CHICAGO — A meaningless preseason finale? Not for the Browns.
For a team with the fragile psyche that comes from four straight losing seasons, the only meaningless games are the ones at the end of the season with the playoffs out of reach.
So while the defending NFC champion Bears will barely break a sweat tonight as they look ahead to the regular season, the Browns have a definite goal.
“Build on what we did last week,” said quarterback Charlie Frye, who will get the start. “Last year, sometimes we wouldn’t play up to the potential we played at the week before.
“I think we want to go out there and put back-to-back good performances together and use it as a carryover into the Pittsburgh week.”
Beginning with Frye’s opening touchdown drive — his first of the year — the Browns were much improved Saturday night vs. the Broncos. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn also moved the ball against Denver’s first-team defense, and all three quarterbacks led scoring drives.
After the debacle vs. Detroit the previous week, the night in Denver calmed some anxiety surrounding new coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense and its implementation.
“Since we started from scratch it has kind of been a building process,” Frye said. “It wasn’t just all of the sudden we woke up one day and it just started working. It was a progression of a lot of hard work by a lot of different guys.
“We don’t want to take a step backwards. We want to keep this train moving forward.”
With the Steelers visiting Sept. 9 for the regular-season opener, the Browns can’t afford a misstep tonight that could hurt their confidence. They experienced that last year when the Chicago starters outscored the Browns’ 10-0 in the preseason finale, and Cleveland’s first unit didn’t make a first down.
The memory hasn’t faded for coach Romeo Crennel, who wants his starters to make a good final impression.
“I think they played six plays and they killed us during all six plays,” Crennel said. “It’s hard to feel good about yourself after you get kicked for six plays.
“I told (the starters) that when I feel good about the way they were playing, I’ll pull them out. That could be one series, two series — that could be one half. It just depends on how we play.”
“I think last year they were really ready to play and kind of took us by surprise a little bit,” Frye said of the Bears. “We want to be ready to play for however long Coach wants us to.”
The quarterbacks have hogged the spotlight throughout the summer and will again tonight. Frye will be followed by Anderson, then Quinn. It’s Anderson’s last chance to unseat Frye as the starter for Pittsburgh, and perhaps solidify a roster spot.
For Quinn, it could be his last playing time for awhile — Oct. 28 in St. Louis following the bye week is the most common guess for his insertion in the lineup. Crennel is bringing him along slowly after an 11-day holdout, and general manager Phil Savage said it’s “unrealistic” he could be ready for the opener.
Quinn disagreed with Savage.
“I feel that I would love to be under center and play, or start, in the opener,” he said. “But again, that is not my decision. I feel that way because I am a competitor and I think any one of us quarterbacks would feel the same way.”
In two games, Quinn has engineered three touchdown drives, which would’ve been four if a pass to Joe Jurevicius had been ruled inbounds Saturday. He’s 20-for-31 for 236 yards, three touchdown passes and a 119.8 rating. His goal for tonight is simple.
“Just continue to get better, being more efficient and continue to score touchdowns,” Quinn said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do, so we just go out there and try and score on every drive that we can.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.