Browns’ QB derby too close to call

Published 2:52 am Monday, August 24, 2009

CLEVELAND — Derek Anderson looked worthy of being a No. 1 quarterback. Rookie Matthew Stafford hardly looked like a No. 1 pick.

Anderson led Cleveland to its first offensive touchdown in seven games and stayed tight with Brady Quinn in their too-close-to-call quarterback competition, helping the Browns beat Stafford and the Detroit Lions 27-10 in their home exhibition opener on Saturday night.

‘‘I thought things went well,’’ said Anderson, who got the start after coming off the bench at Green Bay last week. ‘‘I played all right. I made some good throws and a couple I wish I could have back. It was an opportunity and I was happy to go out there and play well while I was in.’’

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Joshua Cribbs had an 84-yard TD punt return in the first half as the Browns (1-1) built a 20-0 lead. Rookie James Davis added an 81-yard TD run and 116 yards on 12 carries for Cleveland.

After backing up Quinn in a 17-0 loss to the Packers, Anderson started with the first team and finished 8 of 13 for 130 yards with one interception. The former Pro Bowler made several strong throws, and, as usual, a few bad ones. Re-inserted by coach Eric Mangini to run a 2-minute drill, Anderson threw his pick in the final seconds of the first half, leading to three points for Detroit.

Quinn came in during the second quarter and was sacked on his first play. He went only 3 of 5 for 29 yards.

Mangini was asked if he has a clearer picture about his quarterback dilemma.

‘‘I’m really not going to assess it that way now,’’ Mangini said. ‘‘We’ll keep rolling along and move into next week and see where it goes.’’

Stafford, selected first by Detroit in April’s draft, threw an interception on Detroit’s first play and went 5 of 13 for 34 yards. He also overthrew a wide-open Adam Jennings for a potential TD in the first half.

‘‘That’s what football is,’’ Stafford said. ‘‘You’ll play good some weeks and bad some weeks. The tough part about preseason is you get your allotted amount of plays. You can have a bad 25 plays and not get a chance to come back and fix it and make it right in the second half.’’

Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who inherited a team that went 0-16 last season, also has yet to settle on a starting QB. Daunte Culpepper, competing with Stafford, went 10 of 16 for 86 yards.

The Lions made plenty of mistakes: turnovers, penalties, dropped passes. Schwartz also had to deal with a pregame fight between tight end Carson Butler and defensive end Dewayne White, who tangled during warmups.

‘‘I’ve never seen that before,’’ Schwartz said. ‘‘The thing I like about it is they were competitive and going hard. I came in and said, ’Some of y’all thought the game started at 7 o’clock instead of 7:30.’ Obviously that’s something that shouldn’t happen and it’s already been addressed.’’

White hasn’t put the skirmish behind him yet.

‘‘We’ll probably have to go at it one more time when we’re not playing a game — next week sometime,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s going to be bad blood between us.’’

Anderson was on the field for just five snaps last week. He quickly led the Browns to their first offensive TD since Nov. 17 on the opening drive — a 5-yard run by Jamal Lewis. It was Cleveland’s first TD since Jerome Harrison scampered 72 yards at Buffalo in Week 10 last season.

Anderson was 3 of 4 for 58 yards on the drive, which began after Cribbs’ 95-yard, game-opening kickoff return for a TD was nullified by holding.

Stafford gave the ball right back to Cleveland, throwing an interception on his first pass. He rolled right, locked onto receiver Adam Jennings and never noticed cornerback Eric Wright, who picked him off and returned it inside Detroit’s 10. Wright, though, was penalized for excessive celebration — he tried to leap into the Dawg Pound — and Cleveland had to settle for Phil Dawson’s 33-yard field goal.

Cribbs then made it 17-0 with his electrifying return. He made four cuts while working his way to the left sideline, eluded linebacker Darnell Bing with a stiff arm near midfield and streaked into the end zone.

Dawson’s 34-yard kick gave the Browns a 20-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Lions finally got on the board in the closing seconds before halftime. Anderson’s dump-off pass was too high for Davis, who let the ball bounce off his hands to cornerback William James. Rookie kicker Swayze Waters then booted a 51-yard field goal as time expired.

Waters filled in for 17-year veteran Jason Hanson, who had a surgical procedure last week on his knee. The Lions expect Hanson to be ready for the regular season.

Detroit’s Drew Stanton threw a 20-yard TD pass to Butler in the third quarter to make it 20-10.

But Davis, a sixth-round pick from Clemson who has had an impressive camp, broke a tackle and went in to give Cleveland a 17-point lead. David said it was the longest run of his football career.

‘‘I knew I had one guy to make miss and then I was off to the races,’’ he said.