claimed he called for a fair catch. “I was just waving like, ‘Don’t touch it,’ to the guys on my return team,” Cribbs explained. “Very rarely do I fair catch it, so when I saw their gunner let up, I took off.”
- Safety T.J. Ward denied a local radio report that he was late for the team’s Saturday walkthrough. “I was there the whole time,” he said flatly. “I heard those rumors too, but I was there from the beginning.”
- Replays appeared to show that Dalton successfully spiked the football with one second left in the first half, which would have allowed the Bengals to attempt a 33-yard field goal. Cincinnati led 14-7 at the time, but referee Pete Morelli said the play was not reviewable under NFL rules. “The clock is taken on the field by the line judge (John Hussey) and the back judge (Rob Vernatchi),” he explained. “I got a signal from them that after the snap, when the ball hit the ground, there were zeroes on the clock, so half over.” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis refused to cry over potential spilled milk, saying, “(Officials) don’t have to give you a reason, it’s just their call. They said, ‘No, time was out.’”
- Dalton was 31-of-46 for 381 yards — all season highs — while tossing three touchdowns and three interceptions for an 87.3 passer rating.
- Wide receiver A.J. Green notched his second 100-yard receiving game against the Browns. The second-year pro made seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns, giving him four scores in four career games against Cleveland.
Out of action
- The Browns’ inactives were wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) and Travis Benjamin (hamstring), defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (left ankle), safety Tashaun Gipson (knee), linebacker Scott Fujita (shoulder, neck), and tackle Ryan Miller. Defensive tackle John Hughes and linebacker James-Michael Johnson made their first NFL starts in place of Rubin and Fujita, respectively. Running back Trent Richardson (right side, ribs) said he was struck on the side by a Cincinnati helmet in the first quarter, relegating him to part-time duty for the rest of the game. “I could’ve come back in, but I told Coach I didn’t want to do anything to hurt the team,” said Richardson, who rushed for 37 yards on 14 carries and made two catches. Left guard Jason Pinkston (illness) was replaced by John Greco in the opening period after becoming sick. Shurmur said he woke up feeling ill, but “was in and out of the lineup and battled through it.”
- Not in uniform for the Bengals were cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and Jason Allen (quadriceps), wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Ryan Whalen, tight end Richard Quinn, safety George Iloka, and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson.
- Fullback Brian Leonard (ribs) exited for good in the second quarter.
- A sellout crowd of 67,060 represented the lowest attendance of the season at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The kickoff conditions were 70 degrees and sunny with 19 mph winds from the south, but the skies became overcast and brought light rain in the second half.
- The Browns wore their all-white uniforms, while the Bengals sported black tops and white pants. Cincinnati leads the all-time series 42-37 and is 18-10 since Cleveland returned to the NFL in 1999.
- Wellington’s Dylan Weidrick and coach Matt Stoll, and Columbia’s Jacob Kleinhenz and coach Jason Ward were recognized as part of the Browns’ high school game of the week promotion, while cheerleaders from Columbia took part in a halftime performance.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.