By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- In the days leading to the Cleveland Browns' first game of the 2001 preseason, first-year coach Butch Davis stressed winning.
That's exactly what he got.
Davis strapped on his headset Saturday and directed the Browns to a 10-3 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The replacement to Chris Palmer, Davis is trying to revitalize a team that has struggled the past two years. He's off to a good start.
"They have more poise and composure than you might think from a young football team," Davis said. "They want to be good, and I sense in the locker room that they're building something special."
Many eyes were on Browns quarterback Tim Couch, the top pick in the 1999 draft from the University of Kentucky, whose 2000 season was cut nine games short by a broken thumb that he suffered in practice.
"Tim played the way I'd like to see him play all the time," Davis said. "He was in total control. He had great composure and he was never rattled."
Couch played nearly the entire first half before being replaced by Ty Detmer with 3 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Couch looked good, particularly on a 19-play first-half scoring drive in which he connected on 9 of 11 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
One week after he completed 10 of 14 passes in a scrimmage against Buffalo, Couch finished 10 of 13 for 83 yards and the touchdown against Green Bay.
"He saw the field well, he knew the audibles, and his play selection was very good," Davis said. "He had an outstanding performance."
It was Cleveland's defense that helped seal the victory with a key goal-line stop with 7:18 remaining in the game. Browns linebacker Michael Smith recovered a fumble by running back Rondell Mealey in the end zone.
Green Bay threatened once more after blocking a punt. Quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver drove the Packers to the Browns' 16, but on fourth-and-9 he fumbled the ball, and the Browns took over on downs.
"We proved on both sides of the ball that we could handle adversity," Davis said. "Our guys fought to preserve the win."
The Browns' first preseason touchdown in the Davis era came on a drive that lasted 10:31 and culminated when Couch floated a 9-yard pass over the middle to running back Jamel White with 11:15 remaining in the second quarter.
The score, which came in front of celebrating fans in the Dawg Pound, finished a 19-play, 96-yard drive that lasted 10:31. It also made up for an error by rookie Lenzie Jackson, who called for a fair catch of a Green Bay punt at the Browns' 4-yard line.
Davis took a long look at White, who received almost all of the carries in the first half, many coming on short-yardage situations. He finished with 28 yards on 11 carries and added four receptions for 22 yards.
"We're trying to find out what each one of these guys can do," said Davis, when asked if White will be his starting running back. "Jamel has done an excellent job; he also had an excellent scrimmage against Buffalo."
Green Bay and quarterback Brett Favre (8 of 11 for 80 yards) responded with its own drive that led to Ryan Longwell's 47-yard field goal to cut the Browns' lead to 7-3 with 3:44 remaining in the first half.
Detmer had a chance to add to the Browns' lead before the half when he directed a drive to Green Bay's 6-yard line, but his pass on third-and-2 was tipped three times and intercepted by DeVone Claybrooks in the end zone.
"We gave up a chance before the end of the first half," Davis said. "That was disappointing because we forced it."
Davis also kept his eye on his top rookies, including No. 1 pick Gerard Warren, a defensive tackle from the University of Florida.
Second-rounder Quincy Morgan, a wide receiver from Kansas State, caught three passes for 52 yards, all in the first half.
Third-rounder James Jackson, a running back from the University of Miami, replaced White late in the first half. His longest gain was a 33-yarder in a third-quarter drive that ended in Phil Dawson's 23-yard field goal and a 10-3 Browns lead.