GREEN BAY, Wis. — Eliminating major mistakes was the top priority for Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The big plays, presumably, will come in time.
Weeden showed improvement in his second preseason game, avoiding some of the trouble he found last week as the Cleveland Browns beat the Green Bay Packers 35-10 at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
Weeden said he’s making progress.
“I think so,” Weeden said. “You’ve got to keep in mind last week was my first-ever start in the NFL and it’s just like a true freshman going into college and it’s an even bigger jump coming up here. I didn’t get down on myself about the way things went last week and I just want to go out and get better and I did that.”
Aaron Rodgers looked sharp in limited action, but backup quarterback Graham Harrell was shaky for the Packers.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t thrilled with an 0-2 start in the preseason — especially as he watched his team turn over the ball.
“It’s something that needs to stop,” McCarthy said. “There’s no excuse for that.”
Weeden, a first-round pick out of Oklahoma State who already has been chosen the Browns’ starter, played the first half and was 12 of 20 for 118 yards.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the Packers’ defensive pressure was a good test for Weeden after he faced mostly a four-man rush against Detroit.
“Today we played against a lot of pressure. So those are two different feels of the way the game goes, and I think Brandon got a chance to go through that.”
Browns kicker Phil Dawson hit three field goals, including a pair from 50-plus yards. Dawson missed a 56-yarder just before halftime for Cleveland (No. 30 in the AP Pro32).
Rodgers threw a 20-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson on his first series for the Packers (No. 1).
The reigning NFL MVP stayed in for two more series, completing 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards. He also had a 21-yard scramble and took a hard hit on another rushing attempt.
Rodgers said he was happy with the protection he got from the offensive line, which welcomed back left tackle Marshall Newhouse this week after an extended absence because of a concussion.
But with the Packers short-handed at running back, Rodgers didn’t like seeing he and Harrell as the team’s leading rushers.
“We need to run the ball a little bit better,” Rodgers said.
Harrell took over early in the second quarter and struggled, completing 12 of 24 passes for 100 yards with two interceptions. Harrell, the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback last year, is trying to prove he can become Rodgers’ primary backup after Matt Flynn signed with Seattle in the offseason.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Graham,” Rodgers said. “We’re not worried about him.”
He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by safety David Sims in the third quarter, although a receiver fell down on the play as Harrell threw the ball under pressure. With Sims’ touchdown, the Browns led 23-7. Harrell’s other interception was on a desperation attempt at the end of the first half, and Rodgers referred to both interceptions as “hard luck.”
“For one reason or another, just couldn’t finish drives,” Harrell said. “It’s unfortunate. We’ve got to be more consistent and finish drives when we have the opportunities to. I think that’s kind of how it went.”
Former Packers running back Brandon Jackson added a 1-yard touchdown in the third period, putting the Browns up 30-7.
Harrell then was called for intentional grounding in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, a safety that put the Browns up 32-7.
The Packers have been beset by injuries early in the preseason. Already having potentially lost inside linebacker Desmond Bishop for the season because of a hamstring injury, they ruled 18 players out for Thursday’s game. That included Greg Jennings, still recovering from a concussion sustained in an Aug. 3 scrimmage.
The Packers’ new-look defense got off to a strong start when Charles Woodson stripped the ball from running back Montario Hardesty on the first play from scrimmage. Casey Hayward recovered to give the ball back to the Packers on the Cleveland 23-yard line. As expected, Woodson saw time at safety, moving to cover the slot receiver on passing downs.
Rodgers overthrew Nelson on the Packers’ first play. But he found Nelson on a similar route two plays later, as Nelson leaped over cornerback Joe Haden and hauled down the ball.
Notes: Late in the second quarter, Weeden took a big shot from cornerback Brandian Ross, who came in unblocked on a blitz. Weeden got up slowly but stayed in. ... Cedric Benson didn’t play after joining the Packers earlier in the week. ... McCarthy was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he threw a replay challenge flag after a turnover. McCarthy said the call was correct, but seemed to be hoping for better communication with the replacement referee crew.