Without Rodgers, Packers edge Browns 17-11
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Even without Aaron Rodgers and several other key players, the Green Bay Packers started their delayed preseason schedule with a 17-11 win over the Cleveland Browns on Friday night.
The Packers also played without top receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers as they held off the Browns, who are starting anew with Hue Jackson as coach and Robert Griffin III at quarterback.
Mason Crosby made a pair of 54-yard field goals, and undrafted rookie Joe Callahan threw a touchdown pass as the fill-in for Rodgers.
Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner who signed with the Browns after being dumped by the Redskins in March, went 4 of 8 for 67 yards with an interception.
Jackson selected Griffin as the team's starting quarterback on Monday as the Browns look to end a slide of eight straight losing seasons, including a last-place finish in the AFC North the past five years.
Coach Mike McCarthy decided to rest the 32-year-old Rodgers even after the Packers' matchup with the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game Sunday was canceled because of poor field conditions.
The Packers also were without Rodgers' top backup, second-year QB Brett Hundley, who suffered an ankle injury in practice last week.
Griffin started his brief night of work with a 49-yard pass to former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Browns' go-to receiver with the injured trio of Josh Gordon, Andrew Hawkins and first-round rookie Corey Coleman out. But a promising first drive into the red zone fizzled as defensive back Micah Hyde made a lunging interception of Griffin's pass near the goal line.
With so much talk about protecting players, The Packers went for a different sort of safety: a pair of 2-pointers. Both came in the second half, on sacks of rookie Cody Kessler in the end zone. He was chased out of the end zone by Reggie Gilbert on the first one, and was sacked by Christian Ringo on the second.
Not to be outdone too badly, the Browns also got a safety for the game's first points. James Starks was tackled in the end zone by Tank Carder and Jamie Meder.
Callahan, last year's top college player in Division III, was denied an opportunity to start opposite the Colts' Andrew Luck last week. On Friday, Callahan ran Green Bay's offense the entire first half. He went 16 of 23 for 124 yards, throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back John Crockett with 7 seconds left in the half to put the Packers ahead 10-5.
The Browns played without two veteran starters on defense: cornerback Joe Haden and lineman John Hughes III.
Browns: The injury issue going through the top of the depth chart at receiver gave a number of young roster hopefuls extended playing time. Pryor led the patchwork group with two catches for 57 yards.
Packers: Undrafted rookie Peter Mortell, who grew up in Green Bay, had the better night in his punting competition with seventh-year incumbent Tim Masthay. They had three punts apiece in alternating fashion. Mortell averaged 44.0 yards with a long of 62, while Masthay averaged 39.7 yards (long of 43) with a net of just 25.0 yards.
Browns: Fifth-year QB Austin Davis left the game with a concussion early in the second half. . An already depleted Cleveland receiving group lost first-year player Rannell Hall to an ankle injury in the third quarter after he had two catches for 27 yards.
Packers: Third-year WR Jeff Janis was held out with a hand injury, adding to a notable list that included Matthews (ankle) and Cobb (calf). Nelson (knee) and C Corey Linsley (hamstring) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
Browns: ''I just felt we hurt ourselves a little too much. Can't throw an interception. I've got to protect the ball. Outside of that, I thought the execution was there, but there's definitely potential for more big plays out of us and we know that.'' - Griffin on his debut with Cleveland.
Packers: ''We had a good drive for the end of the first half, so I think things went well for my first preseason game.'' - Callahan on his performance as the starting quarterback.
Browns: Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah, a second-round draft pick, was credited with a game-high six tackles with two quarterback hits and a sack.
Packers: Blake Martinez, a fourth-round pick, started at inside linebacker. On a blitz up the middle, Martinez pressured Griffin into throwing the ball to the ground to avoid a sack.
Browns: Josh McCown, in his 14th pro season, took over for Griffin and completed only one of four passes for 5 yards. Kessler, a third-round draft pick, replaced the injured Davis in the third quarter and completed both of his passes for 15 yards, but was sacked three times.
Packers: Marquise Williams, an undrafted rookie, worked the second half. He went 6 of 14 for 55 yards with an interception.
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