NFL Late mistake turned Browns' victory to loss
Sultan McCullough's fumble in the final minutes gave Carolina a chance.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers saved their biggest mistakes for the worst time possible. Fortunately for them, so did the Cleveland Browns.
Rookie Efrem Hill caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chris Weinke with 45 seconds remaining as the Panthers overcame some late penalties and rallied for a 23-20 exhibition win over the Cleveland Browns on Friday night.
Hill's TD capped a 43-yard drive that was set up by Cleveland running back Sultan McCullough's fumble with 3:08 to go.
Two minutes earlier, McCullough's 2-yard TD run after two defensive penalties against Carolina on third downs had given the Browns (2-1) a 20-16 lead.
"It wasn't all pretty, but we hit the plays that counted," said Weinke, who went 9-of-19 for 94 yards. "It seemed like we were stopping ourselves forever. I told the guys, 'Just stay focused, sooner or later we're going to bust one.' "
McCullough helped, and accepted blame for the loss.
"It hurts me," he said. "Nobody likes to lose it. I wish we could have had a little more time so I could come back and make a big play. Hopefully, they keep me around next week and I get another chance."
During Cleveland's go-ahead TD drive, Carolina cornerback Dante Westley was penalized for hitting rookie quarterback Charlie Frye with his helmet. Then safety Marlon McCree was assessed a personal foul for unnecessary roughness against rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards in the end zone.
But those sins were forgiven when Panthers linebacker Adam Seward knocked the ball from McCullough and it was pounced on by Sean Tufts. The recovery came one play after John Kasay missed a 53-year field goal.
Green plays well
William Green took another step toward winning back a starting job for Cleveland with a 4-yard TD run and starting quarterback Trent Dilfer went 15-for-23 for 168 yards. Cleveland had eight penalties, down from 12 last week.
"We made too many mistakes," Patriots coach Romeo Crennel said. "We're still getting penalties, even though it has improved, they're coming at critical times."
Green came into training camp in a three-way battle with Lee Suggs and Reuben Droughns for the Browns' starting job, and he has been the most productive and durable of the trio. Suggs missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain.
Green had seven carries for 30 yards, and Droughns had 10 for 28. Crennel wanted more.
"Not enough," he said when asked to assess what he saw from his backs. "We didn't run the ball as efficiently as we need to."
Green's TD run with 36 seconds remaining in the half put the Browns ahead 10-9.
Dawson boots pair
Cleveland's Phil Dawson kicked two field goals, but was wide right on a 35-yarder in the third quarter.
Jake Delhomme threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith just before halftime and Kasay kicked three field goals as the Panthers cleaned up some of their problems from a week ago, when they committed six turnovers and had nine penalties in a 28-10 loss to the Giants.