CLEVELAND (AP) — Brian Hoyer drove Cleveland’s starting offense to a rare preseason touchdown before turning things over to rookie Johnny Manziel in the Browns’ 33-13 exhibition win over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
Hoyer and Cleveland’s offensive starters needed a boost after struggling in the preseason as they learn a new system. Hoyer went 6 of 8 for 69 yards on the opening drive against Chicago’s backups before Ben Tate scored on a 1-yard run.
It was just the second TD for Cleveland’s first-team offense this summer and a confidence builder for Hoyer, who barely beat out Manziel for the starting job.
Manziel threw a TD pass, finished 6 of 17 for 83 yards, ran for 55 and did some typical Johnny Football improvising.
Bears wide receiver Santonio Holmes caught a 32-yard TD pass from rookie David Fales and returned a punt 30. Holmes only signed with the Bears on Aug. 16.
Rookie running back Isaiah Crowell had a 48-yard TD and finished with 102 for the Browns (1-3). Billy Cundiff made four field goals.
Browns coach Mike Pettine had little choice but to play his starters in the fourth preseason game following a horrific performance in a loss to St. Louis.
Hoyer and Cleveland’s offense were desperate for a positive of any kind with the season opener against Pittsburgh just 10 days away. And although the early TD came against Chicago’s second- and third-stringers, the first unit’s 13-play, 85-yard march was something to build upon.
On Wednesday, the Browns learned they’ll be without Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, suspended for the season for another violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Cleveland loses its best player and only deep threat.
The Browns could be forced to trade for a wide receiver. But Nate Burleson should help. He played for the first time in the preseason and caught a 27-yarder from Manziel, who was at his Johnny Football finest on the play in the second quarter.
Manziel danced around in the backfield, dodging several Bears before throwing a strike to Burleson, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury. That play set up Manziel’s 1-yard toss to tight end Jim Dray.
Bears coach Marc Trestman rested starting quarterback Jay Cutler and backup Jimmy Clausen, giving Fales, a sixth-round pick from San Jose State, a chance to convince the Bears they should carry three QBs.
Fales made a good case for himself, finishing 13 of 24 for 146 yards.
Holmes is trying to catch on with the Bears after four turbulent seasons with the Jets. He was released in March following two sub-par, injury-plagued seasons. The 2009 Super Bowl MVP with Pittsburgh hasn’t played a complete season since 2011, and made just 43 receptions in the past two seasons.
Holmes, 30, showed he’s still got some breakaway speed on his TD grab. He hauled in a short pass from Fales, spun away from two Cleveland defenders, including rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert, and scampered into the end zone untouched for a 10-7 lead.
Bears rookie running back Jordan Lynch, a star quarterback at Northern Illinois, had 18 yards on six carries. He’s a long shot to make Chicago’s 53-man roster.
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