CLEVELAND – The Browns held their own for most of the first half with the high-powered and heavily favored Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium, but gave up a touchdown with 17 seconds left and trail 10-3 at halftime.
In the debuts of quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, the story of the first half was Cleveland’s defense. It forced two turnovers and held Michael Vick in check.
The Browns’ defensive line got pressure on Vick throughout the half and the rest of the unit was active. It was overcome injuries to cornerback Sheldon Brown (shoulder) and safety T.J. Ward (cramps). Their returns were questionable.
But with 30 seconds left on their 36-yard line, the Eagles struck quickly. Vick hit Jeremy Maclin on a fly past Buster Skrine – in for Brown – for 46 yards. On the next play, Maclin badly beat cornerback Joe Haden on a double move for an 18-yard touchdown.
Haden started Sunday as he continues to await word on his appeal of a suspension for failing an offseason drug test.
The Eagles wouldn’t have had their last chance, but fullback Owen Marecic dropped a short pass on third down, forcing a punt.
The Browns led 3-0 after the first quarter, but the Eagles tied it with a 42-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
The signature play of the half was Richardson’s 9-yard second-quarter draw over left guard. At the end of the run, he lowered his helmet and popped safety Kurt Coleman.
Coleman. He was driven back and his helmet flew into the air. The Browns’ bench exploded and the crowd went nuts.
But the momentum was short-lived as Richardson’s run on third-and-1 was stopped for no gain.
Richardson finished the half with 11 carries for 25 yards. After missing the preseason, he played nearly the entire half. Brandon Jackson only replaced him in certain passing situations.
Weeden threw the ball well, but the numbers don’t support it. He was 7-for-19 for 68 yards with two interceptions.
One pick came near the goal line as the perfect throw went off receiver Greg Little’s hands and bounced into the air, where Coleman grabbed it. The other interception acted as a punt as he threw a deep sideline route for rookie receiver Travis Benjamin.
The Browns had a golden opportunity early in the second quarter after Benjamin took a reverse from Joshua Cribbs 35 yards to the 13-yard line. Benjamin avoided a tackle in the backfield, then exploded down the left sideline.
But Weeden was quickly intercepted by Coleman.
The Browns’ defense created its own turnovers with a pair in the first quarter. Ward blitzed off the corner and stripped running back LeSean McCoy, with D’Qwell Jackson recovering. The Browns converted it into a Phil Dawson field goal.
Linebacker Craig Robertson, in his first NFL game, intercepted Vick as he tried to throw over the middle after rolling left. Vick was forced out of the pocket by backup defensive end Emmanuel Stephens.