CLEVELAND — Defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson led by example Sunday during the Browns’ 17-16 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The seventh-year linebacker recovered a LeSean McCoy fumble in the first quarter, then returned a Michael Vick interception 27 yards for a touchdown in the fourth. The latter play gave Cleveland a 16-10 lead with 13:59 left and temporarily gave the home crowd a reason to believe.
“Philadelphia is a good football team and I give those guys a lot of credit,” Jackson said. “They made the plays when they needed to make them. We have a long season ahead of us, and today you hate to lose, but there are a lot of positives out of it.”
Jackson’s pick-six, which was his first touchdown in 66 NFL games, ended with a front-flip dive into the end zone. All of the Browns’ points came off Eagles turnovers.
“All I knew was I was getting in the end zone no matter what, so I wanted to get some flight on it,” Jackson said, laughing about his fantastic finish. “Vick is a tremendous quarterback. It was just a case of me being in the right place at the right time.
“But in the end, all that matters is wins and losses, and we didn’t get this one today.”
Jackson also took pride in the job done by rookie linebackers Craig Robertson and L.J. Fort, who he took under his wing early in training camp. Robertson had an interception and eight tackles, while Fort recorded a sack and an interception.
“They really rose to the occasion, stepped up and made plays,” Jackson said. “I’m a believer that whatever you put in, you get out of it, and those guys have been working hard the whole time getting ready for the season. It paid off today.”
All told, Cleveland forced five turnovers, which it hadn’t done since Nov. 21, 2010, in Jacksonville. Cornerback Joe Haden rounded out the ballhawks with a 50-yard interception return, while safety T.J. Ward forced the fumble Jackson recovered.
“D-Q said it best, we’re just trying to pick an identity for ourselves,” Robertson said. “Get the ball, rush the quarterback, make plays. There’s no special potion, just know your responsibilities and do your job.”
- Fort became the first undrafted rookie to start for the Browns on opening day in the Super Bowl era (since 1966), getting the nod at strong-side linebacker.
- Haden’s interception was his first since Dec. 5, 2010, while Jackson’s TD return on a theft was the Browns’ first since Oct. 24, 2010.
- The Browns chose not to activate linebacker Scott Fujita from the reserve/suspended by commissioner list, even though his three-game NFL suspension was overturned by a mediator Friday. He was on the sideline, serving as an unofficial position coach.
Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown suffered a shoulder stinger late in the first quarter and did not return, while Ward (leg cramps) and Jackson (left wrist) left the game briefly.
Phil the foot
Kicker Phil Dawson played in his 200th NFL game, joining Clay Matthews (232), Lou Groza (216), Doug Dieken (203), and Gene Hickerson (202) as the only Browns to reach the milestone.
“There was a moment right before the game when I looked into the stands and saw my family,” said Dawson, who was 3-for-3 on field goals and 1-for-1 on extra points. “Since they’ve been there for me the whole time, it was special to share this accomplishment with them.”