Quarterbacks key as Browns edge Broncos

DENVER -- Maybe in the regular season the red flag will come out.

Preseason games don't count and neither do touchdowns that are erroneously ruled incompletions, as Brady Quinn discovered Saturday night.

Quinn was efficient and effective for the second straight game, leading the Cleveland Browns past the Denver Broncos 17-16, although it probably wasn't enough to win him the starting job over Charlie Frye.

Quinn threw a pass in the left flat that Joshua Cribbs turned into a nifty 20-yard touchdown to break a 10-10 tie in the third quarter, but the rookie from Notre Dame was robbed of another apparent TD toss on Cleveland's previous possession.

Although Joe Jurevicius hauled in Quinn's perfectly thrown 39-yard pass over Dre' Bly in the end zone, the nearest official ruled he didn't get both feet down before going out of bounds -- replays showed otherwise, but Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel didn't challenge the call.

"That's a call that maybe if it's the regular season we challenge it," Jurevicius said. "I'm not too worried about it. I think Brady made a great decision coming outside (the receiver's left shoulder) and doing something that was out of the ordinary."

Although "I thought the ball was pretty much on time where it was supposed to be, the throw could have been a little better for Joe to make it easier on him," Quinn said.

That came against Denver's front-line defense, too - although that may not be as impressive as it sounds. Slow to adapt to new boss Jim Bates' scheme, the Broncos' starters have allowed six touchdowns and three field goals in 15 possessions this preseason.

"I don't think you blow it off. (Secondary) coach Bob Slowik always says, 'It doesn't count, but it does matter,"' safety John Lynch said. "We need to have some success just for the confidence, but I think we all believe that this is going to be a good unit. We haven't shown it yet. So, is there some concern? Absolutely. But is there belief that we're going to get this thing down? Yeah."

The Broncos made it 17-16 on undrafted rookie Selvin Young's 9-yard rumble with 2:56 left, but linebacker Chaun Thompson tackled Young shy of the end zone on the 2-point try.

Quinn, whose TD to Cribbs came against backups, completed 7 of 11 passes for 81 yards. Frye started and went 5-of-7 for 68 yards and Derek Anderson was 7-of-9 for 74 yards.

"All three quarterbacks played pretty decent tonight," said Crennel, who wouldn't let on who was the leader in the starting QB derby.

Crennel has said he might not name a starting quarterback until the week before the Sept. 9 opener.

Although conventional wisdom is he'll start off the season carrying a clipboard, Quinn has done his best to earn the nod. After missing 11 days in a contract holdout, Quinn is 20-of-31 for 236 yards with three TDs (that counted) and no interceptions, albeit mostly against backups.

Thanks to what he called an "involuntary haircut," Quinn is no longer sporting his long, flowing locks as he joined the other Browns rookies in having his head shaved at the end of camp.

Still, he looked good again.

But so did Frye, who led Cleveland on an 80-yard touchdown drive on the Browns' first possession, capped by Jamal Lewis' 1-yard run. Anderson was up next and he guided the Browns to the Denver 5 before they settled for Phil Dawson's 23-yard field goal that made it 10-3 with 1:55 left in the first half.

That was enough time for the Broncos (1-2) to tie it thanks to Jay Cutler's best drive of the summer.

He hit Brandon Marshall for gains of 9 and 22 yards, then found tight end Daniel Graham for 11. After a 6-yard scramble, defensive lineman Shaun Smith's personal foul put the Broncos on the 17.

After Cecil Sapp ran twice for 15 yards, Cutler rolled right and hit Kyle Johnson with a 2-yard touchdown pass.

With Travis Henry (knee) and Mike Bell (hip) sidelined, Sapp ran 11 times for 54 yards and Young gained 91 yards on 17 carries.

Young was jazzed about his TD but getting stuffed on the 2-point conversion stung him.

"It was like a highlight and horror all in one," Young said.

After the game, Denver flanker Javon Walker displayed a big brown boxer's belt over his left shoulder that featured studded photos of Darrent Williams and Damien Nash, two Broncos teammates who died in the offseason.

"This is a heavyweight championship belt that a friend of my mom had made for me," said Walker, in whose arms Williams died at the hands of a drive-by shooter.

"The thing about it is this is going to be a tough season and these two guys would have helped us out tremendously," Walker said. "For me personally, as long as I got these two on my back, I'm going to go out and play hard each and every week and they're going to travel with us to each and every locker room and to every game that we go to."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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