Despite the lack of some notable starters, the Browns’ 17-13 preseason win over the Giants wasn’t devoid of drama. In fact, there was a Hail Mary when Brian Lewerkes Heave to David Sills was picked up in the end zone by Brown’s defensive back Richard LeCounte.
The Browns wore all-white uniforms to combat heat and moisture, and marched 81 yards quickly on the game’s 10-game opening move. Brown’s quarterback Case Keenum, after misfiring on a second down throw against Rashard Higgins in the end zone, hit his fourth down pass to KhaDarel Hodge for a touchdown at the exact same game. The ride also included 46 rushing yards, 34 of which came from D’Ernest Johnson’s running back.
The Giants responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive topped by Devontae Booker’s 1-yard scoring plunge. The biggest game of the drive was a 24-yard finish from Mike Glennon to tight end Rysen John three games ahead of Booker’s score. Cleveland’s second drive (and the first of the second quarter) ended when Keenum was picked up by cornerback Quincy Wilson in the end zone. Both teams missed out on their last two drives at halftime.
The Browns broke the tie five minutes in the second half when running back John Kelly sped five yards to pay dirt. Completions of 14 and 19 yards from Kyle Lauletta of the Browns (who came into play towards the end of the first half) to full-back Johnny Stanton created the only third-quarter score for both teams.
After five consecutive punts by the Giants offense, Lewerke hit Sills for an 8-yard score in a third-down game in the final quarter. The Giants were unable to take the lead, however, as running back Gary Brightwell was stuffed by a host of Cleveland defenders on New York’s two-point attempt. Cleveland responded with a 49-yard field goal from Chase McLaughlin. The field goal completed a 44-yard drive, with Kelly responsible for each of those yards. The touchdown served as the end result of the game after the Browns kept the Giants out of the end zone in the final moments of the game.
Here’s a closer look at what happened in Cleveland.
Why the Browns won
The home team was never left behind in amassing 24 first downs. Cleveland’s offense flexed its muscles on the offensive line and hit 163 yards on 25 carries. The Browns received a solid foray from Kelly, who led the team at 58 yards on just nine carries. He also had an impressive 21-yard catch-and-carry that established the game’s final score. Cleveland’s defense kept New York just 3 out of 9 third for the first three quarters of the game.
Why the Giants lost
The New York Offense fell into a losing streak after equalizing the result in the first quarter. The unit had five consecutive drives that ended in a punt before finally putting together an 8-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Sills’ touchdown reception. The Giants waited too long before relying on their running game, which ended the day 120 yards on 25 carries. Conversely, the Giants had no answer for Kelly and Johnson, who together ran 86 yards on 13 carries.
The Giants seemed to have momentum after Wilson’s election. The Browns’ defense quickly erased that dynamic, however, forcing a quick three-and-off. Cleveland would force five more punts while his offensive put together two scoring drives. The Browns’ defense was led by linebacker Elijah Lee, who recorded nine tackles at field height. Defensive tackle Malik McDowell had five tackles while also recording one of the team’s two sacks.
Game of the game
After giving up a touchdown, the Browns defense thwarted the Giants’ attempt to take the lead with a two-point conversion. Brightwell was blocked by multiple Cleveland defenders as the Browns defense made their first of two critical stops in the fourth quarter.
The Browns will close the preseason next Sunday with a street game against Atlanta and then open the regular season with the Chiefs on September 12th. The Giants will end their 2021 preseason with a home game against the Patriots next Sunday. New York then opens the regular season with a home game against the Broncos on September 12th.
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