December 19, 2014

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Browns rookie Massaquoi makes impact with eight-catch game

CLEVELAND — The only things missing from Mohamed Massaquoi’s day were a touchdown and a win.
He was oh-so-close to both.

The rookie second-round pick hosted his NFL coming-out party Sunday on the lakefront in the Browns’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Bengals that dropped them to 0-4.

He started at receiver, played extensively and caught eight passes for 148 yards. He entered the game with two catches for 31 yards.

“I’m still learning the game, but I felt real comfortable out there, had a chance to make a couple of plays and made them,” he said. “I’ll go back, see the mistakes I made, try to correct them and improve next week.”

Massaquoi got the offense rolling with a 30-yard fingertip catch on a fly in the second quarter. He added a 24-yarder down the seam on a good throw from Derek Anderson against good coverage, but both drives ended in punts.

Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi hauls in a 30-yard pass over Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter Sunday. Massaquoi had eight catches for 148 yards. (AP photo.)

Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi hauls in a 30-yard pass over Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter Sunday. Massaquoi had eight catches for 148 yards. (AP photo.)

Then came the breakthrough that was almost his first NFL touchdown.

On third-and-2 on the first play after the two-minute warning, Anderson spotted Massaquoi in single coverage and threw a fade down the right sideline. Massaquoi snared it with Johnathan Joseph in tight coverage and knocked over the pylon with the ball outstretched.

The official signaled touchdown, Massaquoi and Anderson did a leaping celebration in the end zone and Mangini gave him a pat on the behind when he reached the sideline. But the replay review showed his knee touched before he hit the pylon.

“I’m not sure (if I was in),” Massaquoi said. “I’ll go back and look at it.”

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Anderson hit Steve Heiden for a touchdown on the next play.

Massaquoi is the first Browns rookie with 100 yards receiving since Braylon Edwards had 107 on three catches in Green Bay in 2005. It’s the second-most yardage by a Cleveland rookie since the AAFC and NFL merger in 1950, trailing Derrick Alexander’s 171 in 1994.

“Definitely you get more comfortable the more plays you make,” Massaquoi said. “That’s what happened today.”
He owes some of his big day to Edwards. He didn’t have a catch for the first time in his career, but drew nearly constant double coverage, leaving Massaquoi with one man to beat.

“What can you say, he made the plays that came to him,” Edwards said. “He’s been getting better each week and having more confidence each week and it showed today. He had a superb game.”

Through three games the Browns didn’t appear to have a weapon besides Edwards. Massaquoi’s playing time was limited behind the ineffective Joshua Cribbs, and Brady Quinn had a tough time getting the ball to anyone.

The coaching staff committed to Massaquoi ahead of Cribbs for the bulk of the plays Sunday. His big frame (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) and speed fit well with Anderson, who is a more vertical passer than Quinn.

“He was aggressive,” Anderson said. “Once we get him and Braylon going together at same time, I think we can do a lot of different things.”

Anderson and Massaquoi had a chance for one more connection in overtime, and it could’ve been a big one. But a deep ball down the sideline on first-and-10 from the 16 fell incomplete.

“The defender made a great play on it and was able to bat it away at the last minute,” Massaquoi said of cornerback Leon Hall. “Hopefully next week it will be a different outcome.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.