By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Right about now the Browns are figuring that NFL idea to eliminate two preseason games is good with them.
Their first-team offense is humming like nobody has seen since, well, 2007.
Their first-team defense is stopping the run and disrupting the pass.
Their special teams are scoring touchdowns and launching kickoffs into the seats.
And the injuries are starting to pile up.
The ominous footnote to the Browns’ second straight preseason win, 24-6 over the Detroit Lions, were major injuries to linebacker Barkevious Mingo, running back Dion Lewis and right guard Jason Pinkston.
Mingo was taken to Cleveland Clinic's main campus after suffering a bruised lung. He spent the night as a precaution, the club said. Lewis broke a leg and Pinkston had a severe ankle injury. Pinkston left the locker room on crutches with a walking boot on his right foot.
"That's all sad," said tight end Jordan Cameron. "I didn't know."
"It was a tough night from an injury standpoint," said coach Rob Chudzinski. "But that's the game. Guys get injured and others have to step up in their place."
Mingo's injury was hard to place in the game. He apparently suffered it on a Browns kickoff in the second quarter. At first, it was announced by the club as a rib injury. Lewis broke his right leg early in the second half. Pinkston, who was coming back from a blood clot in 2012 and securing the starting right guard spot, was hurt when left guard John Greco was blocked into him and fell on his ankle.
All of that dampened the show the Browns put on the field.
The stars of this Great Lakes Classic were quarterback Brandon Weeden (8 of 12 for 117 yards and two TDs), Cameron (two TDs), Josh Gordon (three receptions, including a 34-yard, back-shoulder beauty pass that he nabbed with his left hand), Richardson (six carries for 33 yards) and kicker Brandon Bogotay (two kickoffs out of the end zone, a 43-yard field goal and two flawless PATs.) Bogotay did not kick in the second half, however, because of a groin pull.
Also, Travis Benjamin had another jet-takeoff punt return for a touchdown – this one for 84 yards – but it was called back when Joe Haden was caught wrestling a Detroit gunner to the ground.
Defensively, the Browns’ first team forced four Detroit punts in five series. The Lions’ No. 1 offense managed only a 48-yard field goal by David Akers.
In six offensive possessions through two games, Weeden is 18 of 25 for 229 yards and three TDs. He has directed five scoring drives against vanilla St. Louis and Detroit defenses.
But the Lions’ beastly defensive front got in its licks Thursday night.
Tackle Ndamukong Suh, whose dirty reputation was first earned on cheap shot of Jake Delhomme as a rookie in 2010, blasted Richardson out of bounds with a high hit after a nine-yard run. Suh later drew a roughing penalty – and Joe Thomas in his face -- when he shoved Weeden to the ground late after a pass. Tackle Nick Fairley also bull-rushed Greco with one hand on one play. Lions rookie left end Ziggy Ansah, however, was hardly noticeable.
“We did some good things,” Weeden said at halftime. “Again, I don’t think we had any penalties. I know we didn’t have any problems with communication. We started out a little slow … but came back the second, third and fourth drives and did some good things.”
Cameron and Weeden hooked up for TDs of 10 and five yards. The third-year tight end added a 27-yard soaring reception in the middle of the field.
“I’m excited to see him play as well as he did tonight and hopefully we keep that rolling,” Weeden said. “He’s going to be a huge asset for this offense.”
In his first preseason action, Richardson relieved any lingering concerns about the shin injury that caused a club shutdown in June. He averaged 5.5 yards on six carries. He played two series.
“I feel real good, especially being out there with my team,” Richardson said. “The offense, defense and special teams, everybody is out there doing big things. I’m happy to be out here in front of Cleveland Nation and Browns Nation. (It’s) been so long being out here in Cleveland.”
Jason Campbell put together a 70-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, getting the touchdown on a 14-yard dumpoff to Brandon Jackson. Campbell was 12 of 14 for 106 yards in relief of Weeden.
The Lions held out All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson and were held to 87 offensive yards the first half. The Browns had 204. Reggie Bush, Detroit’s new feature back, had 15 yards on eight carries.
Richardson and Bush weren’t the only ones running on this night.
The debut of the wiener dog races at halftime was won by Schultz, per a press box announcement. In the third quarter, an unidentified, naked man streaked across the field. Security eventually cornered and knocked him on his bare behind.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi