CLEVELAND — Quarterback Brandon Weeden, who’s lived almost 29 years, looked every bit like the rookie he is with four interceptions and an abysmal 5.1 rating.
Running back Trent Richardson earned a spot on the highlight reels by knocking safety Kurt Coleman’s helmet off his head and into the air, but averaged 2.1 yards on 19 carries in his first NFL game.
The offense amassed only 12 first downs and 210 yards, didn’t score a touchdown and converted two third downs in 13 tries.
More photos below.
All the ugliness was about to disappear on a gorgeous opening day on the lakefront. The upset of the nine-point-favorite Eagles was there for the taking.
It slipped through the Browns’ fingers.
The more things change — new year, new owner, 15 rookies — the more they stay the same in Browns Town.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clay Harbor with 1:18 left Sunday for a 17-16 victory.
The NFL could save some time, and Cleveland fans a lot of anguish, by marking the Browns down for a loss and heading directly to Week 2.
They’ve lost 13 of the 14 openers since returning to the league. Coach Pat Shurmur is 0-2 after losing to good friend and mentor Andy Reid.
“We had a chance towards the end, but they made the play (and) we didn’t,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown for a 16-10 lead with 13:59 left.
An energetic, quick and opportunistic defense that kept the Browns in the game was one play from winning it. On the snap before the winning touchdown, undrafted rookie linebacker L.J. Fort came so close to making it.
“I read it perfectly and ran over there,” he said of receiver Jeremy Maclin’s route to the corner of the end zone. “He threw it right to me, just went through my hands. I should’ve made that play definitely.”
The blame should not be pinned entirely on Fort, who had an interception, a tackle for loss and two passes defensed in a starting role. Far from it. There’s plenty to go around.
The defense allowed a 16-play, 91-yard drive to win the game in the fourth quarter. It also gave up a 74-yard touchdown drive to end the first half, sparked by a 46-yard completion down the sideline to Maclin against Buster Skrine, who filled in for Sheldon Brown (shoulder).
The offense couldn’t find the end zone, even though the defense forced five turnovers from a dynamic Philadelphia offense that amassed 456 yards. Weeden never found a rhythm and misfired all day. He went 12-for-35 for 118 yards and two sacks.
Weeden was drafted No. 22 for his ability to put the ball where he wants. But the accuracy was missing on a deep throw to receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and a corner route to tight end Alex Smith, both of which would’ve been touchdowns if not well overthrown.
“I just missed a couple of throws,” said Weeden, who also didn’t see tight end Benjamin Watson running wide open in the second quarter.
He saved his worst throw for last.
The Browns had 72 seconds left and needed only a Phil Dawson field goal to shock the NFL. Thirty yards of offense would’ve given Dawson a chance.
But on first down, Weeden fired way high for Massaquoi on an in route and Coleman grabbed his second pick. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two of his own on sideline routes intended for rookie receiver Travis Benjamin.
“The ball just took off on me and bad things are always going to happen when that happens,” Weeden said of his final throw.
“I did not see a guy that was starry-eyed, not at all,” Shurmur said. “I see a guy that can play better, absolutely.”
Richardson was taken 19 picks higher than Weeden at No. 3 overall. He was the last player introduced to the roaring home crowd that saw him for the first time after he missed the preseason following arthroscopic knee surgery.
Richardson played the entire game, and only left on passing situations for third-down back Brandon Jackson. Richardson carried 19 times for 39 yards and a long of 9 as the line failed to open many holes. He caught one pass for 5 and dropped another.
“They’re an outstanding defense, and we need to do a better job of running the football,” Shurmur said. “We tried to run Trent and I think he held up pretty well. I would say this: He’ll play better next week.”
Sunday was a convergence of three ownerships in Browns history.
Art Modell, who moved the team after 1995, died Thursday but the Browns respected his family’s request to not honor him at the game for fear of the fan reaction. Randy Lerner’s sale to Jimmy Haslam will become official Oct. 16 and Haslam was on the field before the game and sat in on Shurmur’s postgame news conference.
Shurmur wasn’t ready to concede anything after falling to 4-13 in his career.
He disagreed with the replacement referee’s late ruling that he couldn’t challenge the recovery of a Vick fumble on the winning drive. The ball came loose after a scramble and Vick (29-for-56 for 317 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions, 51.0 rating) appeared to grab it while on the ground. The ref ruled him “down by contact” but Shurmur thought the Browns wrestled it away in time.
“I know it was a fumble, and I saw us with the ball,” Shurmur said. “He let me challenge it beforehand, right?”
Shurmur tried to stop any outside negativity before it started. He told the players after the game not to let anyone “crack them.”
“It’s disappointing to lose and there are no moral victories, all right?” he said. “A first-week loss is only fatal if the guys in that room let it be because there are a hell of a lot of good things that happened out there that we will build on. There are two months worth of mistakes that we can correct.
“We have a team here that battles. I told them they were built for this, in terms of playing football and playing on the big stage, but that means you’re built to handle a little bit of adversity that comes with it.”
If they respond with a win Sunday in Cincinnati, it won’t be the same old Browns.