Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer tosses a wrist band to fans after Cleveland beat the Vikings on Sunday. It was his first win as a starter in the NFL.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
BEREA, Ohio — After a quarterback change and blockbuster trade unsettled them and the outside world threatened to tear their young season apart, the Cleveland Browns pulled together.
They ignored all the rumors and focused on their jobs. They went to Minnesota, rallied in the fourth quarter behind a hometown hero and won.
A stunning week — from start to finish.
"Our guys showed a lot of toughness and determination," said Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, who notched his first win Sunday. "It wasn't always pretty, but our guys scrapped, fought, and found a way to win."
The Browns (1-2) were still bathing in the afterglow of their 31-27 win over the Vikings, a victory that came a few days after the team shook the NFL by trading star running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first-round draft pick. The deal came hours after Chudzinski selected third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer to start ahead of backup Jason Campbell for the injured Brandon Weeden, and wide receiver Greg Little being dropped from the starting lineup.
Those events could have rattled the Browns. Instead, it prompted resolve.
"Pretty resilient," tight end Jordan Cameron said. "We got together last week after the news about Trent, and we kind of came closer as a team. The team leaders talked to us about trusting this organization and where we're going as a team, and we did a good job of that.
"It was a huge week."
Chudzinski called two momentum-swinging trick plays, and Hoyer overcame three interceptions with three touchdown passes, the final one to Cameron with 51 seconds left.
But while the turbulence of last week has dissipated, there are still some unsettled issues.
Chudzinski said he has not yet decided whether to stick with Hoyer for this week's home game against Cincinnati or go back to Weeden, who lost his job because of a sprained right thumb.
While it would seem logical to stay with Hoyer, who finished 30 of 54 for 321 yards, the choice may not be that simple. If Weeden is healthy, Chudzinski would be setting a dangerous precedent if he decided to play Hoyer. Typically, starters do not lose their jobs because of injuries.
Chudzinski, who made several daring calls in Sunday's win, is facing the toughest one of his young career.
"I'm going to wait to make any determination on that until I have all the information," Chudzinski said. "That's how we did it last week. We'll look at it every week and make the best determination of who it is that's going to play that position, as well as any position."
Chudzinski said Weeden's sprained right thumb has improved, but the second-year QB hasn't thrown the ball since the fourth quarter vs. Baltimore on Sept. 15.
Making just his second career start, the 27-year-old Hoyer showed the poise and composure of a veteran who had done it dozens of times before.
"He was confident," Cameron said. "He said someone needed to make a play, and he kept looking at us, 'We got this. We got this.' He was awesome. He made the right reads, and he made great throws."
Chudzinski, too, was impressed.
"It was a gutsy performance," Chudzinski said. "He had some turnovers in the second half, a couple throws he'd like to have back, but that didn't faze him. When we needed to rise up to the occasion, on the last drive he was able to do that and make the plays ultimately that helped us win the game."
Receiver Josh Gordon's return from a two-game suspension certainly helped.
Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards, including a 47-yard TD in the first quarter. Gordon's performance came shortly after a national TV report claimed the Browns were fielding trade offers for him and Little.
Chudzinski, though, was adamant the team has no intention of trading either player.
"We have no plans on any other trades," said Chudzinski, who doesn't feel the need to discuss it with the receivers. "We have no plan on doing that. If there was an issue, I would talk to them. The things that are out there that people say, the rumors, the things that people swirl around are just all noise.
"The reality is what's in that team meeting room."
NOTES: Chudzinski gave no specifics on injuries to LB Jabaal Sheard (sprained knee), DE Billy Winn (strained quadriceps), and kicker Billy Cundiff (quadriceps). He will have an update Wednesday. Cundiff said he got hurt on the fourth kickoff, but is optimistic he'll be ready. ... Chudzinski said there were no immediate plans to bring in another kicker.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.