It may not have been pretty, but Browns head coach Eric Mangini praised his team following their 13-10 preseason win over the Chicago Bears. In a game that featured more reserves than would-be starters, an d not a whole lot of scoring, it was the team’s lack of quitting that inspired glowing remarks from the second-year head coach.
“The thing I was most happy with in the game was the way that we finished,” said Mangini. ”Going into the second half and out-gaining them 181 yards to 59, that’s what we are looking for, to be able to come out at halftime and have that type of offensive production and that type of defensive production.”
At halftime Mangini said a lot of the second-half focus would be on working the ground game. And thanks to running back James Davis – stepping in for Montario Hardesty who left with an injury earlier in the contest – the team was able to do so via his 66 yards on 15 carries. Davis also showed some versatility by catching two passes that resulted in 26 yards.
And while Davis definitely did not hurt his status with the team after his Thursday night performance of making defenders miss and showing plenty of explosion following a lost rookie season, the majority of focus will be shifted towards the man he replaced a lot sooner than coaches would have likely preferred. After being the key member of the Browns sole touchdown drive, Montario Hardesty appeared to injure his left knee on a run play that ultimately resulted in the rookie running back walking off of the field and into the training room from where he would not return.
Hardesty missed the majority of the preseason up to this week with an injury sustained to his right knee. After a short week of practice, the team and the player both felt that the rookie was ready to take on the load of a full-contact game. It was a decision that was made from the top down, with Mangini stating that he had conversations with team president Mike Holmgren leading up to the game and both parties felt that Thursday night would be as good of a time as any for the rookie running back to get live repetitions.
Montario will reportedly undergo more tests on Friday morning, including an MRI, leading to more information as the team heads into their Week 1 game in Tampa Bay. He finished Thursday night’s game with 25 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Fellow rookie Colt McCoy fared a bit better on the night, completing all 13 of his pass attempts. In what looked like an evening primed for disaster after a first snap fumble and a failed third-and-one attempt on the next drive, McCoy settled in by averaging 10.1 yards per completion and even earning a first down with his feet. McCoy admitted that the game was frustrating in the onset, but once things slowed down, he was able to add a few more chapters to this season of learning.
“I really felt like we got in a groove and really moved the ball pretty efficiently,” McCoy said. “I would have liked to score some more points, but just to be able to play in a game and get a rhythm going, get a feel for defenses and the guys I’m playing with, that part was really good.”
McCoy finished the contest with a passer rating of 108.7, easily the best outing of his young career.
“I still have a long ways to go, I’ll tell you that,” McCoy said. “But I do feel like this capped it off pretty well. I think just being in the huddle, leading the guys, calling the plays, being in a drive and being in a rhythm in the first half, I thought that was really good.”
All in all, the Browns finished the night with twice as many first downs (20) as the Bears (10). Though Coach Mangini was frustrated with some of the third-down plays, the Browns converted on six of their 13 attempts while holding the Bears to 2-of-12. On the ground, thanks to Hardesty and Davis, the Browns topped the Bears 122-58 while holding their Mike Martz-led passing offense to a mere 168 yards.
The team will be forced to cut the rosters down to 53 players come this Saturday, at time of the season which Eric Mangini deemed very difficult.
“There are a lot of good people in that locker room and unfortunately, we can’t keep them all,” said Mangini. ”It’s one of those things where I want you to know how much I appreciate the hard work that they put in and that whether they are with us on the 53, on the practice squad or they move on, that I am going to be there to help them.”
(Photos by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)