Derek Anderson was solid against the Lions, leading Cleveland to an offensive touchdown for the first time in seven games.
Mark Duncan / AP Enlarge
CLEVELAND - Derek Anderson's strong outing against the Lions set up a showdown for the starting quarterback job Saturday night at home against the Tennessee Titans in a preseason game.
"We'll keep rolling along and move into next week and see where it goes,' said coach Eric Mangini after Saturday's 27-10 victory over Detroit.
Of course, Mangini probably won't name his starter for the Titans game until an hour before kickoff again, but if he continues his current rotation, Brady Quinn will get the nod. That would also keep things even with each quarterback getting a start at home and one on the road.
So if he does start Quinn, it doesn't necessarily mean he's won the job - just that he's next in the batting order. In the fourth game, Sept. 3 in Chicago, the starters play only about a series, making the Titans game all the more crucial.
But regardless of who starts against Tennessee, there'll be plenty of quality reps to the go around. The starters usually play through the third quarter in the third preseason game, meaning Mangini can get a good look at both guys against a formidable defense.
The Titans finished second in the NFL with 14.6 points allowed last season, second only to Pittsburgh's 13.9. Of course, they're minus star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who's coaching the Lions, but the unit will provide a much stiffer test than the Lions' defense did.
Detroit, en route to an 0-16 record, finished last in the NFL in total defense and last with 32.3 points allowed. So yes, Anderson had a good game, but like Quinn the week before in Green Bay, it must be somewhat tempered by the quality of the opposition. Green Bay was without at least three defensive starters on Quinn's first drive, and he worked against mostly second-teamers on his solid two-minute drill. Neither quarterback faced the kind of pressure or gameplanning they will in the regular season.
Still, they both fared well for the most part in their starts to keep the race in a dead heat.
"That's obviously showing the competitive spirit in both of us," said Quinn. "We've both been trying to push each other, and in the end that's going to make us both better and our team better."
Anderson, who was written off by most outside observers after the Green Bay game, rallied to make it a contest.
"Who said there was pressure?" he said with a smile. "I was given an opportunity, and I wanted to take advantage of it. I wouldn't say I put any more pressure on myself than I do any other week. I was happy to go out there and play well when I was in."
Playing with all the moxie he had in 2007, Anderson came out flinging it and kept it up. He started with a 24-yard dart over the middle to Mohamed Massaquoi and followed that with completions of 20 yards to Josh Cribbs on third down, 34 yards to Braylon Edwards, and 20 yards to Steve Heiden - all in the first quarter.
By the time the period was over, he had completed 6-of-9 attempts for 119 yards and a 109.7 rating. It wasn't until he returned for the two-minute drill at the end of the half that the luster wore off. He completed two short passes to rookie James Davis and then Davis dropped his third offering in the left flat. Anderson checked down to him a fourth time, with a high pass that glanced off the rookie's hands and into those of Detroit's William James to set up a field goal as the half expired. The pick dropped Anderson's final rating to 63.0.
"I've just got to give J.D. a little better ball there," said Anderson. "But I think things went well. I got into a little bit of a rhythm. Obviously completing the ball to Massaquoi to start the game was good, and those guys caught the ball very well. When we get going like that where guys get lathered up and coach just starts calling plays, it's a good feeling."
Anderson said the confidence he displayed in the game is the way he's been playing all camp.
"I've been feeling good about everything," he said. "I just kind of tried to stay doing the same things I've been doing since the start of camp, getting in and out of the huddle and making sure everyone knows what's going on. It's something for us to build on."
Quinn's two-plus drives were marred by protection problems and penalties against right tackle John St. Clair. He was sacked on his first play of the second quarter after stepping in for Anderson on a 3rd-and-1 and tried to overcome penalties on his next two drives. He was also drilled while trying to get the ball deep to Edwards. Quinn completed 3-of-5 attempts for 29 yards, including a perfect 24-yard strike over the middle to rookie Brian Robiskie.
"I think it went well, but we had some penalties there which stopped a couple drives and put us in some unfortunate circumstances," said Quinn. "Those are things we're still trying to work out. But again, I didn't have as many reps as last week so you just try to do the best you can with what you have to work with."
But has he done enough to win the job?
"That's something for coach Mangini when that time comes," he said.