CLEVELAND -- Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was benched in each of his previous two starts and sat out a full game in-between heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London, England.
However, for the first time in a month, Kizer played a full game, completing 18 of his 34 attempts for 179 yards with no touchdowns and five carries for 18 yards with one score in a 33-16 loss to the Vikings (6-2). More importantly for the Browns, Kizer did not turn the ball over in the loss.
“Small wins are small wins,” Kizer said. “That was an opportunity for me to prove to my teammates that I’m going to keep the ball out of harm’s way, and that’s what I was able to do.
“Now, we’ve got to build on that and find some consistency in that quarterback room that my teammates are going to know what they’re going to get out of me. I was able to show a little bit of that with some fiery moments, but now, it’s about finding more plays, doing more and continuing to push harder to get our first victory.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Browns QB DeShone Kizer shows improvement against Minnesota Vikings
The Browns retook a one-score lead over the Vikings on Kizer’s one-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds left to play in the first half. Kizer capped off the eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive with his team-leading third rushing touchdown of the season.
Earlier in the drive, the Browns faced a third-and-13 from their own 15-yard line when Kizer fired a throw down the left sideline for wide receiver Ricardo Louis, who created enough separation from defensive back Xavier Rhodes to secure the 38-yard reception.
Then, on second-and-seven from Minnesota’s 44-yard line, Kizer scrambled around the pocket and evaded the rush of several Vikings before flipping a pass forward to running back Isaiah Crowell. After securing the catch in space, Crowell turned upfield and gained 38 yards, which moved the ball to Minnesota’s six-yard line.
“I thought he did some much better things,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “(It) was a better version of DeShone. I thought he made some throws, made some plays with his legs, made some decisions. I’m sure there’s a couple of plays he would like to have back, like any quarterback would, but I thought this was an improvement from where we’ve been to where we’re trying to go.”
Trailing for all but five minutes through the first seven games of the season, the Browns led after the first drive of the game, first quarter and first half before succumbing to the Vikings after halftime.
And when the Browns return from their bye-week break against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, November 12, Kizer wants the offense to build off of the first-half successes against the Vikings and string together a full 60-minute game.
“This is a game that you’ve got to go out there and expect that the team who’s down is going to come back with a vengeance,” Kizer said. “They’re going to make a push, and you’ve got to be able to give up ground gradually and come back at them with a push of your own. Unfortunately, as an offense, we didn’t execute the way we should in the second half to give that push back at them.
“We’ve just got to make a couple more plays. I think we obviously showed in the first half that we had a proper game plan for this stout defense we were playing against, and we weren’t able to go out and execute our jobs the way we should’ve in the second half to be able to make the play to stay up with the second-half push that the Vikings had.”