DETROIT — The preseason opener Friday night looked like a lot of Browns games over the last 13 years. The starting quarterback committed two turnovers in less than a quarter, the offensive line didn’t protect well and injuries outnumbered points for much of the game.
There was one noticeable difference: The Browns walked out of Ford Field on the winning side.
They had the smiles to prove it.
Fourth-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter and the Browns beat the Lions 19-17 on backup kicker Jeff Wolfert’s 45-yard field goal with 28 seconds left.
“I told the players, regardless of whether they count or not, it’s fun to win,” said coach Pat Shurmur, who went 4-12 in his first season last year. “They should take something away from that.”
Even before the comeback, Shurmur saw some good.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden didn’t get hurt in his professional debut. He also completed his first two passes, the second a gorgeous 34-yarder dropped over the shoulder of rookie receiver Travis Benjamin down the left sideline.
Weeden, the No. 22 pick in the draft, played three series and finished 3-for-9 for 62 yards, a sack, a fumble, an interception and a 19.0 rating.
“I felt in complete control and that was my main focus,” Weeden said. “Yeah, the numbers aren’t great, but I didn’t really expect them to be.
“I knew I was going to make some mistakes here and there, but it’s just how can we fix those mistakes, what can we do to make them better, not do them again and go forward.”
Weeden’s lack of experience — even if he is 28 years old — was also evident. He was too late feeling the pressure from defensive end Willie Young and fumbled as he tried to throw on third-and-15 from the Detroit 28-yard line to end Cleveland’s first drive.
He was almost intercepted on the left sideline by rookie cornerback Dwight Bentley — who should’ve returned it for a touchdown — then was picked by Bentley on a short third-down pass for receiver Greg Little over the middle. Little stopped his route and the throw went directly to Bentley.
“It was a miscommunication,” Weeden said. “I thought he would work back out. We’ll get it fixed.”
“I was (ticked) at both of them,” Shurmur said. “I thought Brandon did a good job. It looked like the game was slow for him. He was out there and he executed pretty well.”
Weeden’s debut shared the spotlight with a rash of injuries to key players. The Browns were already without running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick who had knee surgery Thursday. And linebacker Chris Gocong is out for the year with a torn Achilles suffered last week.
On the first offensive play, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi caught a 12-yard hook, only to be hit high by safety Erik Coleman. Massaquoi, who has a history of concussions, got up wobbly and was sent to the locker room with what Shurmur called a concussion.
Massaquoi tweeted his removal was “precautionary” and he can’t wait to get back to work.
In the second quarter, in a span of nine plays, defensive tackle Scott Paxson (knee), nickelback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and tight end Jordan Cameron (back) left the game and didn’t return. Shurmur didn’t know the severity of any of them.
General manager Tom Heckert has improved the team’s depth in his three years, but it can’t withstand many injuries to pivotal players.
“I think it’s like catches for receivers, sometimes they come in bunches,” Shurmur said. “We had a couple guys go down. After they’ve been evaluated a little bit, I’m just hoping some of these are minor.”
Cameron has been the star of training camp and was injured while making a leaping 42-yard catch down the seam from backup Colt McCoy. Cameron landed hard on his back and remained down for a couple of minutes.
McCoy finished the first half and was 6-for-8 for 88 yards with two sacks — one on an attempted Hail Mary when left tackle Oniel Cousins was badly beaten — and a 110.4 rating.
He had a scramble for 20 yards, threw deep multiple times and led a scoring drive that ended with Phil Dawson’s 37-yard field goal.
McCoy was told this week he lost the starting job he held last year to Weeden.
“Colt stayed in there and battled pretty well,” Shurmur said. “All the quarterbacks executed pretty well.”
Montario Hardesty started for Richardson and carried four times for 16 yards with a long of 7. Weeden tried unsuccessfully to throw two screens to him.
Shurmur said before the game he was looking for efficiency, but he didn’t get it early. In addition to only three first-half points, the Browns committed eight penalties for 55 yards.
“Too many penalties,” Shurmur said. “It’s easy to say that it’s expected this time of year, but it isn’t. We coach against it. We need to get that cleaned up.”
Rookie receiver Josh Gordon, a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, was targeted three times but held without a catch. Rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round pick in the regular draft, started the game and was beaten by Young on the strip-sack.
“My fault,” Schwartz said. “The guy went inside and I just didn’t get in there quick enough to pick him off.”
Undrafted rookie running back Adonis Thomas scored on a 3-yard run with 6:09 left but was stopped on the 2-point conversion. The Cleveland defense forced a punt and Lewis (5-for-8, 90 yards, 101.0 rating) led the winning field-goal drive in the final 2:18.
He completed passes to tight end Dan Gronkowski and receiver Bert Reed to move into field-goal range.
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Browns 19, Lions 17
Cleveland 0 3 7 9 — 19
Detroit 7 7 0 3 — 17
Det—K.Williams 5 run (Hanson kick), 1:00.
Cle—FG Dawson 37, 7:21.
Det—Logan 3 pass from Sh.Hill (Hanson kick), 2:10.
Cle—Smelley 12 pass from Wallace (Wolfert kick), 8:12.
Det—FG Dimke 40, 10:25.
Cle—A.Thomas 3 run (run failed), 6:05.
Cle—FG Wolfert 45, :28.
First downs 20 21
Total Net Yards 429 368
Rushes-yards 30-120 33-198
Passing 309 170
Punt Returns 2-52 1-(-2)
Kickoff Returns 4-102 3-75
Interceptions Ret. 2-25 1-9
Comp-Att-Int 21-38-1 16-33-2
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-17 1-4
Punts 5-46.2 7-38.6
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 8-55 1-15
Time of Possession 28:31 31:29
RUSHING—Cleveland, Ogbonnaya 7-27, McCoy 1-20, B.Jackson 6-18, Lewis 3-17, Hardesty 4-16, Norwood 1-14, A.Thomas 8-8. Detroit, Bell 16-89, K.Williams 9-71, K.Smith 5-28, Logan 3-10.
PASSING—Cleveland, Lewis 5-8-0-90, McCoy 6-8-0-88, Wallace 7-13-0-86, Weeden 3-9-1-62. Detroit, Sh.Hill 8-12-0-83, Stafford 4-7-1-51, Moore 4-14-1-40.
RECEIVING—Cleveland, Cooper 3-24, Cameron 2-58, Benjamin 2-46, B.Reed 2-38, Moore 2-31, Gronkowski 2-27, Mitchell 1-33, A.Thomas 1-25, Massaquoi 1-12, Smelley 1-12, B.Jackson 1-11, Ogbonnaya 1-5, Norwood 1-2, Windsor 1-2. Detroit, Johnson 2-36, Stovall 2-35, Heller 2-28, Hughes 2-22, Pettigrew 2-15, Logan 2-7, Curry 1-14, Edwards 1-10, Miles 1-4, Long 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Cleveland, Wolfert 46 (WL). Detroit, Hanson 48 (WR).