CLEVELAND—The Browns offense finished the way it started.
The first play of the game, Colt McCoy tried to pass and Domata Peko batted it right back into McCoy’s arms for a five-yard loss. The game ended as McCoy tried to pass to Peyton Hillis, but the ball slipped out of his hands and Michael Johnson caught the ball as he lay on the ground. It was McCoy’s only interception.
In between, the offense showed some life as they posted 17-straight points after falling behind 13-0 in the first quarter. A combination of four penalties, including three false starts and poor field position after a 20-yard punt by Richmond McGee dug the Browns an early hole.
“We just didn’t play well in the first quarter,” McCoy said. “We couldn’t get ahead of the chains on first down, instead we’re playing second and long, third and long. They were bringing pressure every second and third down. It was bad football, the first quarter.”
After Josh Cribbs had a 51-yard kickoff return following a Mike Nugent field goal that made it 13-0, McCoy and the offense got a spark.
“Josh is one of those players that’s exciting,” Pat Shurmur said. “I thought he jump started us (on that play).”
Starting at the Bengals’ 43, McCoy hit Mohamed Massaquoi for 11 yards. Montario Hardesty then had back-to-back runs of 7- and 5-yards to the 34.
On first-and-10, McCoy rolled to the right, planted and threw back to his left and found Ben Watson inside the five and he caught the ball over Leon Hall and went into the end zone to cut the lead to 13-7.
After a three-and-out by the defense, the Browns started at their own 10 and marched 90 yards on nine plays as McCoy hit Evan Moore for a two-yard touchdown to give the Browns a 14-13 lead. The big play on the drive was when McCoy found Massaquoi open for 56 yards and he took it to the Bengals’ five.
“If you want to take something good from this is the way that we fought and climbed back into this game in the second quarter,” McCoy said. “We put all of that behind us, found a way to get back into the game, then we let it slip away from us. For us as a team, that’s something that we’ve really got to focus on and figure out. It’s not one person, it’s all of us. When you’ve got the lead at halftime at your house, you’ve got to win that.”
In the second half, the Browns defense forced a three-and-out and the Browns took over on their own 47. Immediately, McCoy and the offense continued to click and picked up where they left off in the second quarter.
McCoy hit Hillis for 11 yards and then a 17-yard pass to Moore put the ball at the 16. A pass to Watson for eight yards gave the Browns the ball on the eight. After Hillis picked up a first down at the four, the Browns stalled.
Hillis ran for one and then McCoy threw incomplete to Moore and Cribbs to force the Browns to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
“Yeah, you’d liked to get into the the end zone at that point,” McCoy said. “I thought we had some good plays, we just couldn’t convert. A field goal is never bad, but at that time when you’re down inside the five, you obviously want to punch it in.”
The Browns never could get it going after that drive.
“I thought in the second quarter we established great tempo,” McCoy said. “We got the momentum back on our side, getting up to the line, moving, moving, moving.
“There at the end we were slow in and out of the huddle,” he said. “It’s hard for us as an offense to really do what we want to do when we’re constantly playing behind the chains, second and long, third and long.
“Good teams stay away from that,” he said. “There in the second half, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot doing that and like I said, it was inconsistent. There’s a lot to learn from this game, a lot to learn. We’ve got good guys in that locker room, good coaches, and we’ll go to work.”
McCoy finished 19-of-40 for 213 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked twice and finished with a rating of 70.1.
The Browns’ wide receivers had six catches for 108 yards, with Massaquoi accounting for three receptions and 77 yards. Meanwhile, Moore and Watson combined for six grabs, 80 yards and two scores.
“(Me and the receivers) were a little out of sync,” McCoy said. “You have to give their defense credit for mixing up their coverages. I certainly had my share of bad plays.”
The Browns were trying to protect a 17-13 lead when A.J. Green and the Bengals caught the Browns napping and scored the game winner with a 41-yard score.
“I don’t think we should play like we’re protecting the lead,” McCoy said.
McCoy said there is a silver lining in the game.
“We’ve got a lot to learn,” he said. “This football team has a lot of room for improvement. I’ve got a lot of room for improvement. You’ve got the 24-hour rule, we’ll kind of soak it in and we’ll strap it back up and go to work.”
Sleep Walking: With 4:28 to play, QB Bruce Gradkowksi found the Browns asleep as no one lined up to cover rookie WR A.J. Green and Gradkowski lofted the ball to the unguarded rookie. The score proved to be the difference in the game.
“We weren’t ready, everybody was scrambling,” Haden said. “We were all in the huddle, trying to get the play and we didn’t realized that everybody was already lined up. We were just standing there waiting on the call, waiting on the play, and we just heard everybody screaming.
“We were huddle up and heard them screaming, so we turned around and tried to run and catch up where everybody (from Cincinnati) was.”
For Starters: The loss was the Browns 12th loss in 13 season openers, including seven-straight opening losses.
Hardesty Spark: RB Montario Hardesty made his debut on the Browns’ scoring drive and provided a spark with two runs just before the touchdown pass to TE Ben Watson. Hardesty’s first run was for 7 yards and then he had a five-yard run. McCoy hit TE Ben Watson on the next play for a 34-yard touchdown. He finished with five carries for 18 yards.
