While all the talk was about the quarterback battle, it was the Browns defense that created most of the excitement.
The defense created three turnovers in the first half and finished with four in the game. Linebacker Craig Robertson recovered a fumble by Morris on the Redskins first drive. The Browns return yards totaled 99, including a touchdown, which was just four less yards than what the offense put up in the first half.
Cornerback Joe Haden intercepted quarterback Robert Griffin III on third-and-14 after the Redskins drove to field goal range. Haden returned the ball 37 yards to the Redskins’ 46. The Browns forced a turnover on the Redskins first two possessions.
Safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted a pass and returned it 43 yards to the Redskins’ 15 on a high throw by quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Browns couldn’t put the ball in the end zone and settled for a 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff to take a 3-0 lead with 4:58 to play in the first half.
Safety Jim Leonhard intercepted former Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in the fourth quarter and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns a 17-14 lead.
The Browns turned the ball over when tight end MarQueis Gray fumbled after making a 12-yard reception to give the Redskins the ball back with 2:05 to play in the first half.
Goal Line Stand: The Browns displayed a strong goal line stand after a penalty gave the Redskins a first-and-goal on the three. Running back Alfred Morris picked up two on the first carry and was stopped by linebacker Craig Robertson and defensive lineman Armonty Bryant.
On second down Robertson and safety Donte Whitner made the stop for no gain. On third down, Robertson and linebacker Chris Kirksey combined for the stop. On fourth down, Morris was stopped inside the one by Robertson and defensive lineman Phil Taylor. The play was ruled a touchdown but under review, it was ruled that Morris’ knee touched down before the ball crossed the goal line.
In addition to being in on all four plays near the goal line, Robertson recovered a fumble to stop the Redskins on their first drive.
Skrine has Surgery: ESPN’s Adam Caplan CB Buster Skrine had surgery to repair his injured thumb according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Mike Pettine said Saturday he wasn’t sure if Skrine would need surgery but expected him to be ready for the season opener with the Steelers on Sept. 7.
Skrine, 25, broke up 18 passes and had 65 tackles in 2013 in starting 15 games. He also had an interception.
With the injury, rookie No. 1 draft pick Justin Gilbert made his first preseason appearance, starting in Skrine’s position.
Bryant Steps Up: LB Paul Kruger, DL Billy Winn and DL Armonty Bryant all were in on sacking QB Robert Griffin III in the first quarter. Kruger was credited with the sack.
In the second quarter, Bryant batted down a pass by QB Kirk Cousins and then sacked Cousins on the next play.
Gilbert Shines: CB Justin Gilbert broke up a pass in the end zone from Cousins intended for WR Ryan Grant. Gilbert had two tackles, including an assist in the first half.
Bad Start O: The Browns offense was nearly non-existent as they amassed only 84 yards in the first half. The offense started the game with a sack and then a false start. OLB Ryan Kerrigan blew by OL Mitchell Schwartz on the first play and then OL Joe Thomas jumped. QB Brian Hoyer was 0-of-2 on the first two offensive series and both series resulted in punts. Hoyer was 2-of-6 for 16 yards.
On QB Johnny Manziel’s first series, he threw behind TE Jordan Cameron on second down and was sacked by LB Ryan Kerrigan on third down to force a punt. Manziel was 2-of-7 for 29 yards on his first two series. Manziel’s first completion was for 17 yards to TE MarQueis Gray and he then hit WR Andrew Hawkins for 12 yards. Manziel finished 7-of-16 for 65 yards and a touchdown. He led the Browns on a 16 play, 68 yard drive in his final series and finished with a touchdown pass to RB Dion Lewis.
Flag Day: The Browns and Redskins combined for 8 penalties in the first quarter, including five on the Browns. At the half, there was six penalties on the Browns and six on the Redskins. The two teams finished with 21 penalties.
Shaw Time: Undrafted rookie free agent Connor Shaw made the most of his first playing time. He finished 8-of-9 for 123 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown on the final play.
Shades of Gray: TE MarQueis Gray had two of the four receptions for the Browns in the first half for 29 yards. However, he was responsible for the Browns only turnover as he fumbled after a 12-yard catch.
Beaten Down: DB Jordan Poyer and DB Tashaun Gipson were beaten for a 48-yard gain on a pass from QB Robert Griffin III to WR Andre Roberts to end the first quarter.
DB Royce Adams was beaten by WR Ryan Grant for a 14-yard touchdown to open the third quarter to give the Redskins a 14-3 lead. WR Rashad Ross also beat Adams in the fourth quarter for a 43-yard gain and then WR Nick Williams beat Adams for a touchdown from QB Colt McCoy.
RB Battle: RB Ben Tate picked up 51 yards on 10 carries in the first half, including a 19-yard run on his first carry. RB Terrance West had eight carries for 31 yards. RB Dion Lewis scored the Browns first touchdown of the preseason on a screen pass for an eight-yard touchdown.
Lewis had four carries for 7 yards and caught two passes for 4 yards and a touchdown. RB Isaiah Crowell had two carries for three yards.
Young Ones: Two rookie undrafted free agent wide receivers led the Browns. Willie Snead had three receptions for 29 yards and Tyler Gabriel had three receptions for 35 yards. Jonathan Krause had one catch for 24 yards. WR Charles Johnson had one catch for three yards.
Big Phil: DL Phil Taylor made a nice stop of RB Alfred Morris for a four-yard loss in the second series
Gordon Plays: WR Josh Gordon missed several practices last week with an abdomen injury but he played in his second-straight preseason game. Gordon had several balls thrown his way, but was able to hang on to one for 8 yards.
Gordon is still waiting to hear if he will be suspended for part or all of the 2014 season.
Robertson Plays: LB Craig Robertson recovered a fumble by RB Alfred Morris on the Redskins first series to give the ball to the Browns on the Redkskins’ 48. Robertson is trying to hold off rookie LB Chris Kirksey for a starting linebacker spot.
Burleson, Berry Out: In addition to the long list of players who didn’t make the trip to Washington, three other players were held out of the game due to injury: Aaron Berry (groin)â¨Nate Burleson (hamstring)â¨and Paul McQuistan (ankle). Burleson did not play in the first preseason game against the Lions, as well.
â¨In addition, the following Browns did not make the trip to Washington: OL Michael Bowie (shoulder), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DB Pierre Desir (knee), LB Darius Eubanks (shoulder), OL Randall Harris (knee), DB T.J. Heath (hip), LB Eric Martin (concussion), LB Keith Pough (ankle), DB Buster Skrine (thumb), DB Isaiah Trufant (knee) and DB K’Waun Williams (hamstring). – NFI: OL Nick McDonald (wrist).
Captain, My Captain: DL Phil Taylor, OL Joe Thomas, LB Karlos Dansby, DB Donte Whitner and DB Joe Haden were captins.