Browns struggle but beat winless Raiders
CLEVELAND (AP) — Brian Hoyer didn’t jump into the Dawg Pound or celebrate on the field.
He had somewhere else in mind.
After throwing a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, Cleveland’s quarterback immediately ran to the sideline eager to include defensive teammates Donte Whitner and Joe Haden in the fun. After all, they were the ones who made it possible.
“No one cares who gets credit for a win,” Hoyer said following Cleveland’s 23-13 victory over Oakland. “We just want to win.”
One week after a humiliating loss, the Browns (4-3) weren’t going to be embarrassed again.
Hoyer threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Hawkins early in the fourth period, shortly after safety Whitner’s big hit on Oakland running back Darren McFadden forced a fumble that was caught in the air by Haden and returned 34 yards.
Once he hit Hawkins, Hoyer, who bounced back from the worst game of his career, headed to the bench and slapped hands with Whitner and Haden.
“I was just pumped up,” Hoyer said. “We finally got a touchdown off one of their turnovers and to finally capitalize on something the defense did felt good. I wanted to make sure I celebrated with those guys.”
The Browns matched their win total from last season. They also dodged what would have been an historic loss. Cleveland fell at Jacksonville last week, giving the Jaguars their first win. According to STATS, no team in NFL history has lost consecutive games to winless teams in Week 7 or later.
It was hardly a perfect performance, but the Browns, held to 39 yards rushing and able to convert only 2 of 12 third downs, will take it.
“You’re not always going to win, and it’s not always going to be pretty,” Hoyer said. “But sometimes you have to win the game that way, and we were able to, and it took a total team effort.”
Ben Tate’s 5-yard run, set up by rookie quarterback Derek Carr’s fumble, put the Browns ahead 23-6 with 2:26 left.
Hoyer finished 19 of 28 for 275 yards and no interceptions. He quieted the growing calls for the Browns to switch to rookie Johnny Manziel — for at least another week.
“Good enough to win,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said, assessing Hoyer’s game. “He made the plays when he needed to make them.”
The Raiders have lost 13 straight dating to last season. Oakland has dropped 16 games in a row played in the Eastern time zone — a streak that started in 2009.
“Anytime you come out on the road and you turn the ball over three times, you’re not going to win,” interim coach Tony Sparano said. “You’re not going to win anywhere.”
Carr showed poise and his powerful arm in completing 34 of 54 passes for 328 yards and a TD with 7 seconds left.
Cleveland’s Billy Cundiff kicked field goals of 52, 33 and 26 yards. Sebastian Janikowski made two field goals for the Raiders, who haven’t won since Nov. 17, 2013, at Houston.
Cleveland’s defense saved the Browns.
With Oakland down 9-6 and driving, Whitner came up with his biggest play since joining his hometown Browns. McFadden broke free for a 9-yard run when Whitner delivered his hit at the Cleveland 20. Haden returned it to the Oakland 47.
“I lost sight of the ball and the next thing I know I see Joe running towards me,” Pettine said. “I heard the crowd, so I knew something good happened.”
On the next play, Hoyer found Hawkins for a 32-yard gain. Three plays later, Hoyer rolled left and threw his TD pass to the undersized wide receiver, who had seven catches for 88 yards.
Already sputtering, the Browns’ offense, missing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, lost Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron to a concussion.
Cameron was injured when he was struck in the head by safety Brandian Ross while making a diving catch for 21 yards. Ross was assessed a personal foul for his blow to a defenseless receiver.
Early on, Cleveland’s main problem was an inability to finish drives. Twice the Browns moved the ball inside the Oakland 20, but settled for Cundiff’s 3-pointers.
But the Browns had enough to win.
“A lot people only picked us to win four games this whole year,” Hoyer said. “It doesn’t matter how we win, grind it out or a shootout, as a team we’re starting to really come together.”
NOTES: Cleveland is 4-3 for the first time since 2007. … Browns DB K’Waun Williams sustained a neck injury in the first half and didn’t return. He recently missed time with a concussion. … Browns DL John Hughes will undergo an MRI on his injured knee Monday.