REEN BAY, Wis. — Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden showed improvement in his second preseason game, avoiding major mistakes as the Cleveland Browns beat the Green Bay Packers 35-10 at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
Aaron Rodgers looked sharp in limited action, but backup quarterback Graham Harrell was shaky for the Packers.
Weeden, a first-round pick out of Oklahoma State who already has been chosen the Browns’ starter, played the first half and was 12 of 20 for 118 yards.
Browns kicker Phil Dawson hit three field goals, including a pair from 50-plus yards. Dawson missed a 56-yarder just before halftime for Cleveland (No. 30 in the AP Pro32).
Rodgers threw a 20-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson on his first series for the Packers (No. 1).
"Just taking a shot in a one-on-one matchup," Rodgers said, in comments distributed by the team at halftime. "Jordy consistently wins those. A good corner, the throw was a little bit lower than I wanted, but Jordy made an incredible catch."
The reigning NFL MVP stayed in for two more series, completing 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards. He also had a 21-yard scramble and took a hard hit on another rushing attempt.
Harrell took over early in the second quarter and struggled, completing 12 of 24 passes for 100 yards with two interceptions. Harrell, the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback last year, is trying to prove he can become Rodgers’ primary backup after Matt Flynn signed with Seattle in the offseason.
He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by safety David Sims in the third quarter, although a receiver fell down on the play as Harrell threw the ball under pressure. With Sims’ touchdown, the Browns led 23-7. Harrell’s other interception was on a desperation attempt at the end of the first half.
Former Packers running back Brandon Jackson added a 1-yard touchdown in the third period, putting the Browns up 30-7.
Harrell then was called for intentional grounding in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, a safety that put the Browns up 32-7.
The Packers have been beset by injuries early in the preseason. Already having potentially lost inside linebacker Desmond Bishop for the season because of a hamstring injury, they ruled 18 players out for Thursday’s game. That included Greg Jennings, still recovering from a concussion sustained in an Aug. 3 scrimmage.
The Packers’ new-look defense got off to a strong start when Charles Woodson stripped the ball from running back Montario Hardesty on the first play from scrimmage. Casey Hayward recovered to give the ball back to the Packers on the Cleveland 23-yard line. As expected, Woodson saw time at safety, moving to cover the slot receiver on passing downs.
Rodgers overthrew Nelson on the Packers’ first play. But he found Nelson on a similar route two plays later, as Nelson leaped over cornerback Joe Haden and hauled down the ball.
Cleveland then put together a drive that stalled at the Green Bay 30. Dawson hit a 53-yard field goal to cut the Packers’ lead to 7-3.
Then the Packers committed a turnover, as cornerback Sheldon Brown stripped the ball from receiver Randall Cobb and Emmanuel Stephens recovered. Weeden couldn’t move the ball and Dawson hit a 47-yarder.
The Packers gave the ball back after a failed fourth-down conversion, and Weeden led a drive that included a 24-yard completion to Greg Little for first-and-goal on the 1. Hardesty scored up the middle, and the Browns took a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Notes: Late in the second quarter, Weeden took a big shot from cornerback Brandian Ross, who came in unblocked on a blitz. Weeden got up slowly but stayed in. ... The Packers were short-handed at running back, and Cedric Benson didn’t play after joining the team earlier in the week. ... Packers coach Mike McCarthy was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he threw a replay challenge flag after a turnover.