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Browns blast Lions to close out preseason

By MARY KAY CABOT • Aug 31, 2018 at 1:12 AM

DETROIT — Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield knew The Battle for the Barge could be his last live action for awhile, and he wanted to make a lasting impression.

Playing with and against backups in his first start, Mayfield produced points on his first three drives to give the Browns a 17-0 lead Thursday night on their way to a 35-17 win over the Lions in the preseason finale.

The Browns finished 3-1 in the preseason.

After punts on his final two series, Mayfield trotted back out with 28 seconds left in the half to attempt a two-point conversion after Nate Orchard's 64-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The results were almost disastrous. Dropping back to pass, Mayfield was drilled on his right shoulder by linebacker Jonathan Freeney just as he got the ball off to Derrick Willies short of the end zone, and Freeney landed on top of Mayfield as he hit the turf.

Mayfield got up holding his shoulder, and Freeney was flagged for roughing the passer. On the Browns' second crack at the two-pointer, Mayfield handed off to Dontrell Hilliard for the conversion that made it 25-0 just before the half.

The night was over for Mayfield at halftime, as planned.

In his five drives, he completed 9-of-16 attempts for 138 yards and an 84.9 rating.

He produced two touchdown drives and a field goal drive in the game historically known as the The Great Lakes Classic. Nick Chubb scored on a 3-yard TD run, Zane Gonzalez kicked a 39-yard field goal, and Matthew Dayes scored on a 42-yard run on the first three possessions.

Mayfield completed passes of 41 yards to tight end Devon Cajuste, 30 to Matthew Dayes and 21 yards to Damion Ratley. He almost had a touchdown pass on his second series, but Willies dropped a high offering at the 6-yard line.

In 22 series this preseason, Mayfield produced five touchdowns (two passes and three runs), three field goals and one two-point conversion. He completed 35-of-61 attempts (57.4 percent) for 501 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception for an 88.2 rating.

The stats were satisfactory, but Mayfield wraps up the season without knowing how he'll fare with and against starters if he's pressed into service for starter Tyrod Taylor. Of his 22 drives, Mayfield had only two with the Browns starters -- when Taylor injured his left wrist against the Eagles in the dress-rehearsal game last week.

In that outing, coming in cold in the first quarter, Mayfield completed 2-of-5 attempts for 19 yards and a 51.2 rating on his two possessions.

Browns coach Hue Jackson will have to be creative to prepare Mayfield for the speed and complexity of the game.

"My job is to keep creating an environment for him to keep growing,'' Jackson said Tuesday. "We'll do that through practice time. I'll always find ways to make sure that he gets extra practice as we go throughout the season. He's going to see a lot of different defenses that we'll face. He will pick those things up quicker now because he has been through it.''

Jackson prohibited Mayfield from taking first-team reps this preseason because he wanted Taylor to be ready to face the Steelers on Sept. 9. With a new offense and mostly new personnel, Jackson couldn't afford to develop Mayfield in camp, not if he wanted to try to beat the Steelers (13-3 in 2017) and then the Saints (11-5).

At one point in camp, Jackson flirted with the notion of Drew Stanton as his backup early on in the season if Mayfield wasn't ready. But by last week, he indicated he'll go to his rookie if Taylor gets hurt, even in Week 1 or 2.

Although the Browns didn't get much data on how Mayfield will fare with the ones, they do have plenty of reason to be believe that he was worth the No. 1 overall pick. In practices and games, Mayfield displayed his pinpoint accuracy. One NFL coach told cleveland.com he believed that Mayfield had the best arm talent in the 2018 class.

Mayfield also came up the learning curve quickly in terms of playing under center and getting the ball out quickly. He threw very few interceptions in camp, and only one in his 22 preseason drives. He displayed good footwork, vision, and pocket presence. He also faced the likes of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah in practice and got a feel for the pressure he'll face at this level.

Now, it's on to preparing for the Steelers.

Orchard's big night

Orchard, who's in a battle for a backup defensive end job with Carl Nassib, made a case to stick around with the 64-yard interception return for a touchdown, a pressure on the game's first play, and a tackle for a loss. The Browns are faced with a tough choice, and might not be able to keep both.

Injuries

The Browns lost several players to injuries in the game: receiver C.J. Board (shoulder), linebacker James Burgess (concussion check), running back Matthew Dayes (ankle) and linebacker Justin Currie.

Up next

The Browns host the Steelers in the opener Sept. 9

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