CLEVELAND — It appears everyone's just ready to get the real games going.
The Browns fell to the Chicago Bears 21-20 in Saturday night's preseason finale at FirstEnergy Stadium. A late comeback from the backups fell just short, but the big story from this game was the starters, many of whom saw the field in the first half.
The main headline was Jacoby Brissett, who made his debut in a Cleveland uniform as he gets set to presumably start the first 11 games in the wake of Deshaun Watson's suspension. The 29-year-old delivered mixed results, completing 13 of 23 passes for 109 yards and a costly interception in Chicago territory. He was relieved by Joshua Dobbs shortly before halftime.
Not all of those incompletions were Brissett's fault, as struggling receiver Anthony Schwartz dropped multiple passes and recorded just one 8-yard reception. Tight end David Njoku finished with three catches for 34 yards, while start running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt did not play.
Meanwhile, former Ohio State star Justin Fields looked much more polished in his second season with the Bears, going 14 for 16 for 156 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns let several receivers get wide open, although it is worth noting that starting corners Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II both sat out, along with pass rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Down 21-6 at halftime, Cleveland's defense held Chicago scoreless the rest of the way, and Dobbs cut the deficit to seven with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Miller Forristall. Late in the game, Josh Rosen scored on a quarterback sneak, but his two-point conversion pass landed incomplete, and the Bears would end up running out the clock.
Up next? The regular-season opener in Carolina, where former Browns QB Baker Mayfield will lead the Panthers. In the meantime, here are some observations from 3News digital writer Tyler Carey on tonight's action.
1. Brissett debuts
Jacoby Brissett showed impressive poise in the pocket, but was somewhat limited in his overall production, averaging just 4.7 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 50.8. A bad interception right to Dante Pettis in Chicago territory was a particular low point, although it's not like his receiving core game him much help.
Suffice to say, with Brissett under center, no one is going to confuse this offensive scheme for "Air Coryell." For now, though, the Browns seem to trust him as QB1, with Joshua Dobbs as his backup.
2. Schwartz struggles
For the most part, it was another evening to forget for the 2021 third-round pick. After dropping Brissett's first pass of the game, a deep ball on the second drive was just out of Anthony Schwartz's reach after he got tangled in the secondary. A single reception for 8 yards was undone after he fell down on a slant route as Brissett threw the pick, followed by yet another drop on the final drive before halftime that led to loud boos from the fans.
Schwartz's continued poor play has caused some to wonder if he could be on the chopping block when it comes time to trim the roster to 53 this week, but it appears Kevin Stefanski still has faith in the young wideout.
3. Buckeye homecoming
Former Ohio State quarterback and 2021 first-round selection Justin Fields returned to where he made his first NFL start a year ago. He is looking to bounce back after a tough rookie campaign, and looked quite impressive Saturday night, completing 14 of 16 throws for 156 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns' defense did let a few Bears receivers get loose, although top cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II weren't among those not on the field.
Chicago is not expected to be one of the NFL's better teams, but if Field can take that step forward this year, I feel like they'll consider 2022 a success.
4. Alex Wright
It's always good to have depth, and even with Garrett and Clowney rushing the passes, Wright is proving he has a place on this team. The third-round pick out of UAB got through the line multiple times, and pressured Fields into a throw away on the opening series.
5. We officially have a kicker
Cade York showed he is, indeed, human after missing a 58-yard field goal wide to the right in the first quarter. He made up for it, though, by nailing attempts from 57 and 49 yards away, and it appears the Browns' decade-long kicking woes may finally be behind them.
Now, would York actually attempt a 70-yard try during a game? I doubt it, but... it's nice to have the option.
6. Rational reactions
It's okay to be a bit concerned with the lack of firepower on offense tonight, and as I mentioned earlier, no one considers Jacoby Brissett a top-flite quarterback. However, it's almost impossible to properly gauge the unit when both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are on the bench, and Amari Cooper will obviously help this receiving core (which, admittedly, could use some more upgrades).
Preseason is preseason, and there's a reason these games don't count in the standings. Let's all take a deep breath and see how the Browns look when things really get going.