The Cleveland Browns took the field against the Detroit Lions on Friday night for their second preseason game and, more importantly, the newest installment in the fierce rivalry that is the Great Lakes Classic.
Sarcasm aside, there was a lot of good to take away from this game, despite the fact that the Browns ended up on the short end of the final 30-28 score. Quarterback Colt McCoy was once again the highlight for the Browns, completing ten of 18 passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns. He managed that performance without his No. 1 running back in Peyton Hillis, and while dealing with a number of drops by his receivers and plenty of pressure from the Lions’ defense.
The Browns offense was also without tight end Ben Watson and starting left guard Eric Steinbach, making the unit’s performance that much more impressive.
The defense was dealing with its own injury issues as well, missing safeties T.J. Ward and Usama Young. Nevertheless, it was an impressive outing overall, despite Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson making some big plays in the absence of Calvin Johnson.
Rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard forced and recovered a fumble while defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin had a sack, two examples of another good game turned in by the defensive line.
The Browns went into the half with a 21-13 lead, which is far more telling about the team’s performance than the final 30-28 score, which was a result in a number of miscues and mistakes by second-teamers and players further down the depth chart.
I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the disappointment that follows a preseason loss, especially when the first-teamers played so well. I think that general sense of excitement exists, but many of the issues that plagued the Browns in the second half will have no bearing on the team’s success during the regular season.
Take running back Armond Smith for example. He was an undrafted free agent who ripped off an impressive 81-yard touchdown run, but fumbled two times later in the game. Such are the games of players that far down on the depth chart. He is fighting for a spot on the practice squad and thus, fans should react accordingly.
There was a lot to like about the Browns’ second preseason game, and while there is still much to work on in every regard, when was the last time the Browns offense looked like a true NFL-caliber offense two games in a row, regular season or preseason?