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3 things we learned about the Browns

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Cleveland Browns not only lost their season opener for the 11th straight year, they lost quarterback Josh McCown in the first quarter with a concussion that effectively doomed their fate Sunday.

After taking 7-0 and 10-7 leads in the second quarter, the Browns gave up 24 consecutive points and were beaten 31-10 by the New York Jets in an injury-marred game in MetLife Stadium.

The Cleveland defense held New York to four first downs on its first five drives before allowing 14 first downs on the Jets’ last six possessions. Offensively, the Browns had nine first downs and 10 points during their first four drives before managing just six first downs in the final six series.

McCown was injured when he tried scrambling for a touchdown on the Browns’ first offensive series. He was knocked off his feet at about the 3-yard line and helicoptered, a la John Elway, before the ball was jarred loose during a mid-air collision and recovered in the end zone by the Jets.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who spent much of the offseason in a rehab center, threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Travis Benjamin on his first drive and led the Browns to a 25-yard field goal by kicker Travis Coons on his third possession.

The Jets contained Manziel in the second half, when the second-year quarterback committed three turnovers (one interception and two fumbles).

“For coming in cold, he did some good things,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “And there’s some things that he obviously will regret.”

Manziel finished 13 of 24 for 182 yards for the Browns. He also led Cleveland in rushing with 35 yards on five scrambles.

“Disappointing way to open the season,” Pettine said. “You invest so much in the opener, you prepare for it, you overprepare for it, and to lose the way we did, it’s difficult to swallow.”

What we learned about the Browns

1. For the 11th straight year, the Browns were neither good enough nor prepared enough to win a season opener. After a promising start Sunday — the Browns led 7-0 and 10-7 in the second quarter — Cleveland’s amazing streak of opening-week losses was extended in suspense-less fashion as the Jets scored the game’s final 24 points and forced three second-half turnovers out of the Browns, who also committed 12 penalties. Perhaps the Browns would have won their first opener since 2004 had quarterback Josh McCown — who converted four third-down opportunities in as many tries in Cleveland’s first series before he suffered a concussion trying to score a touchdown on a third-and-goal scramble — not gotten hurt. But 11 straight opening-week losses, suffered under nine different starting quarterbacks, five head coaches and two owners, speaks to a bigger system-wide problem — which is no surprise, of course, given the Browns haven’t been much better in games two through 16. Cleveland is 54-106 the last 10 years, during which it has not made the playoffs.

2. Johnny Manziel is not ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. That was painfully obvious last season when Manziel face-planted on and off the field as a rookie. He seems to have cleaned up his act after an extended stay in a drug and alcohol rehab center during the offseason, but Manziel still looked raw when pushed into action Sunday in place of McCown. The former Heisman Trophy winner struggled after a quick start Sunday when he capped his first drive with his first NFL touchdown pass, a 54-yard strike to wide receiver Travis Benjamin, and led the Browns to a field goal on his third series. In five second-half series, the Browns generated no points and had half as many turnovers (three) as first downs (six). Manziel finished 13 of 24 for 182 yards and added five rushes for a team-high 35 yards. Speaking of running, Manziel also showed that his first, second and third instinct upon seeing a play break down is to still make a dash for it, which is exciting to watch but not the best way to win games in the NFL. Or to stay upright, as Manziel learned when Jets safety Buster Skrine leveled him at the end of a long scramble that ended up getting negated by a penalty anyway. To be fair, Manziel had no reps during practice last week and spent most of training camp working with the second-teamers, so he’ll undoubtedly be better if he gets a full week of work in with the first unit. But it’s also hard to envision him shedding his instincts and playing the type of safe, efficient football NFL teams demand from their quarterbacks.

3. The Browns would have been better off taking the $9 million they gave to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and lighting it on fire. Bowe was inactive Sunday because of a hamstring injury that had him listed as questionable all week. But the Browns have been displeased with Bowe almost from the moment they signed him in March. Bowe reportedly showed up to training camp overweight, suffered a hamstring injury in early August and ended up playing most of the exhibition finale, which is the type of playing time earned by those about to be cut. Perhaps that’s the next step for Bowe, especially after fourth-year wide receiver Travis Benjamin did a fine impersonation of a No. 1 by catching three passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Etc.

–QB Josh McCown (concussion) was injured in the first quarter Sunday of the Browns’ 31-10 loss to the Jets. McCown was hurt when he tried scrambling for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the Jets’ 9-yard-line. After initially finding open space, McCown was cut off by Jets S Calvin Pryor, whose lower body hit sent McCown helicoptering into the air, where he collided with Jets LB Demario Davis. McCown fumbled the ball, which the Jets recovered in the end zone. He immediately headed to the locker room and was declared out shortly thereafter. McCown directed an impressive drive during his lone series, which began at the Cleveland 9. He went 5 of 8 for 49 yards passing while rushing three times for 23 yards.

–LB Scott Solomon (ankle) was injured during the Browns’ first defensive series Sunday and did not return in the 31-10 loss. Head coach Mike Pettine said afterward he didn’t know the severity of the injury but that Solomon would undergo X-rays to determine how badly he was hurt. Solomon, 26, has played in 23 NFL games for four teams.

–WR Dwayne Bowe (hamstring) was inactive Sunday when the Browns lost to the Jets 31-10. Bowe has battled a hamstring injury since early in training camp and was listed as questionable on the injury report in the week leading up to the game. He signed a two-year deal in March that guarantees him $9 million, but he didn’t impress the Browns either before or after getting hurt prior to the first preseason game. He saw extensive playing time in the preseason finale, which is usually reserved for players that won’t make the final roster.


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