CINCINNATI — Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy’s return to the lineup Sunday would’ve been a smashing success if it hadn’t ended with a 19-17 loss to the Bengals.
McCoy went 19-for-25 for 243 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 132.6 rating. It was his first game with multiple touchdown passes, and the first by a Browns quarterback this season. The rating is second all time among Browns rookies to Charlie Frye’s 136.7.
“I felt pretty good,” McCoy said. “Obviously, if you don’t get a win, there are a lot of things that you think about that you could have done better, things you could have seen. I thought I was seeing it just as good as I was when I got hurt.”
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McCoy, who dropped to 2-4 as a starter, missed the previous three weeks with a high left ankle sprain. He said the ankle didn’t affect him Sunday, but he was sacked four times, once when he couldn’t scramble away from a defender.
The weather was good for December in Ohio, but the temperature was in the 20s and the wind was blowing. McCoy underthrew a deep ball to Joshua Cribbs for an incompletion and nearly had a couple of other throws intercepted, but completed a spectacular 76 percent, a season high for the Browns.
“The balls were heavy and slick, but the other team has got to do the same thing,” he said. “You’ve got to make it work.”
Coach Eric Mangini announced last week he’d stick with McCoy for the final three games. The Browns conclude with home games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Mangini was asked if the sacks were because McCoy was being too careful not to throw an interception.
“I thought he made good decisions,” Mangini said. “They’re a heavy-pressure team with a lot of different looks. You’d love to be able to throw it away in those situations, but it got a little cloudy in the pocket a couple of those times, and I don’t think he could’ve gotten rid of it.
“I thought that, over the course of the game, he made really good decisions and played pretty efficiently. He protected the football, not really to the point of being cautious, but he made some smart decisions.”
McCoy’s best throw came on a 20-yard touchdown to diving tight end Robert Royal on the first possession. The Browns used a funky formation in which tackles Joe Thomas and John St. Clair lined up outside the hashes. McCoy lofted a nice ball to the streaking Royal for his first touchdown since the opener last year.
The Browns didn’t score again until the fourth quarter.
“We just have to do a better job just staying on the field,” McCoy said. “We can talk about our defense and talk how they gave up a lot of yards rushing, but really a huge part of it is on us (the offense). You look at the time of possession and they were on the field almost twice as much as we were. That goes back to us.
“We’ve got to convert third downs. We’ve got to stay on the field longer. We’ve got to sustain drives.”
Running back Peyton Hillis held onto the ball — he didn’t fumble after three last week — but never got rolling. He rushed 14 times for 59 yards (4.2 average) and caught two passes for 23 yards.
“It never felt like we got into the flow of things,” he said. “When we ran the ball, we did it well. It’s one of those things where we didn’t get into a rhythm.”
The Browns converted just two third downs and held the ball for only 21:57, so there weren’t many opportunities. But Hillis was unable to convert an important one on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On third-and-1 from the 5, he tried a run behind right guard but was stopped for no gain. Mangini chose to kick a field goal. Hillis started the year 9-for-9 on third-and-1 but has been stopped two straight weeks.
“From my point of view, there was nothing there,” he said. “But then again it was only a yard, I should’ve picked that up. There were a lot of guys in there, we’ll look on film and see what happened.”
Two-minute (fire) drill
The Browns trailed 10-7 at the end of the first half and were moving. They had first-and-10 at the Cincinnati 37-yard line at the two-minute warning, and a halftime tie looked promising.
Things got ugly quickly. After a 6-yard pass to the 31, McCoy was sacked for an 8-yard loss. Hillis appeared to be open on a quick out to the left, but McCoy said he wasn’t and was sacked before he could find an open receiver. A 5-yard completion left fourth-and-7 at the 34-yard line.
Kicker Phil Dawson said his range was 48 yards in that direction, so Mangini chose to leave the offense on the field. An illegal formation negated a personal foul call on Bengals safety Roy Williams (he missed Browns receiver Brian Robiskie’s head but got penalized anyway), then St. Clair was called for a false start.
“That’s just an example of us shooting ourselves in the foot,” McCoy said. “We did that a lot today. You can’t win games when you do that.”
Despite only 16 seconds left, Mangini decided to punt from the 39.
“Last year, we had really the same situation and gave them the ball back and they were able to get the ball inbounds and kick a field goal,” he said. “We didn’t want to give them that opportunity.”
Wright hurt again
Cornerback Eric Wright was able to return from a left knee injury suffered Nov. 21 in Jacksonville, but might not make it back for the final two games after hurting the same knee Sunday. Wright didn’t put weight on it as he was helped to the sideline, but was able to walk slowly to the locker room. The knee was heavily wrapped after the game.
“I was already battling, playing on one leg anyway,” he said. “It just happened again.”
Wright was a starter for the first 10 games but struggled sporadically. When he returned from the injury, he had lost his job to rookie Joe Haden.
Wright began Sunday as the nickelback but moved into the base defense in place of Sheldon Brown after Bengals receiver Terrell Owens hurt his knee. Owens didn’t return and is done for the year.
“My number was called, just trying to do what I can do,” Wright said.
Depending on the collective bargaining agreement, Wright could be a free agent in the offseason.
Robiskie gets No. 1
Robiskie’s 46-yard touchdown with 2:13 left was the first of his career. He was a second-round draft pick in 2009. Robiskie had a career-high 82 yards on five catches.
The touchdown came down the left sideline between two defenders in a Cover-2 zone. Robiskie leaped for the catch and cruised into the end zone as defensive back Keiwan Ratliff missed when he went for the interception.
“Colt did a great job putting it in a place he couldn’t get to it,” Robiskie said. “He’s been doing a great job with that two-minute offense. I was just trying to make a play for him.
“That’s my job to come down with it. He did a great job putting the ball in a great spot where I could go get it. I had to come down with it.”
Robiskie has 25 catches for 240 yards on the year. He had seven catches as a rookie.
- Tight end Benjamin Watson had a game-high seven receptions for 92 yards. He set a career high with 674 receiving yards and joined Milt Morin, Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow as the only Browns tight ends to reach 600 receiving yards in a season.
- Jake Delhomme was the third quarterback after starting the previous three weeks. It was assumed Seneca Wallace was the backup because he is part of the Wildcat package, but the Browns never ran the Wildcat or used Wallace.
- Nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin had a game-high and career-best 10 tackles.
- Receiver Demetrius Williams was active for the first time as a Brown. He was inactive the last six games but was on the field for a number of plays Sunday. He didn’t have a catch.
- Linebacker Scott Fujita missed his fifth straight game with a sprained knee.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.