Browns vs. Giants preseason score, takeaways: Cleveland uses defense, running game to outlast New York

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Despite the absence of several notable starters, the Browns' 17-13 preseason win over the Giants was not devoid of some drama. In fact, the game came down to a Hail Mary, as Brian Lewerke's heave to David Sills was picked off by Browns defensive back Richard LeCounte in the end zone. 

Wearing all-white uniforms to combat the heat and humidity, the Browns quickly marched 81 yards in 10 plays on the game's opening drive. Browns quarterback Case Keenum, after misfiring on a second down throw to Rashard Higgins in the end zone, hit his fourth-down pass to KhaDarel Hodge for a touchdown on what looked like the exact same play. The drive also included 46 rushing yards, 34 of those coming from running back D'Ernest Johnson. 

The Giants responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Devontae Booker's 1-yard scoring plunge. The drive's biggest play was a 24-yard completion from Mike Glennon to tight end Rysen John three plays before Booker's score. Cleveland's second drive (and first of the second quarter) ended when Keenum was picked off by cornerback Quincy Wilson in the end zone. Both teams came up empty on their final two drives of the half. 

The Browns broke the tie five minutes into the second half, as running back John Kelly raced five yards to pay-dirt. Completions of 14 and 19 yards from the Browns' Kyle Lauletta (who came into the game near the end of the first half) to fullback Johnny Stanton set up the only score of the third quarter for both teams. 

After five consecutive punts by the Giants' offense, Lewerke hit Sills for an 8-yard score on a third-down play in the final quarter. The Giants were unable to take the lead, however, as running back Gary Brightwell was stuffed by a host of Cleveland defenders on New York's two-point try. Cleveland responded with a 49-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin. The field goal capped off a 44-yard drive, with Kelly accounting for each of those yards. The touchdown served as the game's final score after the Browns kept the Giants out of the end zone in the game's final moments. 

Here's a closer look at what transpired in Cleveland. 

Why the Browns won

The home team never trailed while piling up 24 first downs. Cleveland's offense flexed its muscles on the offensive line, totaling 163 yards on 25 carries. The Browns received a solid outing from Kelly, who led the team in rushing with 58 yards on just nine carries. He also had an impressive 21-yard catch-and-carry that set up the game's final score. Cleveland's defense held New York to just 3-of-9 on third down during the game's first three quarters. 

Why the Giants lost 

New York's offense went into a dry spell after tying the score in the first quarter. The unit had five consecutive drives end with a punt before finally putting together an 8-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Sills' touchdown reception. The Giants waited too long before leaning on their running game, which finished the day with 120 yards on 25 carries. Conversely, the Giants had no answer for Kelly and Johnson, who combined to run for 86 yards on 13 carries. 

Turning point 

The Giants appeared to have momentum following Wilson's pick. The Browns' defense quickly snuffed out that momentum, however, forcing a quick three-and-out. Cleveland would force five more punts while its offense put together two scoring drives. The Browns' defense was led by linebacker Elijah Lee, who recorded a game-high nine tackles. Defensive tackle Malik McDowell had five tackles while also recording one of the team's two sacks. 

Play of the game 

After giving up a touchdown, the Browns defense thwarted the Giants' attempt the take the lead on a two-point conversion. Brightwell was stonewalled by several Cleveland defenders, as the Browns' defense came up with their first of two critical fourth quarter stops. 

What's next 

The Browns will close out the preseason with a road game against Atlanta next Sunday, then open the regular season at the Chiefs on Sept. 12. The Giants will conclude their 2021 preseason with a home game against the Patriots next Sunday. New York then opens the regular season with a home game against the Broncos on Sept. 12. 

Check our live blog below for updates, highlights and analysis from Sunday's game. 

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CLE -6, O/U 35

Season Leaders

passing
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D. Jones 2428 YD, 10 TDS, 7 INTS
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D. Jones 2428 YD, 10 TDS, 7 INTS
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B. Mayfield 3010 YD, 17 TDS, 13 INTS
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B. Mayfield 3010 YD, 17 TDS, 13 INTS
rushing
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S. Barkley 162 ATT, 593 YD, 2 TDS
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S. Barkley 162 ATT, 593 YD, 2 TDS
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N. Chubb 228 ATT, 1259 YD, 8 TDS
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N. Chubb 228 ATT, 1259 YD, 8 TDS
receiving
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K. Golladay 37 REC, 521 YD
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K. Golladay 37 REC, 521 YD
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D. Peoples-Jones 34 REC, 597 YD, 3 TDS
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D. Peoples-Jones 34 REC, 597 YD, 3 TDS
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@Giants via Twitter
August 22, 2021, 8:41 PM
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@Giants via Twitter
August 22, 2021, 8:41 PM
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@Browns via Twitter
August 22, 2021, 8:17 PM
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@Browns via Twitter
August 22, 2021, 8:17 PM
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John Kelly accounted for each of the Browns' 44 yards on that last scoring drive. It's going to be hard to him to make the Browns' 53-man roster, but he's putting some nice plays on film in the event he is released before Week 1. 

August 22, 2021, 7:52 PM
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Really impressive play by John Kelly. Broke several tackles and turned a short completion into a 21-yard gain. Kelly also has 58 yards and a score on nine carries. 

August 22, 2021, 7:46 PM
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Giants with their best drive since the first quarter. Three straight carries for 34 yards including a 20-yard run by QB Brian Lewerke. Browns have also committed two penalties, as the Giants are inside the 10-yard-line. 

August 22, 2021, 7:32 PM
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Both teams are 3-9 on third down so far today. Browns are 2-2 on fourth down, however, which one of those fourth downs coming on the game's first TD. 

August 22, 2021, 7:18 PM
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Browns LB Montrel Meander carted off the field with a minute left in the third quarter. Browns recently suffered a blow to their LB corps with Jacob Phillips to miss the entire season with a torn biceps muscle. 

August 22, 2021, 7:13 PM
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@Giants via Twitter
August 22, 2021, 6:59 PM
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Browns flexing their muscles as far as their running game is concerned. They're now up to 122 yards on just 15 carries today. Specifically, they're having success with their outside zone. 

August 22, 2021, 6:51 PM
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Consecutive completions from Lauletta to fullback Johnny Stanton for 14 and 19 yards. Browns have been impressed with Stanton during camp. 

August 22, 2021, 6:48 PM
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@Browns via Twitter
August 22, 2021, 6:39 PM
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Defensive back Chris Johnson is down and getting attended to by Giants trainers. He got hit low after picking up what initially looked like a fumble by TE Jordan Franks. 

August 22, 2021, 6:38 PM
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