If you watch the NFL preseason at all, you should expect sloppy and disjointed play, penalties and turnovers. But Monday night, before a national audience on ESPN, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns combined to play a spectacularly sloppy, disjointed, penalty-filled preseason game, with Washington ending on top 24-23.
The teams combined for 21 penalties for 154 yards.
In what was billed as a marquee matchup between media darlings Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, the outcome was more affected by bottom of the depth-chart signal callers, as is usual for the second preseason game.
The first quarter, when both teams played with their starter, suffered flag after flag and three turnovers — and no scoring.
On the last play of the first quarter, Griffin hit a streaking Andre Roberts on a fly for 49 yards to put the first team offense into scoring position.
New head coach Jay Gruden stuck with his starters at the start of the second quarter in an effort to put a score on the board. Gruden called for three straight dive plays, challenging his offensive line to win the line of scrimmage and the one yard needed for the touchdown.
But on three straight attempts, the Browns line was up to the task. On fourth-and-one, Gruden called for an off-tackle left with Alfred Morris and the call on the field was ruled a touchdown. After review, however, it was ruled Morris’ hip had hit the ground before he crossed the goal line and the score was disallowed.
In three series, Griffin finished his night 6-for-9 for 112 yards and interception.
On the subsequent possession, the defense was able to hold the Johnny Manziel-led Browns and forced a punt. On the resulting drive, Kirk Cousins was able to move the second unit offense for a first down, but on a play-action pass as the series continued, he overthrew his receiver and it was picked off by T Gipson, who returned it to the Redskins 15-yard line.
Manziel went three-and-out, and Cleveland settled for Billy Cundiff nailing a 29-yard kick for to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.
As time was expiring in the half, Cousins found Santana Moss on a screen on third and long and the veteran gained 24 yards for the first down. Later, Cousins hit Even Royster on a circle route out of the backfield for 24 yards down to the Browns’ two-yard line, then two plays later he bullied his way into the end zone to make it 7-3 at the half.
Washington outgained Cleveland 241-84 in the first half.
On the first drive of the second half, the Redskins drove down the field on the legs of Silas Redd, then Cousins hit the impressive Ryan Grant on a fade from 15 yards out to make it 14-3.
The Browns got into the endzone early in the fourth quarter. A 16-play, 68 yard drive culminated with Manziel’s middle screen taken by Dion Lewis eight yards for the score.
On the ensuing possession, Jim Leonhard intercepted Colt McCoy’s first pass and took it 21 yards for a touchdown. After the kickoff, McCoy found Rashad Ross on a go route for 43 yards, but the drive stalled and the Redskins had to settle for a Kai Forbath 26-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.
McCoy then led the Redskins on a six-play, 56-yard drive, capped by his 30-yard touchdown pass to Nick Williams to break the tie.
Unfortunately, Browns fourth-string QB Connor Shaw heaved a 45-yard Hail Mary to Emmanuel Ogbuehi as time expired to draw Cleveland within one point, but the two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Redskins walked away with a 24-23 decision, mercifully avoiding overtime.