Backup quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Philadelphia passed for 85 yards and Dorian Thompson-Robinson of Cleveland threw for 164 while starters Jalen Hurts and Deshaun Watson watched from the sidelines as the Eagles and Browns played to an 18-18 tie on Thursday night in a preseason game that was marred by injuries.
Mariota completed 9 of 17 passes with an interception and was sacked three times in the first half for the defending NFC champion Eagles. Signed to a one-year deal in the offseason to back up Hurts, Mariota was high and off target on several throws while playing behind Philadelphia’s backup offensive linemen and reserve receivers. Most of his completions were short passes that went for longer yards on runs after the catch.
Philadelphia signed the former Heisman winner and 2015 No. 2 overall pick this offseason because, like Hurts, he can be a run and pass threat. The 29-year-old veteran has rushed for 2,012 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career, but also has 54 interceptions in 87 career games.
Eagles fans booed Mariota when his pass late in the first quarter intended for tight end Grant Calcaterra went high and was picked off by Browns safety Ronnie Hickman. Mariota’s half ended, fittingly, with a sack.
Hurts was just a spectator. The Eagles are taking no chances this preseason with the 2022 MVP runner-up who signed a five-year deal with $179.3 million guaranteed in the offseason.
Coach Nick Sirianni normally wouldn’t put Hurts in harm’s way during the preseason anyway and might have concerns about any absence in the regular season after Thursday’s game. Hurts was sidelined for two games last season during Philadelphia’s run to the Super Bowl, getting injured on a running play, and the Eagles certainly want a quality backup just in case their franchise QB goes down.
In two preseason games, Mariota is 16 for 28 for 143 yards with an interception and four sacks.
Rookie sixth-round pick Tanner McKee went 10 for 18 for 147 yards with a touchdown after halftime, following an impressive performance in which he threw for 148 yards against Baltimore in his preseason debut on Aug. 12.
Eagles wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and rookie defensive tackle Moro Ojomo were carted off the field on a backboard with neck injuries. Both had movement in all extremities. Cleveland landed hard on his head while trying to make a catch in the third quarter, and Ojomo collided with a teammate while attempting to make a tackle in the fourth quarter. There were several other injuries to players on both teams that required carts, visits to the medical tent and early departures to the locker room.
The game was played mostly between backups and players who likely won’t be on the roster when the regular season opens. In addition to Hurts, Watson watched from the sidelines out of uniform, along with many first-teamers from both teams.
Cleveland split the quarterback reps between backup contenders Thompson-Robinson and Kelle Mond. Joshua Dobbs, the frontrunner as the No. 2 to Watson, did not play.
Thompson-Robinson was 13 for 25 in the first half, and Mond was 12 for 24 for 126 yards and a TD after halftime.
A rookie fifth-round pick out of UCLA who had been impressive in the preseason entering Thursday, Thompson-Robinson had ups and downs in his outing. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 71 yards on Cleveland’s first drive that ended with running back John Kelly Jr.’s fumble near Philadelphia’s goal line. Thompson-Robinson also fumbled, was sacked once and committed a 15-yard penalty for an illegal block to negate a 12-yard Browns run. He also connected on a beautiful, 27-yard pass down the right sideline to Austin Watkins Jr.
FUMBLE! Nakobe Dean forced a fumble on the Eagles two-yard-line! The Browns were driving and ready to pound it home, but the Eagles defense had other ideas. John Kelly lost the ball on first-and-goal, K’Von Wallace came away with the loose change.
Just a few plays after the fumble, the Browns respond by stuffing Kenny Gainwell in his own end zone. Linebacker Mohamoud Diabate beat Josh Sills off the right side of the line, giving the visitors the lead. (Browns 2 – Eagles 0)
Jake Elliott nailed a 56-yard field goal to give the Eagles the lead. Marcus Mariota and Greg Ward connected on a third-down earlier in the nine-play drive to get the Eagles into field goal position. (Eagles 3 – Browns 2)
SACK! Kentavius Street got home to take down Dorian Thompson-Robinson on third down. Nolan Smith started the play with a quarterback rush that led to the sack.
Marcus Mariota was intercepted by Ronnie Hickman on a pass over the middle. The Eagles were driving after a 16-yard run by Rashaad Penny.
Olamide Zaccheaus, Nolan Smith, and Zech McPhearson all left the game with unknown injuries. McPhearson was OUT with an ankle injury.
Cade York split the uprights with a 43-yard field goal. Eagles linebacker Christian Elliss broke up a third-and-five pass that led to the visitors settling for a kick. (Browns 5 – Eagles 3)
Trey Sermon broke free on a screen pass, but fumbled at the end of his 15-yard run. Diabate forced the ball out and Cameron Mitchell recovered.
Cade York was 2/2 in the first half as he drilled a 37-yard field goal. Cleveland penalties helped the Eagles get off the field without allowing more than three points. (Browns 8 – Eagles 3)
TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE
Thursday’s game was the third meeting in four days between the teams, who practiced against each other at the Eagles’ training facility on Monday and Tuesday. Following Tuesday’s practice, Cleveland All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio said Eagles defenders took “cheap shots” at Watson.
Eagles second-year LB Nakobe Dean stripped Kelly near the goal line to stop the Browns’ first drive. Dean is slated to be Philadelphia’s first-stringer in place of departed T.J. Edwards, one of seven starters who left the Eagles during free agency. Edwards led Philadelphia with 159 tackles last season. Dean’s strip came two plays after he was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a hit on Thompson-Robinson following a 3-yard run.
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