August 22, 2014

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Browns’ Brandon Weeden eases worries with strong game

CINCINNATI — The Browns expected rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to make a jump from Week 1 to Week 2. No one could’ve predicted it would be large enough to put him atop the Terminal Tower.

Weeden

Weeden’s turnaround was tremendous as he completed 26 of 37 passes for 322 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns Sunday in a 34-27 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. His rating was 114.9.

In the 17-16 opening loss to the Eagles, Weeden was 12-for-35 for 118 yards with four interceptions and a 5.1 rating.

“I knew I’d be able to put it behind me,” Weeden said. “It never even crept in, but I think, obviously, last week was not the way I wanted it to go. A true competitor — a guy that’s mentally tough — will come back and bounce back and correct the mistakes he made last week. For the most part, I think I did that.”

Weeden’s 322 passing yards are a Browns rookie record, surpassing the 310 by Eric Zeier at Cincinnati on Oct. 29, 1995.

The biggest difference in Weeden was accuracy. He completed 70 percent Sunday and was on-target with most of his throws. He missed two deep shots to Mohamed Massaquoi and one to Greg Little, but showed poise in the pocket and stepped up to make a number of intermediate completions.

He found running back Chris Ogbonnaya as an outlet six times for 73 yards, Massaquoi five for 90, Little five for 57 and a 24-yard touchdown and running back Trent Richardson four for 36 and a 23-yard touchdown.

“He was just controlling the game,” Richardson said of Weeden. “He was making all the right calls, making all the Mike points (calling out the middle linebacker), being a voice in the huddle.

“Brandon was acting like a real true professional, like he’d been around for a while. I know it’s not his first time being a professional, but like he’d been around the NFL for a long time.”

Little said Weeden was more authoritative and had an edge to him in the huddle.

“Not in a bad way, but talking to us all,” Little said. “‘C’mon, hold ’em right here. Give me time so I can get it downfield.’ Or, ‘Receivers, make sure you get your depth.’ Really intuitive with everybody in the huddle.”

Weeden and coach Pat Shurmur credited preparation for the jump in performance. He fell asleep Thursday night watching film on his iPad.

“My wife gives me a hard time because I can’t stay awake in movies,” he said. “Obviously I can’t stay awake watching film.

“It was about 11:30. Late. That was way past my bedtime.”

Weeden may not have burned the midnight oil, but he came close as he tried to solve the problems that caused the disastrous debut against the Eagles.

“I wish I had a dollar for every hour I put in this week,” he said. “I busted my tail and really dissected what we do. I felt pretty confident out there.”

Shurmur said it takes rookies time to understand just how difficult performing and winning is in the NFL. So he was confident Weeden would make the adjustments following Week 1.

“I guess I wasn’t concerned because I believe in our process in getting ready to play,” Shurmur said. “And I’ve seen really good quarterbacks have bad games at all stages of their career and I’ve seen guys bounce back.

“I’m not saying he didn’t prepare well (last week), but I do think he prepared better this week. That’s something for him to build on.”

The next step is walking off the field a winner. Despite Weeden’s breakthrough, the Browns fell to 0-2.

“There is still a sour taste,” he said. “You’ve got to make a play here and there.

“This league is about one play, two plays here, and that’s usually the deciding factor. We still, as a team, have a long way to go, but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction. We fought our tails off today.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.