Left for dead and nationally ridiculed after trading away their best player this week, the Cleveland Browns were seen as easy pickings for a Minnesota Vikings squad hoping to prove that last year's playoff campaign was no fluke.
Nothing went as planned.
Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, replacing the injured Brandon Weeden, generated 24 first-half points and engineered an 11-play, 55-yard touchdown drive that sealed Cleveland's 31-27 win over Minnesota.
Hoyer was far from perfect -- throwing three interceptions -- but he also tossed three touchdowns, something Weeden hasn't done in 17 career starts.
Here's what else we learned:
1. Three of our Making the Leap candidates exploded Sunday. Browns receiver Josh Gordon, back from a two-game suspension, hauled in 10 catches for 146 yards, highlighted by his 47-yard touchdown from Hoyer. Jordan Cameron continued to shine, with an eye-popping three scores off six catches. The Cleveland tight end made a beautiful, over-the-shoulder, 7-yard touchdown grab with 55 seconds left to seal the win. For the Vikings, Harrison Smith recorded five tackles, a pass defense and a key interception, furthering the argument that he's the top young safety in the NFL.
2. After a week of soul-searching, Adrian Peterson was held in check by Cleveland's smothering run defense to the tune of 88 yards on 25 carries. If you're keeping score, that's 78 attempts for 203 yards (2.6 yards per rush) since Peterson's 78-yard touchdown burst in Week 1. Cleveland also made mincemeat of quarterback Christian Ponder. The Browns racked up six sacks, eight quarterback hits and an interception while holding Ponder to 5.4 yards per attempt.
3. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier held true to his promise of handing receiver Cordarrelle Patterson a larger role on offense. Ponder aimed for the rookie on a pair of deep strikes early. Browns corner Buster Skrine -- targeted all afternoon -- broke up the first attempt, but Patterson hauled in the second for a 37-yarder. He's a big, physical target for the Vikings, when Ponder can get it there.
4. From the trainer's room: Browns pass rusher Jabaal Sheard was seen on crutches after suffering a knee injury. Also for Cleveland, kicker Billy Cundiff left with a quad injury and defensive end Billy Winn departed with an injured right knee. For the Vikings, cornerback Chris Cook left with a groin injury and safety Jamarca Sanford tweaked his hamstring.
5. With Trent Richardson in the fold, Cleveland ran for 47 yards against the Dolphins and 65 against the Ravens. Without him, the Browns ran for 103 on Sunday. A big chunk of that came on a fake punt, but the 6.1 yards per carry against Minnesota tops their output against Miami (3.6) and Baltimore (3.3).
6. It was clear the Browns were going for the throat when Chud dialed up the aforementioned punt fake and rolled out further trickery on a field-goal attempt that saw holder Spencer Lanning zip the ball into Cameron's waiting arms for a second-quarter touchdown. Guess what:
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The Browns even suck at tanking.â Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 22, 2013