Browns QB Jacoby Brissett will take emotional win, weird spike and all: 'What happened?'
BEREA — Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. couldn't resist joking about Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett becoming emotional after Sunday's 26-24, season-opening win over the Carolina Panthers.
It was merely Week 1, though Brissett certainly isn't taking his opportunity to start for the Browns (1-0) amid Deshaun Watson's 11-game suspension for granted.
“It was just an emotional game,” said Brissett, who improved to 15-23 as an NFL starter.
Brissett will be behind center again in Sunday's home opener against the New York Jets (0-1) at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“A lot of room for improvement,” Brissett said, adding he's “looking forward to that challenge this week.”
Brissett completed 18 of 34 passes (52.9%) for 147 yards and a touchdown without an interception for a rating of 74 in the opener. The numbers weren't stellar, and the team leaned on its defense and running game. Yet Brissett did his part to help the Browns position themselves in the waning moments for rookie kicker Cade York's game-winning, 58-yard field goal with eight seconds left to play.
“That's big-time football right there,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “[Brissett] can be better, but really, really proud of how he finished that game.”
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The clutch drive began with 1:13 remaining and the Browns out of timeouts. A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty called on Panthers defensive end Brian Burns moved the Browns to their own 40-yard line. After a 2-yard loss on a pass to running back Kareem Hunt, Brissett connected with wide receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Amari Cooper for 13 and 9 yards, respectively. Brissett then pumped the ball and hesitated for a split second before spiking it at the Carolina 40 with 13 seconds left.
The officials threw a flag, and the Panthers wanted intentional grounding called, but no penalty was doled out. Intentional grounding would have resulted in a 10-second runoff and made York's 58-yard field goal a 68-yard attempt.
“What happened?” Brissett said when asked if he got away with something. “I'm going off what the ref says.”
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Stefanski conceded there is gray area.
“I think Jacoby knew what he was trying to do,” he said, “and I think the officials ruled what they ruled.”
Brissett and Stefanski also agreed the quarterback will be able to better distribute the ball moving forward. Peoples-Jones had six catches on 11 targets for a team-high 60 yards. Hunt had four catches on four targets for 24 yards, and Cooper added three catches on six targets for 17 yards. Tight end David Njoku was targeted just once and caught the pass for 7 yards.
“Jacoby, he’s going to keep working, and it’s going to get better as the games keep going on,” Hunt said. “That was the first one. We left a lot of yards out there, and we made a few mistakes, so we’re going to keep getting better.”
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Brissett's preseason action was limited to the first half of the exhibition finale against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 27.
“We won [the opener], so I don't think we should rewrite [the preseason],” he said.
But Brissett threw off target on deep balls intended for Cooper and Hunt.
“Getting more repetitions [is the key],” Brissett said. “That was probably our first time in-game live action. Can't miss those obviously, but something we're going to work on.”
Brissett also noted he's on the same page with Cooper more than most people think because the four-time Pro Bowl receiver “got held on like three” of their missed opportunities.
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At the same time, Brissett knows the passing attack must be more potent, and it starts with his individual performance.
“A lot of the things that halted us was our communication, our fundamentals and technique and things that had nothing to do with the opposing team but everything to do with us,” he said. “This week is to clean those things up.
“I assume that it'll be a much better, cleaner game from our standpoint. We addressed a lot of the problems that caused a lot of those communication errors and those things.”
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Everyone knows learning from a win is better feeling than the alternative.
“I know the work [Brissett does] to put us in positions to win and put himself in position to be ready when his number's called,” said Walker, who previously played with Brissett in Indianapolis. “Obviously, [in his] career, a lot of ups and downs for him. Just happy that he's able to find a way to put one in the win column.
“I've always been 0-1 since I've been in the NFL. To get that first win is pretty crucial, and I think that's another emotional aspect of it for him.”
Winning a season opener for the first time since 2004 and one on the road for the first time since 1994 is obviously significant for the entire Browns organization.
And Brissett will take it.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.
On Twitter: @ByNateUlrich.