Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is caught by Chicago Bears safety Marcus Trice after running for a first down . ASSOCIATED PRESS
CLEVELAND — Brian Hoyer can take a deep breath. His pressure-packed preseason ended positively.
Hoyer drove Cleveland’s starting offense to a rare preseason touchdown before turning things over to rookie Johnny Manziel in the Browns’ 33-13 exhibition win over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
Hoyer and Cleveland’s offensive starters needed a boost after struggling in the preseason as they learn a new system. Hoyer went 6 of 8 for 69 yards on the opening drive against Chicago’s backups before Ben Tate scored on a 1-yard run.
For Cleveland’s first-team offense, it was just the second TD this summer, and even if it came against some players who won’t make Chicago’s roster, Hoyer will take it.
“It was great to get out there and just move right down the field,” said Hoyer, who barely beat out Manziel for the starting job. “We said tonight wasn’t about them. It was about us. Regardless of who’s playing for them — they were nameless and faceless opponents — we just wanted to go out and make everything about us. It’s good to go down and get in the end zone.”
Manziel threw a TD pass, finished 6 of 17 for 83 yards, ran for 55 and did some typical Johnny Football improvising.
Manziel scrambled around, skipped some passes, fumbled twice and provided some entertaining moments.
“Falls into the category of Johnny being Johnny,” Pettine said. “A couple of those plays were no, no, no, yes - but that’s what he does. He’s certainly shown why he has the reputation that he does.”
Bears wide receiver Santonio Holmes caught a 32-yard TD pass from rookie David Fales and returned a punt 30. Holmes only signed with the Bears on Aug. 16.
Browns undrafted rookie running back Isaiah Crowell had a 48-yard TD and finished with 102. Billy Cundiff made four field goals for the Browns (1-3).
Pettine had little choice but to play his starters in the fourth preseason game following a horrific performance in a loss to St. Louis.
Hoyer and Cleveland’s offense were desperate for a positive of any kind with the season opener against Pittsburgh just 10 days away. And the first unit’s 13-play, 85-yard march was something to build upon.
“It just shows us what we’re capable of, and that’s what’s been the frustrating part this preseason,” Hoyer said. “To go out there and just do it against a different team is important. It’s a good feeling heading out of the preseason.”
On Wednesday, the Browns learned they’ll be without Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, suspended for the season for another violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Cleveland loses its best player and only deep threat.
The Browns could be forced to trade for a wide receiver. But Nate Burleson should help. He played for the first time in the preseason and caught a 27-yarder from Manziel, who danced around in the backfield and dodged several Bears before throwing a strike to Burleson. That play set up Manziel’s 1-yard toss to tight end Jim Dray.
Bears coach Marc Trestman rested starting quarterback Jay Cutler and backup Jimmy Clausen, giving Fales, a sixth-round pick from San Jose State, a chance to convince the Bears they should carry three QBs.
Fales made a good case for himself, finishing 13 of 24 for 146 yards.
Holmes is trying to catch on with the Bears after four turbulent seasons with the Jets. He was released in March following two sub-par, injury-plagued seasons. The 2009 Super Bowl MVP with Pittsburgh hasn’t played a complete season since 2011, and made just 43 receptions in the past two seasons.
Holmes, 30, showed he’s still got some breakaway speed on his TD grab. He hauled in a short pass from Fales, spun away from rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert and scampered into the end zone untouched for a 10-7 lead.
“You see the explosion in him,” Trestman said. “He caught a short throw, turned and ran, separated from the defense. That’s a good sign.”
Bears rookie running back Jordan Lynch, a star quarterback at Northern Illinois, had 18 yards on six carries. He’s a long shot to make Chicago’s 53-man roster.
NOTES: QB Rex Grossman made his debut for Cleveland and completed 4 of 8 passes for 80 yards. Grossman has experience in coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense and it showed. ... Browns LB Barkevious Mingo had a sack and should have had two.