Thursday night got off to a bad start for the Browns when Montario Hardesty fumbled the ball away on the first play of the game.
Green Bay cashed in with a quick touchdown, but the Browns bounced back and put together a strong half on both sides of the ball. Hardesty ran for 41 yards on 11 carries after that fumble and showed enough to make the team feel okay about going with him until Trent Richardson is healthy enough to take over the lead tailback duties.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden wasn’t perfect, but he led four scoring drives and hit a handful of impressive passes to Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Jordan Norwood over the course of the half. They were the kinds of throws that the Browns didn’t see from Colt McCoy last season and they overshadow the mistakes that Weeden made in the big picture of the evening. The offense needs some work finishing drives as Phil Dawson kicked three field goals, but there’s no question that they looked better than both last season and last week.
Even more impressive than the offense was the Browns defense, though. Outside of the first touchdown, they kept the Packers off the scoreboard and did an especially good job in the secondary. Some of the performances are skewed by the fact that the Browns kept a lot of their starters in the game well past the point that the Packers had closed up shop, but the Browns were missing several regulars because of injury so it was still a good showing for the unit.
They also might have created a trade market for McCoy in the process. Graham Harrell was 1-of-9 with an interception in the second quarter, casting some doubt on his ability to step in should disaster strike for the Packers this season. If McCoy plays well in the second half for Cleveland, it wouldn’t be surprising to see trade chatter about him moving to the Packers pick up again.