Lightning delayed the game for an hour, but when it recommenced, David Clowney's lightning-like strikes propelled the Jets in a 24-20 victory over the Browns in their preseason opener.
With 13:17 left in the second quarter, linebacker Eric Barton intercepted Brady Quinn, setting up the Jets, trailing, 7-0, at their 29. At 13:11, Clowney was in the end zone and the game was a point-after try from being tied.
The second-year receiver did his best Sonic the Hedgehog impersonation on a deep post route. He blazed across the field from the weak side to his left with cornerback A.J. Davis the nearest defender, about three steps behind. Brett Ratliff, off play-action, spotted him and launched the ball downfield with enough velocity to allow Clowney to maintain his stride, and he did, racing into the end zone for a 71-yard score.
And in the fourth quarter, Clowney, whose speed is no joke, again charred the Browns secondary, hauling in another long heave from Ratliff. So far behind was the defense that Clowney had time to slow down, adjust for the ball, and still jog in untouched for a 70-yard touchdown that cut Cleveland's lead to 20-17.
Those long bombs were sandwiched around Clowney receptions of 12 and 10 yards. The receiver was thrown to five times, resulting in four completions and four first downs.
Clowney, who is competing to make the roster, finished with a game-high 163 yards, two touchdowns and a pleased head coach.
"I was really happy with David Clowney," Eric Mangini said. "I talked last week about how he popped off the screen. He had a nice day."
Beyond helping his team win an exhibition game, Clowney gave the Jets and their fans a glimpse at the quick-strike potential this offense might possess. With Brett Favre, the ol' cannon-armed gunslinger, the Jets are expected to threaten the deep part of the field. Clowney's game-breaking ability could make it more of a promise than a threat, should he earn a spot in the receiver rotation.
Clowney, 23, is already somewhat familiar with Favre. He was a fifth-round draft pick of the Packers in 2007 out of Virginia Tech. He didn't get a chance to play much with the legendary quarterback, as he was waived before the season opener, but he picked Favre's brain for tips. The Jets added the Long Island native to their practice squad last October.
Clowney's 4.36 speed is what made him a promising prospect, but he said before Thursday's game that Green Bay didn't view him as a downfield receiver.
It showed in the statistics. He caught five passes last preseason but totaled just 32 yards. He surpassed that number last night with his yards per catch average (40.8) alone.
And he proved an example of how big plays can be excellent makeup for a blemished game.
The Browns had more first downs (28-11), converted better on third down (55 percent-27 percent), and racked up more total yards (382-342).
It didn't matter. Clowney's scores, along with Dwight Lowery's 62-yard punt return touchdown, were the difference.
"They threw the ball over our heads twice for two big plays and that will kill you," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said.
And as Mangini said: "We didn't have to make the game that hard, but sometimes that's how it happens. And any win is a good win."