CLEVELAND — Just when Charlie Frye was ready to seize the starting quarterback job, he had a brain cramp.
Perhaps boosted by the victory in the pregame coin flip to determine who would take the first snap Saturday in the preseason opener vs. Kansas City — Derek Anderson called tails — Frye put together a solid first half. He looked ready to cap it in style and separate from Anderson with a well-executed drive to end the half.
But with no timeouts and 12 seconds remaining, Frye scrambled from the 5-yard line, was tackled at the 2 and time ran out. Coach Romeo Crennel was in his ear before Frye could reach the sideline on the way to the locker room.
That mistake and a poorly thrown lateral that Jerome Harrison ignored and Kansas City’s Benny Sapp returned 56 yards for a touchdown cost the Browns at least 10 points. They almost cost them the victory, but Chris Barclay returned a kickoff 88 yards with 1:36 left to give the Browns a 16-12 win.
Kansas City rookie kicker Justin Medlock hit a 42-yard field goal with 1:48 left for a 12-9 lead, but Barclay answered. A fumble recovery by Clifton Smith on Cleveland’s 10-yard line locked up the win with 30 seconds left.
Not only did Barclay save the game, he saved Crennel from a chorus of boos. The fans started chanting for rookie quarterback Brady Quinn, who ended an 11-day holdout Tuesday, early in the fourth quarter, but Crennel wasn’t about to put him in the game with the Browns needing to throw.
“We’ll see next week how he comes along,” Crennel said.
Basically alternating series with Anderson, Frye played four possessions in the first half. He finished 12-for-15 for 122 yards and a 100.6 rating. With time to throw — a rarity around Browns Town — Frye only scrambled that one regrettable time. He looked comfortable in the pocket and made some nice throws, including a slant to Braylon Edwards and a pair of deep in routes versus the second-team defense.
But there was plenty of room for improvement. On the first play, he was almost intercepted looking for Kellen Winslow over the middle. His lateral to Harrison was well off the mark — Harrison gave up on the play and Frye was a second late getting started and couldn’t catch Sapp — and he mismanaged the final seconds of the half.
“I really thought I was going to get in,” Frye said. “Looking back, you probably want to throw it out of bounds.”
Anderson played the first two series of the second half, giving him five. He was just 7-for-16 for 76 yards and a 58.3 rating. He led two field-goal drives but was nearly intercepted three times, including a badly underthrown pass that would’ve been a touchdown.
“Charlie was able to get into a rhythm a little bit sooner than Derek,” Crennel said.
Crennel was asked if he’s ready to make a decision on his opening-day starter.
“It’s a little early to make a rash judgment,” he said. “We’ll look at the tape (today) and see where they stand.”
Both quarterbacks benefited from lots of time, as the first-team line played the entire first half. Rookie Joe Thomas, the third overall pick, looked good in pass protection but was called for holding twice on runs.
The Browns dominated the first half — 219 total yards to 83 — but trailed 7-6 thanks to the mistakes. The first-team defense forced two punts and cornerback Leigh Bodden had an interception on a terrible decision by Chiefs starting quarterback Brodie Croyle.
The Chiefs have their own quarterback battle, and the Browns’ looked great in comparison. Croyle, in his second year, was 5-for-8 for 49 yards with an interception. He spun away from linebacker Kamerion Wimbley only to fire downfield without looking. That’s where Bodden came in.
Damon Huard, a career backup, was 2-for-4 for 19 yards and an overthrown interception to Daven Holly. The Chiefs missed running back Larry Johnson, who’s holding out after rushing for 1,789 yards last year, second in the NFL.
“We got some turnovers and that’s one of the things we’ve been talking about,” Crennel said.
Frye drew first blood, leading a nine-play, 49-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard Phil Dawson field goal.
Former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis (four rushes, 20 yards) was quick to make his presence felt as a Brown. He caught a 12-yard pass for a first down and picked up 19 yards on three carries, including a 15-yard draw. Joshua Cribbs, seeing time as the third receiver with Tim Carter sidelined with an injured thumb, picked up 12 yards on an end-around. He was helped by a hard block from Edwards.
Working with the first-team line and second-team skill players, Anderson led an eight-play, 30-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard field goal by Dawson.
The key play was an 11-yard scramble by Anderson on third-and-10 after he pumped four times. Jason Wright followed with a 21-yard gain to the 19 on a screen pass.
Dawson, who slumped toward the end of last season, was 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting from 27, 38 and 32 yards.
He doesn’t have to worry. His job is safe.
Frye can’t say the same.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Browns 16, Chiefs 12
Browns 16, Chiefs 12
Kansas City 0 7 0 5 — 12
Cleveland 3 3 3 7 — 16
Cle—FG Dawson 27, 1:33.
Cle—FG Dawson 38, 8:40.
KC—Sapp 56 fumble return (Medlock kick), 4:02.
Cle—FG Dawson 32, 2:46.
KC—Safety, R.Smith tackled by K.Gonzalez in end zone, 12:43.
KC—FG Medlock 42, 1:48.
Cle—Barclay 88 kickoff return (Dawson kick), 1:36.
First downs 12 20
Total Net Yards 200 346
Rushes-yards 22-90 29-99
Passing 110 247
Punt Returns 4-20 4-20
Kickoff Returns 5-154 3-142
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 2-24
Comp-Att-Int 15-29-2 25-40-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-22 2-3
Punts 8-46.5 5-43.6
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 6-44 9-58
Time of Possession 23:32 36:28
RUSHING—Kansas City, Bennett 3-28, Printers 4-27, Ross 7-26, O’Keith 5-12, K.Smith 3-(minus 3). Cleveland, Harrison 8-33, Wright 9-28, Lewis 4-20, Cribbs 1-12, Anderson 1-11, Barclay 2-6, Vickers 1-0, Dorsey 1-(minus 1), Fryre 2-(minus 10).
PASSING—Kansas City, Croyle 5-8-1-49, Huard 2-4-1-19, Printers 8-17-0-64. Cleveland, Frye 12-15-0-122, Anderson 7-16-0-76, Dorsey 6-9-0-52.
RECEIVING—Kansas City, Hannon 2-26, Willis 2-19, Ekwerekwu 2-18, O’Keith 2-12, K.Smith 2-11, Allan 1-18, Kennison 1-13, Ryan 1-6, Bennett 1-5, T.Gonzalez 1-4. Cleveland, Ortega 4-39, Lewis 3-16, Harrison 3-6, Steptoe 2-36, Krause 2-34, Wilson 2-29, Wright 2-28, Mosley 1-23, Barclay 1-9, Edwards 1-8, Cribbs 1-6, Dinkins 1-6, Winslow 1-6, Niklos 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOAL—Cleveland, Ainsworth 43 (WL).