By Tom Withers, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass before swapping his helmet for a baseball cap in the first quarter as the defending champion Green Bay Packers opened the preseason with a 27-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night.
One day after they were honored in a ceremony at the White House, the Packers began their quest for a second straight Lombardi Trophy. Rodgers and most of Green Bay's first-string offense played only two series in the first quarter, when both the Packers and Browns had long TD drives.
After establishing himself as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks with his performance against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, Rodgers was eager to get back under center following an offseason made longer by the lockout. He got off to a rough start, but finished 6 of 8 for 74 yards and threw a 21-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings.
Browns quarterback Colt McCoy outshined Rodgers.
McCoy, looking comfortable running first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur's new West Coast offense, went 9 of 10 for 135 yards while playing three series. He threw a 27-yard TD pass to Josh Cribbs, and led Cleveland on a second scoring drive, capped by Peyton Hillis' 3-yard scoring burst.
While in Washington, the Packers presented President Obama - a die-hard fan of the Chicago Bears - with a personalized jersey and a certificate for a share in the team. Green Bay's franchise is publicly owned, and more than 100,000 stockholders own shares in their beloved Pack.
Wall Street might be going wild, but the Packers are a sound investment.
With virtually the entire team back, Green Bay is favored to repeat as Super Bowl winners, something that hasn't been done since New England (2004-05).
Rodgers looked rusty on Green Bay's first three plays. He threw two incompletions toward Jennings, and the Packers were forced to punt.
But the second time around, Rodgers was on target.
Perhaps irritated the Browns scored so easily, the Packers went to the no-huddle, and Rodgers quickly moved them down the field. On a 1st-and-20 play, Rodgers stepped away from inside pressure by rolling right and found wide-open Donald Driver on a 31-yard gain to Cleveland's 26. Two plays later, Rodgers fired a pass to the left corner pylon for Jennings, who pulled the ball away from Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown.
That was it for Rodgers, who spent the rest of the night as a sideline spectator.
Rodgers looked good.
McCoy looked even better.
The second-year QB, whom the Browns hope can finally end a decade-long search for an offensive leader, was pinpoint accurate and in control. He completed all four passes as the Browns drove for their first score - McCoy's pass to Cribbs, the dynamic return man whose role in Shurmur's offense is yet to be determined.
Cribbs streaked down the right sideline and hauled in McCoy's pass over cornerback Pat Lee, who started in place of veteran Charles Woodson. Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided to rest Woodson, a 14-year veteran who broke his collarbone in the first half of the Super Bowl.
McCoy's performance - his only incompletion was a batted-down pass at the line - must be comforting to Shurmur, the former St. Louis offensive coordinator. Earlier this week, Shurmur said he expected the matchup with the vaunted Packers to reveal ``we have a long way to go.''
Maybe not as far as he feared.
The Browns' starters played the Packers' to a draw.
Green Bay led 17-14 at halftime, scoring with 27 seconds left in the second quarter on Matt Flynn's 3-yard TD pass to tight end Spencer Havner, who ran under a tipped ball.
The Browns tied it early in the third on a 46-yard field goal by Jeff Wolfert and took a 24-17 lead when linebacker Titus Brown scooped up a fumble and went 43 yards for a TD.
Wolfert's 44-yarder with 1:52 left capped the scoring.
Notes: Along with Woodson, TE Jermichael Finley (leg) and rookie RB Alex Green (ankle) didn't dress for Green Bay, which was also without DBs Sam Shields (hip), Brandian Ross (hamstring), Devon House (hamstring) and Brandon Underwood (knee). ... The Browns were missing starting LB Chris Gocong (stinger), S Usama Young (hamstring), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (leg) and Carlton Mitchell (finger), who had surgery Friday. ... Green Bay had 13 players catch passes in the first half. ... The Browns were forced to burn a timeout just 6 seconds in, and before the Packers' first snap, when it appeared they had 12 men on defense. ... Browns CB Coye Francies was injured in the first half making a tackle. The team had no word on his condition.
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