Brett Favre was a spectator as the New York Jets opened up their preseason slate in Cleveland with a 24-20 victory. After being introduced as a Jet at a pregame news conference inside Cleveland Browns Stadium, Favre watched his new teammates from the sideline and was treated to a well-played exhibition.
"I hope I fit into the mix," he said afterwards. "I think I do and I hope I can bring something to the team."
The Jets final and shortest TD of the evening — a 62-yarder — came on a brilliant Dwight Lowery punt return. The rookie corner, a San Jose State product, fielded the ball near the left sideline, made a couple of moves and worked his way to the other side of the field before finding his way to the end zone. It was the deciding score as the Jets held on inside their 10 to close out the game.
That special teams touchdown completed a comeback and Lowery made sure the lead stood up. He also picked off Cleveland QB Ken Dorsey, ending a Browns' possession inside the red zone with just four minutes remaining.
Favre, a 38-year-old future Hall of Famer known for his vertical aerial strikes, must have appreciated the long-distance dial-ups between QB Brett Ratliff and WR David Clowney. They hit for a 71-yard TD in the second quarter and a 70-yard score in the fourth. For the game, Clowney was on the receiving end of 163 of Ratliff's 252 passing yards.
"I was really happy with David Clowney. He had a nice day," said head coach Eric Mangini.
Kellen Clemens got the start at QB for the Green & White after a whirlwind 24 hours. The acquisition of Favre early Thursday morning preceded the official release of QB Chad Pennington in the afternoon. Clemens, in a quarter of action, completed four of his six passes for 31 yards.
"There are two ways to look at it — your glass is either half full or it's half empty," Clemens said of his situation. "I'm going to approach this like it's a great opportunity for me. We'll see how things play out in the long term, but you don't get that many opportunities to learn from a guy like Brett Favre."
The Jets' first-team defense, minus ILB David Harris and DE Shaun Ellis, couldn't slow down WR Braylon Edwards. He helped set up his two-yard receiving TD after drawing a 25-yard pass interference penalty on CB Justin Miller.
But an Eric Barton interception of backup Brady Quinn in the second stanza made a quick turnaround possible. On the first play after the takeaway, Ratliff connected with Clowney to even things up at 7.
Ratliff was sharp throughout the evening, completing 14 of 20 and not turning it over. Clowney, a roster hopeful who has tremendous speed, made the Browns DBs pay time after time.
Cleveland went up 14-7 midway through the second when Jason Wright had a one-yard TD on the ground. Mike Nugent cut the advantage to just four at the half — his 20-yard boot culminated a well orchestrated 17-play, 8:06 drive led by Ratliff.
The game, which was interrupted by a weather delay with 4:11left in the first quarter, took more than four hours to complete. K Jason Reda gave the Browns a 20-10 lead with a pair of second half field goals and that spread held until the fourth quarter.
While Laveranues Coles sat this one out (Brad Smith started opposite Jerricho Cotchery), the Jets received solid performances from not only Clowney but Chansi Stuckey as well. Stuckey, who led the Jets in preseason catches last summer, continued to look quick and sure-handed with three catches for 44 yards.
In a game that saw frequent substitutions on both sides, Lowery produced a Jets' high seven solo stops and reserve RB Musa Smith paced the 'backs with 20 yards.
A scary moment occurred with 12 minutes remaining. Tight end A.J. Schable, who collided helmet-to-helmet with a Brown on a Cleveland kick return, was stabilized and carted off the field. He gave a thumbs up to those in attendance as he was led into the tunnel.
"He does have movement in his arms and legs," Mangini said. "What we're doing now is what we do in any case like this is to take every precaution."
Next Saturday night, the Jets will host the Washington Redskins at the Meadowlands. Favre could see some live action but his first steps will be taken at training camp practices.
"You have to dive into it. The only way you're going to know these guys, know how they play and know the coaches is to be in meetings and is to go to practice," he said.
"It was a unique opportunity for the organization to get a special player and those opportunities don't come along very often," added Mangini. "I spent some time talking to Brett and you could feel his excitement and you could feel his passion. He is going to work extremely hard over the course of the remaining preseason and training camp, and we're going to work very hard with him to get him up to speed."