Browns backups finish up productive week in Indianapolis with 21-18 win

Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for 850 ESPN Cleveland.


Instant takeaways from Browns’ 21-18 preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts

1. Happy trails: It’s hard to imagine a better week for Freddie Kitchens’ team. They won in the ring, won on the practice field, and then won inside Lucas Oil Stadium. With their biggest stars sitting out the practice game -- including Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry -- the Browns completed a sweep of the three days of work against the Indianapolis Colts with a 21-18 victory, raising Kitchens’ lifetime record to 2-0 in the preseason. So the Browns returned home from the cornfields of Indiana with … what, a backup quarterback controversy? Not really. Even though Garrett Gilbert was really good in his starting assignment – producing two touchdowns and a missed field goal in five possessions behind four different offensive line combinations – his work probably only secured his roster spot rather than threatened Stanton for the top backup job. The other mover-and-shaker in this exhibition was D.J. Montgomery, the undrafted receiver from Austin Peay, who had three catches for 77 yards and drew two interference penalties in surprising playing time ahead of Derrick Willies. Another offensive standout was running back D’Ernest Johnson, who relieved Kareem Hunt and accounted for 79 total yards and a 6-yard TD catch.

2. Gilbert impressive: Gilbert – who will go down in history as the greatest QB in Alliance of American Football history (eight games) – showed poise, exceptional arm strength and excellent accuracy on his touchdown drives of 64 and 75 yards. He finished 13 of 19 for 151 yards, was sacked only once when he had no chance to escape, and left with a passer rating of 127.3. His touchdowns were to Jaelen Strong from 4 yards and Johnson from 6. Gilbert hooked up four times with Rashard Higgins (for 34 yards), but really found a connection with Montgomery, who recovered nicely from an early drop.

3. Line shuffling: Kitchens experimented with some new offensive line configurations. The first series was basically the starting unit with Eric Kush at right guard. The offense got one first down and then had to punt after Montgomery’s drop. The second series had Greg Robinson at left tackle, Kyle Kalis at left guard, Kush at center, Drew Forbes at right guard and Kendall Lamm at right tackle. This unit produced a three-and-out, including a 10-yard sack of Gilbert. The third series featured Lamm at left tackle, Forbes at left guard, Austin Corbett at center, Kush at right guard and Brad Seaton at right tackle. That line produced a 64-yard touchdown drive in seven plays, aided by a 25-yard pass interference penalty. Gilbert finished it off with a 4-yard TD to Strong alone at the back line of the end zone. The same line was intact for the fourth series, and another touchdown was produced. Johnson had a 15-yard run and a 6-yard TD from Gilbert. Montgomery had a 32-yard catch on a good throw by Gilbert over cornerback Marvel Tell.

4. Call it a night: Pleased with the extent and quality of work by his starters in the two joint practices this week, Kitchen gave his most prominent starters the night off. Everyone dressed and participated in warmups, but the following were among the healthy regulars who did not play: Mayfield, Landry, Nick Chubb, and Myles Garrett. Odell Beckham Jr., David Njoku and Denzel Ward did not practice in the joint sessions and were also out of the game.

5. Scottish Boomer: Jamie Gillan, aka Scottish Hammer, came on for the Browns’ second punt of the game. He uncorked a bomb that sailed over returner Chester Rogers’ head, bounced two times and was downed at the 10 – for a whopping gross, and net, punt of 74 yards. Gillan's second effort went for 45 yards.

6. Triumphant return: No. 4 quarterback David Blough received cheers at practice and in the game from Indiana natives appreciative of his career at Purdue. Blough, who doesn’t receive a lot of reps in practice, put together a nice touchdown drive to start the second half. Blough executed a nice play-fake and fired to Willies for a 4-yard touchdown.

7. The save: In the second quarter, linebacker Genard Avery made a touchdown-saving tackle of Jonathan Williams. On a third-and-1 carry, Williams scampered through traffic and into the Browns’ secondary. Avery chased Williams from behind and tripped him up at the ankles with a dive, otherwise it would have been an 83-yard TD run.

8. Kicking update: Austin Seibert made both of his PAT opportunities, but missed a 52-yard field goal try to the left. Greg Joseph made a PAT but missed wide right on a field goal try of 53 yards at the end of the first half. And so it goes.

9. Bang for his buck: Undrafted safety and special team terror J.T. Hassell had an interesting sequence on a Browns punt in the third quarter. Hassell drew one penalty for running out of bounds and coming back in without being touched and then drew a personal foul for using his helmet to plant returner Nyheim Hines into the turf with a vicious hit.

10: Ugly: All in all, it was a reminder how difficult-to-watch preseason games can be. With so many backups in, this had the feel of a fourth preseason game, not the second. The teams combined for 29 penalties. The Colts played most of their starters on offense and defense through the first quarter – minus offensive stalwarts Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Quentin Nelson. The Colts’ touchdowns came on a 12-yard catch by tight end Eric Ebron from Jacoby Brissett and a 24-yard catch by tight end Ross Travis from Chad Kelly. Kelly then passed for a two-point conversion.