DENVER — The Browns got more accomplished in their two-day trip to the Rockies than they did in two home games and a month of training camp.
Charlie Frye got the start and maintained his slight edge in the quarterback competition with an 80-yard touchdown drive on the game’s first possession. It was the starting offense’s first touchdown of the preseason, and it was impressive.
Brady Quinn entered with 10:48 left in the third quarter of a tie game. He looked nearly as sharp vs. the Broncos’ first- and second-teamers as he did in his debut last week against Detroit’s scrubs. Quinn finished 7-for-11 for 81 yards and a 116.1 rating, and engineered the winning touchdown drive that ended with a 20-yard catch-and-run to Joshua Cribbs late in the third quarter.
Oh, yeah, the Browns (2-1) walked away with a win Saturday night, 17-16. The victory was preserved when David McMillan and Chaun Thompson stopped running back Selvin Young on a 2-point conversion try with 2:56 left.
While general manager Phil Savage reiterated that it was “unrealistic” for people to expect Quinn to be ready to start the opener Sept. 9, Quinn once again showed he’s a quick study. He completed his first four passes, including a gorgeous 25-yard throw down the seam to Kellen Winslow, who made a nifty catch. (Winslow sat out the first quarter in a “coach’s decision.”)
“He performs well when he comes in,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said of Quinn. “He looked pretty good.”
Quinn’s first drive ended with a missed 46-yard Phil Dawson field goal and his second with Cribbs’ score. Cribbs caught a short out, broke the tackle of Domonique Foxworth and exploded down the left sideline for a 20-yard touchdown. It gave the Browns a
Quinn, sporting a shaved head, worked with Winslow and the first-team receivers on his first drive.
They were replaced by second-teamers for his next possession, and Quinn stayed in for the rest of the game.
One drive was thwarted by a Travis Wilson drop and a miscommunication between Quinn and Wilson. The next drive ended when Quinn overthrew an open Jerome Harrison deep down the sideline on third down.
After last week’s sloppy loss to the Lions that was plagued by coaching and player mistakes in the red zone, the goal this week was to be efficient and effective offensively. Crennel held a meeting early in the week to address the substitution and play-clock problems.
The work paid off.
Frye (5-for-7, 68 yards, 102.1 rating) took the team 80 yards in 11 plays to open the game. Frye hit Joe Jurevicius for 11 yards on the first play — Jurevicius’ first catch of the preseason — and scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-5 as tackles Joe Thomas and Kevin Shaffer were beat.
But Frye’s best play was a perfectly thrown fade to Braylon Edwards for 24 yards over Dre Bly in single coverage. That moved the ball to the 6-yard line, and Jamal Lewis took care of the rest on two runs, the second a hard-earned 1-yard plunge. Lewis ran four times for 13 yards on the drive.
“We feel very good about getting the win here,” Crennel said. “It’s a tough place to play. We looked like a football team.”
Denver cut the lead to 7-3 on a 29-yard Jason Elam field goal after receiver Javon Walker dropped a pass on third-and-2.
Frye’s second and final series — he was hoping for more time with the season two weeks away — started with a slight overthrow on a deep ball to Edwards. Frye appeared to wait too long to let go of the ball, but he overshot Edwards in the thin mile-high air.
Lewis converted a third-and-1 with a 2-yard run over left tackle, and Frye hit Edwards for a 10-yard hook against Bly on third-and-5. The drive stalled when Lewis was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1 and Winslow jumped on fourth-and-2, forcing a punt from midfield.
Derek Anderson replaced Frye for the third series. His best drive advanced to the 3-yard line, where he took a sack on third down when he couldn’t find a receiver or pull the trigger. Anderson (7-for-9, 74 yards, 100.9) played a series in the third quarter that ended with him missing an open Edwards and limping off the field. He appeared to be OK on the sideline.
The defensive starters also played a series into the third quarter and held the Broncos to 10 points, but Denver was able to move the ball pretty consistently.
A pair of defensive penalties also hurt the Browns. Sean Jones was called for holding, negating his interception and leading to a Denver field goal. And defensive end Shaun Smith twisted quarterback Jay Cutler’s legs after a run, drawing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on a touchdown drive in the last two minutes of the first half.
Cutler finished 9-for-14 for 115 yards, a touchdown and a 113.7 rating. Backup running back Cecil Sapp averaged 5.1 yards on eight carries.
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