D’Qwell’s Return: LB D’Qwell Jackson had a big game with 11 tackles, including two sacks. He had a hurry, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. It was the first game Jackson played in since week six in 2009 when he tore a pectoral muscle and missed the rest of the season. He injured his opposite pectoral muscle in the preseason of 2010 and missed the whole season.
Big Little: WR Greg Little made his first NFL catch on third-and-two on a quick slant from McCoy for a first down in the fourth quarter with nine minutes to play for a 12-yard gain. He had what appeared to be a great block on Bengals’ P Kevin Huber, but the block propelled Huber into PR Josh Cribbs, who was knocked off balance and to the ground when he looked as though he was breaking into the open.
Sack Men: DE Marcus Benard picked up the Browns first sack along with DL Brian Schaefering in the second quarter. LB D’Qwell Jackson sacked QB Andy Dalton inside the 10 and causing a fumble, but the Bengals OL Andre Smith recovered. Jackson had another sack later in the game.
Trivia Time: The first reception of the 2011 was by Colt McCoy after DL Robert Geathers batted McCoy’s pass back to himself. It went for a 5-yard loss. The Browns first, first down was a pass from McCoy to WR Mohamed Massaquoi. 8 16 118 2/0 114.1 rating.
Peyton’s Day: RB Peyton Hillis finished with 57 yards on 17 carries. He caught six passes for 30 yards. His longest run went for 17 yards.
“I just have to approach this game like I always do and play to my best potential,” Hillis said. “What follows will follow.”
Who needs Preseason: WR Mohamed Massaquoi led the Browns with three receptions for 77 yards after missing the entire preseason. He had a long reception of 56 yards.
Dalton Down: Rookie QB Andy Dalton injured his right wrist late in the second quarter and didn’t play the rest of the game. Dalton was 10-of-15 for 81 yards and a touchdown in his debut. His rating was 102.4 and he was sacked three times. Former Browns QB and Toledo Rocket Bruce Gradkowski started the second half. Gradkowski was the Browns starting QB in Romeo Crennel’s final game as Browns’ coach.
Penalties, Penalties: The Browns had six penalties in the first half of the first quarter. Two false starts on RG Shawn Lauvao and one on OL Joe Thomas. On defense,a holding penalty on CB Sheldon Brown. There was a pass interference on FB Owen Marecic that was declined. A personal foul on the Browns’ bench forced the Browns to punt on a fourth-and-32 out of their end zone. The Browns had to punt out of their end zone and after Brandon Tate’s runback, the Bengals started at the Browns’ 41 and moved for a touchdown in seven plays to take a 10-0 lead. DB T.J. Ward picked up a personal foul for a late hit late in the quarter. They had seven in the first quarter was 48 yards to the Bengals none and totalled 10 for 67 yards in first half. They only had one penalty in the second half and finished with 11 for 72 yards.
Costly Mistake: Josh Cribbs had a chance to down the ball inside the five, but when he let the ball go to the one, he stepped on the goal line and the Bengals ended up with the ball on the 20 after Marvin Lewis challenged the spot. The Bengals mounted a drive
Bad Punt: P Richmond McGee’s first NFL punt went for a mere 20 yards to set up the Bengals’ first score. The Bengals started at the Browns’ 41 and moved to the five before settling for a 24-yard field goal by K Mike Nugent. McGee had a better punt the second time, but the Bengals still started at the Browns’ 41 and scored a touchdown to make it 10-0. McGee punted four times in the first half for a 35.8 avg. McGee had a 28-yard punt with 6:19 to play that resulted in the Bengals starting at their 38. McGee finished with eight punts for a net average of just 31.6 with a long of 48 yards.
Big Joe: CB Joe Haden broke up an intended pass in the end zone for rookie WR A.J. Green on third down. Haden made a nice play and was able to leap in front of Green and get his hands on the ball. He did the same thing on third down in the second quarter. He finished with five passes broken up.
Pashos Out: OL Tony Pashos was inactive with an ankle injury and replaced by OL Oniel Cousins. The other inactives for the Browns were: WR Carlton Mitchell, DB Eric Hagg, LB Titus Brown, QB Thaddeus Lewis, OL Steve Vallos and TE Jordan Cameron. With the new rules, there are 46 active players and no designation of the third quarterback. For the Bengals: CB Kelly Jennings, S Taylor Mays, HB Cedric Peerman, S Robert Sands, LB Dontay Moch, G Otis Hudson and WR Ryan Whalen. OL Jason Pinkston started at left guard. OL Artis Hicks played right tackle for Cousins on the two touchdown drives. Cousins started the second half.
Touchback Time: The Bengals kicked off three times in the first quarter and all three were touchbacks. The fourth time of the game, KR Josh Cribbs took the ball out eight yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Browns’ 43. It sparked the Browns first touchdown.
Buster Time: Rookie DB Buster Skrine broke through and tackled KR Brandon Tate on the Bengals’ nine after the Browns’ field goal to start the second half.
Donovan Back: Browns’ radio play-by-play broadcaster Jim Donovan was back doing the calls after having a bone marrow transplant in June for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He missed the entire preseason.