MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland Browns refused to let a stunning midweek trade and widespread assumptions they’d given up on this season keep them from a late rally on the road for their first win.
They didn’t flinch after any of Hoyer’s three interceptions, either, against a Minnesota team in urgent need of a victory. Why would Hoyer be bothered by a little pressure, anyway? He grew up as a Browns fan, after all.
Jordan Cameron caught three touchdown passes in Hoyer’s second career start, including the go-ahead grab in the back of the end zone with 51 seconds left, and the Browns kept the Vikings winless with a 31-27 victory Sunday.
“We have a really resilient group,” Hoyer said, “and I think we showed that this week.”
Hoyer threw 54 passes, completing 30 for 321 yards. Josh Gordon’s return from a two-game suspension opened up the field, and the Vikings had little success stopping him. Hoyer targeted him 19 times, and he caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a score. The Browns didn’t miss running back Trent Richardson, who was dealt to Indianapolis, at all.
“We’re never going to quit. The guys in this room aren’t that way, and I’m not that way. It’s not even in our terminology,” said first-year coach Rob Chudzinski, who earned his first career win.
Here are five things we learned from Hoyer’s first win as a starter and Minnesota’s last home opener at the Metrodome:
1. PONDERING THE FUTURE: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Christian Ponder is still the starting quarterback, despite two more turnovers. His interception was turned into a touchdown in the second quarter, and his fumble at the Cleveland 16 on the last play of the first half cost the Vikings the chance to try a short field goal they could’ve used later.
Ponder finished 25 for 42 for 228 yards, making several on-target throws when he had to but misfiring again on too many. Ponder did run for 46 yards and two touchdowns, but hustle won’t be enough by itself to keep the job for the long term.
Ponder was booed several times, and a brief chant for backup quarterback Matt Cassel broke out.
“I think it was impossible not to hear them,” Ponder said. “We want to win just as bad as the fans.”
2. NO RUNNING ROOM: Richardson’s departure left Willis McGahee, Bobby Rainey and fullback Chris Ogbonnaya to fill the backfield, and they had little impact.
Cleveland’s best runs were a 34-yarder by Josh Aubrey on a fake punt that set up a field goal in a wild second quarter and a 22-yard reverse by Gordon to set up a touchdown on the previous possession. McGahee, who’s fourth among active players on the NFL’s career yards rushing list, gained 9 yards. He took eight handoffs.
3. STOUT FRONT SEVEN: Peterson had a hard time, too, against a Browns defense that is giving up 2.81 yards per rush. He finished with 88 yards and a touchdown but lost a fumble and never found any gains of 10 yards or more.
Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo had one of the six sacks, and inside linebacker Craig Robertson recovered Peterson’s fumble and tipped the ball that T.J. Ward intercepted in the second quarter.
4. BANGED UP: The Browns lost outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard and defensive end Billy Winn to knee injuries, and kicker Billy Cundiff had quadriceps trouble. The Browns failed to convert a fourth-and-4 at the Minnesota 37 midway through the third quarter, and they used punter Spencer Lanning to kick the last extra point. Lanning threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Cameron in the second quarter on a fake field goal.
For the Vikings, top cornerback Chris Cook was lost in the first quarter because of a groin injury. Safety Jamarca Sanford was missing in the second half because of a hamstring problem, and cornerback A.J. Jefferson hurt his ankle. Tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison didn’t suit up because of a hyperextended knee.
5. LONDON CALLING: The Vikings gave up a home date to play the NFL’s annual showcase in London, so their overseas flight on Monday night might feel a little longer after this ominous loss. The good news is they play Pittsburgh, one of the other five winless teams left in the league.
“The only thing we can do now is bounce back. We can’t let this direct us on a different path,” Peterson said.
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