CLEVELAND — The Browns defense was expected to be stronger than last season, but for the dress rehearsal, it was anything but strong.
"It was some basic things," Mike Pettine said after a 33-14 loss to the Rams on Saturday night. "We’ve got to play smarter — just better situational football, awareness of the down and distance. Seven-for-10 on third down, that’s unacceptable, just way too inconsistent there."
The first team defense gave up 279 yards in the first half alone and 20 points. The Rams started the game with drives that consumed 6:49 and 5:44 and consisted of 15 and 12 plays. The bright spot was the defense limited St. Louis to two field goals.
The Browns were plagued by not being able to get off the field on third down. The Rams were 12-of-19 for the game on third down, including 7 for 10 against the first team in the first half.
On the first defensive series, the Rams converted on third-and-12 and third-and-25. In the second quarter, the defense allowed a conversion on third-and-19.
"Third and long, that should be something where a good defense should dominate," Pettine said. "We took a step back tonight. We couldn’t make a play on third down to get off the field. We weren’t very smart. We didn’t play to the sticks or to the situation very well."
The Rams first touchdown came after Brian Hoyer threw an interception to Alec Ogletree, who returned it 27 yards to the Browns 28.
The Rams used four different quarterbacks and most of the damage was done by backups as starter Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury on the Rams first drive of the night and was replaced by Shaun Hill.
Overall, the Rams put up 472 yards of total offense (330 passing, 142 rushing) and 33 points. They possessed the ball for 39:27 minutes to the Browns 20:33.
Browns rookie inside linebacker Chris Kirksey was a bright spot. Kirksey led the Browns with seven tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception return of 23 yards to the Rams’ 14 which set up the Browns’ first touchdown.
QB Talk: QB Brian Hoyer was 10-of-16 for 84 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled after being sacked and finished with a rating of 70.8. Hoyer was sacked twice.
Hoyer led the Browns into the end zone for the first time with 37 seconds left in the first half as he found WR Andrew Hawkins in the end zone.
"It’s a good sign," Pettine said. "I think he’s had his moments, made some good throws. I think there are some plays that he’d want to have back. Missed a few reads, but overall I think he’s been solid."
QB Johnny Manziel came into the game in the third quarter after Kirksey’s interception. He was 10-of-15 passing for 85 yards and a 81.2 rating. He was also sacked twice.
QB Rex Grossman and QB Connor Shaw did not play.
The Hawk: WR Andrew Hawkins was the Browns’ leading receiver as he had five catches for 36 yards, including a five-yard touchdown in the first half. It was the Browns first team offense’s first touchdown of the preseason.
Gordon: WR Josh Gordon was suited up but didn’t play. He has been nursing an abdominal injury but was expected to play. Pettine said that Gordon was still bothered with the abdominal injury.
"It was nothing new (injury)."
Haden, Burleson Sit: Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden sat out the dress rehearsal with what is being described as a sore foot. Haden is considered to be day-to-day and it is believed he was held out for precautionary reasons.
WR Nate Burleson was hoping to play in this game after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury.
McFadden’s Shot: The Browns were down six defensive backs due to injury and it allowed second-year CB Leon McFadden to start in place of Haden. McFadden was a third-round draft pick in 2013, but has struggled to adjust to the NFL in limited opportunities. McFadden was picked on as he gave up a 21 yard pass to WR Brian Quick on the first series. He was beaten on a deep pass by WR Tavon Austin, but the ball was overthrown. A penalty was thrown on him but they officials picked it up. McFadden broke up a potential touchdown pass on the opening drive of the third quarter in the end zone.
Meanwhile, top drat pick CB Justin Gilbert started his second-straight game. He was beaten for 32 yards by WR Kenny Britt and later on third down he was beaten by WR Chris Givens for 19 yards with QB Austin Davis in.
"It was not his best night," Pettine said. WR Stedman Bailey had a pass in his hands in the third quarter in the back of the end zone, but Gilbert was able to strip it away before he could bring it in for the score. Gilbert was able to break up a deep pass intended for WR Chris Givens down the sideline in the third quarter.
Run Game: RB Terrance West led the Browns with just 17 yards on 7 carries. RB Ben Tate had just three carries for 5 yards, while RB Dion Lewis had three carries for 8 yards. RB Chris Ogbonnaya had one carry for minus five yards. He did have a one yard touchdown, but it was called back for holding.
Pettine said Tate wasn’t hurt, but rather they wanted to see the other backs.
"(Tate’s) more of a known commodity," Pettine said.
Sack Man: LB Karlos Dansby had the Browns only sack in the game as he blitzed up the middle.
Return Men: WR Taylor Gabriel had a 68-yard kickoff return and WR Marlon Moore had one for 45 yards. Gabriel had another return for 21 yards. WR Anthony Armstrong had a return of 37 yards and DB Robert Nelson returned one kick for 25 yards. WR Travis Benjamin had one punt return for 18 yards.
Agnew Starts: Undrafted rookie free agent FB Ray Agnew started. Other rookies that started were first round draft pick CB Justin Gilbert and OL Joel Bitonio at LG. Agnew caught a 4-yard pass from Manziel in the fourth quarter.
Home Cooking: DB Donte Whitner played his first game as a member of the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium after signing as an unrestricted free agent. Whitner played high school football at Glenville High School and his college football at Ohio State.
Whitner was the last player announced in player introductions for the defense and kissed the ground before running out on the field.
Captains: OL Joe Thomas, OL Alex Mack, LB Karlos Dansby and DB Donte Whitner were the captains for the game. The Browns won the toss and elected to defer to the second half.