Even the lights at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium had its bout with rust in the first NFL game of the 2023 season on Thursday night, but it worked to the Cleveland Browns’ advantage as they took down the New York Jets, 21-16, in the annual Hall of Fame game.
With the third quarter at an end, the lights went out and needed some time to get back on to resume the final quarter of this game. And when they turned back on, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick by the Browns in this year’s draft out of UCLA, shined bright.
He orchestrated a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped with a 22-yard strike to Austin Watkins to give the Browns a 21-16 lead.
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Thompson-Robinson also showed off his speed, rushing for 37 yards on five carries. He threw for 82 yards on 8-of-11 through the air.
His competition to be Deshaun Watson’s backup this season is Minnesota Vikings third-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, Kellen Mond, who got the start for Cleveland in this one. He finished his night 13-of-19 with one touchdown and one interception.
On the other sideline, Aaron Rodgers, Sauce Gardner and other bona fide starters were in shorts and t-shirts rooting for their teammates, one of which being Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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Zach Wilson, Aaron Rodgers’ expected backup for this season, started the game for the Jets at quarterback, and he threw the ball just five times with his big highlight-reel pass a 57-yard bomb down the left sideline to Malik Taylor.
Wilson didn’t do much else outside of that, connecting on two more passes for a total eight yards for 65 on his night.
The rust was seen on both sides to start this one, as the Browns missed a field goal on their opening drive, which was followed by a Jets punt and a Cleveland punt.
Greg Zuerlein finally got the Jets on the board with a 54-yard field goal on the Jets’ second drive to put points on the board in Canton. A fumble from the Browns would lead to more Jets points, with Zuerlein kicking through a 44-yarder to make it 6-0 at the end of the first quarter.
New York was also the first team to find the end zone this year, as rookie fifth-round running back Israel Abanikanda used a burst of speed to shoot toward the left pylon, sneaking in for his first taste of an NFL touchdown, making it a 13-0 game.
But the Browns got on the board before the first half came to an end, as Mond found running back John Kelly on a three-yard pass to make it 13-7.
Again, though, Zuerlein used his big leg to knock through a 53-yard field goal to make it 16-7 heading to the locker room for halftime. It may be the first game of the year, and still very early in training camp, but Zuerlein looked Week 1 ready in this one.
Some other notable stat line was Browns running back Demetric Felton rushing for 46 yards with the Browns’ first touchdown of the second half on a 16-yard rush.
Jets’ first-round pick Will McDonald IV also showcased why Gang Green is high on him in his rookie year, as he was shedding blocks quickly and was in the right place at the right time setting the edge for two tackles on the night.
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Bubba Bolden also secured the victory for the Browns with an interception late in the fourth quarter on Jets quarterback Chris Streveler.