Fans favor Holcomb in scrimmage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 3, 2003

CLEVELAND -- Browns fans appear to have made their choice at quarterback after just one preseason scrimmage.

Chants of ''KEL-LY, KEL-LY'' filled Cleveland Browns Stadium on Saturday as Kelly Holcomb seemed to outshine Tim Couch in a scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills.

More than 37,000 showed up to weigh in on this sports-crazed town's most heated topic.

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Even Bills linebacker London Fletcher, who grew up in Cleveland and still roots for the Browns, had an opinion.

''I thought Holcomb looked a lot better today,'' Fletcher said.

Cleveland ''won'' the scrimmage 18-6. Travis Henry had a short touchdown run for Buffalo's only score.

Couch had a rough showing against the Bills' first-team defense, fumbling a snap and getting tagged for a sack.

''We got off to a little bit of a slow start,'' Couch said.

Holcomb looked sharp in the Browns' second offensive series -- but was playing against what was primarily the Bills second-team defense.

Holcomb and Browns coach Butch Davis didn't notice who was on the field for the Bills, but Couch certainly did.

''I was thinking, I hope they don't put in the ones when I go in with the twos,'' Couch said laughing.

Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who made the best of a quarterback controversy in New England, noticed as well.

''It was unfortunate for Tim that he came out and was up against our first-team defense and Kelly comes out on the field and our number twos were out there,'' he said. ''They both threw the ball very well.''

Couch also heard the crowd's chants after Holcomb completed three straight passes to Kevin Johnson, including a 20-yard touchdown.

''I know these fans just want a winner,'' Couch said. ''They want a team that's going to go to a championship and win football games. Me and Kelly both want to be the guy to do that.''

Couch finished the day 8-for-13 for 79 yards and a touchdown. Holcomb was 12-for-16 for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Davis said that Couch was throwing with more velocity than he'd ever seen, but had little else to say about the quarterback competition.

Buffalo, which revamped its defense with the additions of defensive tackle Sam Adams and former Cincinnati linebacker Takeo Spikes, forced several fumbles, got a few sacks and completely shut down Cleveland's running game.

''Defensively we really swarmed the ball well -- the pass rush was better,'' Bills coach Gregg Williams said. ''But this was a practice; you have to do it in a game.''

Last year, Buffalo's offense carried the Bills. If the defense keeps playing like they did Saturday, the offense will have a much easier time, Bledsoe said.

''They looked pretty strong today,'' Bledsoe said. ''It looked like the Browns had some trouble getting back to the line with their running game.''

Offensively, both Henry and Olandis Gary ran the ball well, exposing some weak tackling by the Browns. Bledsoe was sacked by Gerard Warren and threw an interception to Anthony Henry when he faced the Browns' first-team defense.

''We moved the ball down the field,'' Bledsoe said. ''We have got to avoid the mistakes. I think we did some good things. We established that we can run the ball.''

William Green and James Jackson failed to move the ball for Cleveland, averaging less than 2 yards per carry. Jamel White missed the scrimmage with a pulled hamstring.

''I know we're capable of running the football better than we did today,'' Davis said.

Guard Barry Stokes said he wasn't concerned with the poor showing.

''We'll get it done when it counts,'' he said.

Couch led the Browns to a touchdown against the Bills' second team, hitting Marc Soumah with a 15-yard pass.

Holcomb had a second touchdown pass on a 15-yard strike to undrafted free agent C.J. Jones, who made the most of his playing time while second-year receiver Andre Davis sat out with a knee injury.

Despite the praise, Holcomb was low-key and diplomatic about the quarterback competition.

''All of us did a pretty good job today,'' he said.