CHICAGO — The talk shows will be silent today. There’s nothing left to discuss.
The competition’s over. And it ended by knockout.
Joshua Cribbs will be the punt returner on opening day.
The quarterback derby ended, too, but it was far less exciting.
Cribbs, who began training camp in a battle with rookies Syndric Steptoe, Brandon McDonald and Chris Barclay, won the job Thursday night with a 70-yard return for a touchdown. He also had a 24-yarder and averaged 27.8 yards on four tries.
The Browns ended the preseason with a 19-9 win over the defending NFC champion Bears.
“I didn’t think we had given him enough opportunities,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “Tonight, after he ran one back for a touchdown, I thought he might be able to (handle the job).”
The more-hyped competition among the quarterbacks ended by decision — and necessity. The preseason schedule is over.
Charlie Frye went 2-for-5 for 19 yards in two series and will almost certainly hang onto the job for the opener Sept. 9 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. He led only one touchdown drive in four preseason games, but challenger Derek Anderson couldn’t keep up.
Anderson went 0-for-the-end-zone, and it may have cost him a job in the NFL.
Anderson played two series Thursday, the first with the first-team offense. The first drive stalled at the Chicago 36-yard line when he threw late to Braylon Edwards on a hook and the pass was broken up. Anderson took the team to the 7-yard line on the next drive, but on third down he was almost intercepted on a pass into the end zone.
Once again, he settled for a field goal. In four preseason games, he led four field-goal drives.
For the third straight game, rookie Brady Quinn was the most productive quarterback. But he wasn’t as spectacular.
He led the offense’s only touchdown drive, a nine-play, 50-yarder that ended with a 1-yard Jerome Harrison run. The drive was set up by an interception by linebacker Clifton Smith, who a play earlier looked silly trying to tackle scatback Garrett Wolfe.
The touchdown drive was a combination of Harrison runs and quick slants to Travis Wilson (four catches, 34 yards). Quinn played the second and third quarters and threw his first interception on a tipped ball. He finished 9-for-14 for 64 yards, the interception and a 44.9 rating.
Chicago’s first-team offense played just one series and the defense two. Cleveland’s offensive starters went three series, the defense two.
Last year in limited action, the Bears starters dominated in the preseason finale. They outscored the Browns 10-0 and held them to three three-and-outs.
On Thursday, the Browns held a slight edge. Rex Grossman and Chicago’s offense went three-and-out on their lone drive, and the Bears didn’t manage a first down until 19 minutes in.
Frye’s claim to the starting job might be tenuous with Quinn lurking, but he likely did enough to open the season.
He hit Edwards for 16 yards on the first play of the game, but the drive stalled at the Chicago 49-yard line. On third-and-5, Frye had Winslow open on the sideline but the pass sailed out of bounds as Frye was hit by blitzing safety Adam Archuleta.
On the second series, the Browns went three-and-out when Frye threw high toward the sideline for Joe Jurevicius. The Browns may have had a touchdown on the first play, but Edwards wasn’t able to hang onto a perfectly thrown deep ball when cornerback Nathan Vasher reached in at the last second.
“Today, we wanted to take a couple of shots downfield,” Frye said. “I thought the timing was good on that route.”
The Browns scored on back-to-back plays to take a 5-0 lead. Yes, 5-0.
Phil Dawson capped Anderson’s last drive with a 24-yard field goal, and on the ensuing kickoff Jason Wright stripped Daniel Manning and the ball went out of the end zone for a safety. Manning bobbled the catch, then was stripped inside the 5. Wright played his college ball at Northwestern, so it was a homecoming of sorts for the second-team running back.
Cribbs’ return made it 12-0.
“Overall I’m pleased with the way we played in the first half with our special teams play and field position,” Crennel said at halftime.
The Bears scored on a field goal to end the first half and on a leaping touchdown catch by Mike Hass in the corner of the end zone in the third quarter. Cornerback DeMario Minter got two hands on the ball, but Hass yanked it away while falling to the ground and dragging both feet. Crennel’s challenge was denied.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.