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Bears 21, Browns 7: Cleveland drops finale, goes winless in preseason and coach Hue Jackson quickly turns page to regular season

CLEVELAND -- As the 21-7 loss to the Chicago Bears and 0-4 preseason came to a close Thursday night

CLEVELAND — As the 21-7 loss to the Chicago Bears and 0-4 preseason came to a close Thursday night, first-year Browns coach Hue Jackson huddled with his best players on the sideline of a nearly empty FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Because it’s time,” Jackson said of his discussion with Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. “The grind starts now. What it’s truly all about starts next Sunday in Philadelphia.
“I want them to understand it’s going to take work, it’s going to take their leadership, their ability to rally their teammates to do what we need to do. We’re going to Philadelphia and we expect to win the game.”
Jackson needed no time to flip the switch after his second winless preseason in two attempts as a head coach. He recovered to go 8-8 with the Oakland Raiders in 2011, barely missing the playoffs before getting fired.
“It’s about putting our players in the best position to have success,” he said of the opener vs. the Eagles on Sept. 11. “It’s about finding a way to win, by any means necessary. And I think our players understand that.”
The finale was largely unwatchable, but the Browns checked off the top items on their to-do list. All except the elusive victory.
The first-team defense got a third-down stop to force a punt on its only series.
The starting offense took advantage of a third series — courtesy of a muffed punt – to end its preseason with a touchdown.
Rookie receiver Corey Coleman, the No. 15 pick, caught his first pass.
None of the key players got hurt.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III threw high to Coleman on third-and-4 to go three-and-out on the first drive. The offense picked up two first downs and got into Chicago territory on the next drive before right tackle Austin Pasztor allowed pressure and Griffin was forced to throw it away.
The night would’ve been over for the starting offense with an unsatisfactory outing against Bears backups. But returner BJ Daniels muffed the punt and Tank Carder recovered at the Chicago 18-yard line.
Griffin and Co. didn’t waste the golden opportunity and ended the preseason with a smile.
“I thought it was good for them to finish the drive with a touchdown,” Jackson said.
A 12-yard dump-off to running back Isaiah Crowell on third-and-7 picked up a first down, and Crowell (six rushes, 11 yards) ran in from 4 yards on third-and-goal. Griffin had tried fades into the end zone to receivers Terrelle Pryor and Josh Gordon, but both were defended well.
Griffin went 4-for-8 for 31 yards and a 59.9 rating. He wasn’t sacked and his long completion was the 12-yarder to Crowell — after five completions of at least 25 yards in the first three preseason games.
“I think he’s played good,” Jackson said of Griffin. “He hasn’t turned the ball over. That’s one of the keys to playing the position.”
Coleman’s only catch of the preseason went for 10 yards from No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown. Coleman later dropped a crossing route, and on the touchdown drive was yanked in favor of Gordon when he lined up wrong, forcing Jackson to use a timeout.
“I thought Corey battled tough tonight,” Jackson said. “There were a couple times that he came very close where we had a chance to get him, the ball went off his hands one time.
“But, yeah, I think I’ve seen enough. I know what Corey is. We’ll get all these guys ready to go come this week.”
On the other side of the ball, rookie linebacker/lineman Emmanuel Ogbah’s sack of former Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer ended the Bears’ opening drive after one first down. Rookie end Carl Nassib pressured Hoyer on the play and batted a pass to end Chicago’s second drive.
Quarterback Jay Cutler and the starting offense got the night off for the Bears.
Ogbah, the No. 32 pick, and Nassib, No. 65, have been the brightest spots on a defense that was torched on the ground and in the air in the first three losses.
The six days leading up to the finale were turbulent for the Browns. The starters were dominated by the Buccaneers in the “dress rehearsal,” then veteran outside linebacker Paul Kruger was cut and three-time Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee was traded for a fourth-round draft pick in 2018.
“It was good to get back out there and get the bad taste out of our mouths from last week because we didn’t play the way we wanted to,” Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge said.
The night had more than its share of forgettable moments that typify a preseason finale and had all watching (about 25,000 attended the game) looking toward the regular season.
The Browns defense was penalized for 12 men on the field on the goal line, then played the next snap with 10 when it couldn’t figure out the substitution. The Bears took advantage with a 1-yard touchdown run by Ka’Deem Carey for a 9-7 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Browns weren’t done with the math problems.
On the ensuing extra point try, they still had 10 players.
Before a late drive, the Browns had totaled minus-3 yards in 14 second-half plays with rookie quarterback Cody Kessler. He played the whole second half, going 10-for-17 for 40 yards with three sacks and a 63.6 rating. The third- and fourth-teamers managed 57 net yards in the second half.
Gordon saw his final action until Week 5, as he begins a four-game suspension Saturday. He caught three passes for 29 yards.
Kasey Redfern, who was acquired in a trade Monday, is in an abbreviated battle with left-footer Michael Palardy, who was signed Tuesday. Neither has punted in a regular-season game.
Palardy got the first kick and they alternated throughout the game. Palardy averaged 48.6 yards on five punts (44.6 net), with a long of 75, two inside the 20-yard line and a touchback. He had a 14-yard shank.
Redfern averaged 39.5 yards on four kicks (34.5 net), with a long of 52, one inside the 20 and a touchback. He had a 26-yard dud.
Jackson said neither performance was up to the Browns’ standards and they might continue the search for a punter.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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