NFL Nation: Josh Aubrey

MINNEAPOLIS -- There was little about the Cleveland Browns' week that befitted a typical NFL team's approach to preparing for a game. The Browns traded away running back Trent Richardson on the same day they named third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer their injury replacement for Brandon Weeden, generating more talk about whether they had given up on their season than whether they would beat the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeBrian Hoyer
AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltThrust into the starting role, Brian Hoyer overcame some errors in the second half and led the Browns to victory in the final minute.
Not much about how the Browns pulled off a 31-27 win over the Vikings on Sunday was conventional, either. Their leading rusher was defensive back Josh Aubrey, who gained 34 yards on a fake punt. Wide receiver Josh Gordon ran a reverse that gained 22 yards -- or 4 yards fewer than running backs Bobby Rainey and Willis McGahee combined to gain all day. Hoyer last season completed 30 of the 53 passes he threw; Sunday he was 30-for-54.

The approach might not work again, and it probably shouldn't have worked Sunday. But against a Vikings team that is reeling after a playoff season, the Browns created a victory they won't apologize for.

"It couldn't be a more fitting game in terms of the back-and-forth and the resiliency that our guys showed," coach Rob Chudzinski said. "I told them I believed in them, and they responded and came out and played a complete game."

Hoyer might not get another chance to start if Weeden is ready to return next week, but the impression he left Sunday was of a quarterback able to respond after a mistake-filled second half. He threw two interceptions that appeared to have the Vikings positioned for victory until Minnesota couldn't run out the clock and the Browns got the ball back with 3:21 left. Hoyer found Gordon for 11 yards on third down and connected on four of his next five throws to move the Browns to the Vikings' 7. Then, on third down, he lofted a ball to the corner of the end zone that Jordan Cameron caught for the game-winning touchdown.

The Browns spent some time in the national spotlight during the week as a punchline, with pundits suggesting they'd mailed in their season and even a few Vikings players joking about the team trading Richardson. But for one week, with some trick plays and a two-minute drill from Hoyer, the Browns coaxed a win out of their disjointed week.

Asked about the woe-is-us nature of Cleveland fans, Hoyer -- who grew up in the area -- said, "I used to think that way, too. Hopefully, this is a change."
Most significant move. One of the major storylines this summer was the kicking battle between Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay. Who won? Nobody. The Cleveland Browns will continue their search for a kicker after cutting both on their roster, which makes not re-signing Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson even more questionable. Graham was 3-of-3 on field goals this preseason, even making a 50-yarder, but sat out the preseason finale with a stiff back. The Browns could take a look at Dan Carpenter or Billy Cundiff. "We gauged the preseason games and weren’t completely satisfied," coach Rob Chudzinski said after the cuts were announced.

The Browns only have four wide receivers because Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two games. Cleveland chose Josh Cooper, a former teammate of Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State, over David Nelson. It wasn't a surprising decision because Nelson was rarely on the field. He was coming back from an ACL injury suffered last season. The Browns also kept all three quarterbacks: Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer.

Going the undrafted route. Nearly 10 percent of the Browns' roster right now is made up of undrafted rookies. Five survived the final cutdown: safety Josh Aubrey; offensive linemen Caylin Hauptmann and Martin Wallace; and linebackers Paul Hazel and Eric Martin. Aubrey beat out sixth-round pick Jamoris Slaughter, who was cut, for one of the final spots on the roster. One reason why the Browns kept so many undrafted rookies is because they only had five draft picks this year. Slaughter was the only draft pick to get waived. Hauptmann and Wallace are two of 12 offensive linemen to make the team. The Browns have 25 players who have two years of experience or less.

What's next. The top priority, of course, is signing a kicker. The Browns are light at cornerback with only four (Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Leon McFadden). That could be one area of focus when looking at the waiver wire. The Browns also may want to upgrade at backup running back. They lost Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty to injuries this month, which leaves Brandon Jackson as the No. 2 running back.

Here are the moves the Browns made to get down to the league limit of 53 players:

Contract terminated: K Shayne Graham.

Waived: TE Dan Gronkowski, OL Aaron Adams, DB Akeem Auguste, K Brandon Bogotay, LB Justin Cole, RB Jamaine Cook, DL Hall Davis, WR Tori Gurley, LB James-Michael Johnson, WR David Nelson, WR Naaman Roosevelt, DL Brian Sanford, DB Jamoris Slaughter, LB Justin Staples, OL Braxston Cave, WR Mike Edwards, DB Abdul Kanneh, RB Miguel Maysonet, DB Kent Richardson and P/K Colton Schmidt.



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