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 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 was 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.
Quinn, whose TD to Cribbs came against backups, completed 7 of 11 passes for 81 yards.
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.
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 (13-of-20 for 155 yards with three TDs (that counted) and no interceptions.
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.
Frye started for Cleveland (2-1), completed 5 of 7 passes for 68 yards and led Cleveland on an 80-yard touchdown drive on the Browns' first possession, capped by Jamal Lewis' 1-yard run.
Derek Anderson (7-of-9 for 74 yards) 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.
It was a nice recovery for the Denver offense that stumbled at the start when Cutler fumbled his first snap and was nearly picked off on his second. Javon Walker's 37-yard catch on third-and-12 got the Broncos moving, but Walker would drop two other passes on the drive, the second of which came when he was wide open inside the Browns' 5-yard line, and Denver settled for a 29-yard field goal by Jason Elam.
That drive was kept alive when a holding call on safety Sean Jones negated his interception.
With Travis Henry (knee) and Mike Bell (hip) sidelined, Sapp ran 11 times for 54 yards and Young gained 91 yards on 17 carries.
Cleveland TE Kellen Winslow didn't start and didn't play in the Browns' two-tight end sets in the first quarter. On his second snap of the second quarter, Winslow's false start on fourth-and-2 forced the Browns to punt. ... DE Elvis Dumervil got the start for Denver in place of Ebenezer Ekuban, who had season-ending Achilles' tendon surgery Thursday. Dumerville had a sack but was slapped with a 15-yard penalty for collaring Anderson. ... WR Brandon Stokley made his Broncos debut and caught one pass for 26 yards.
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