It's only the preseason, but the Cleveland Browns passed their first test of the Rob Chudzinski era in convincing fashion, defeating the visiting St. Louis Rams by a final score of 27-19. The real story was the fact that the first-teamers basically left the game with a 17-0 lead part-way through the second quarter.
The Browns got the ball first and marched down the field, moving the chains several times before capping it off with a 25-yard field goal by rookie kicker Brandon Bogotay. On the Rams' first drive of the game, NT Phil Taylor gave a tomahawk chop to running back Isiash Pead, forcing him to fumble the ball. CB Buster Skrine scooped up the ball, and the Browns put together another extended drive, with big plays including a 16-yard screen pass to RB Dion Lewis and a 30-yard catch-and-run down the sideline to TE Jordan Cameron. The drive ended when QB Brandon Weeden drilled a 2-yard pass in to Lewis at the goal line on third down.
The fun didn't end there. The Browns' first-team defense forced a three-and-out, and WR Travis Benjamin returned the ensuing punt 91 yards as he sprinted untouched into the end zone for a touchdown. The 17-0 lead was more than enough of a cushion for Cleveland to be able to control the rest of the game.
The Rams were able to stay in the game late due to a 54- and 55-yard field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein, and some poor backup safety play in the second half to put the Rams within striking distance. When QB Kellen Clemons came in for his first series in the fourth quarter, though, he had a pass tipped by DL Hall Davis and intercepted by local product LB Justin Staples. Staples' interception set QB Brian Hoyer up with good field position, and on a third-down blitz, he found WR Cordell Roberson wide open for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
The Browns' quarterbacks were very accurate, completing 76% of their passes as a team. That included Weeden going 10-of-13 for 112 yards and 1 touchdown, as he engineered scoring drives in both of his series. The wide receivers didn't drop passes. The offensive line blocked exceptionally well for Weeden. The defense was hard-hitting. There are things to nitpick on, sure, but this was a spirit-lifting effort by the Browns, something that Cleveland fans needed, especially with the poor streak the Cleveland Indians are on.
I'll have more details in my game review Friday or Saturday. For now, feel free to give your instant reactions on the game. Were there any players you came away impressed with?