The Redskins were generous hosts last night. When Cleveland couldn't get near the end zone on its own, Washington helped out with three glaring errors that enabled the Browns to romp to a 21-9 preseason ending triumph at RFK stadium.
All three mistakes -- a fumble and interception by quarterback Joe Theismann and a fumble by halfback Ike Forte -- quickly were turned into touchdowns by the opportunistic Browns.
The Redskins could counter only with a 13 play, 76 yard plunge by Benny Malone early in the third quarter, and a 35 yard Nick Lowery field goal midway through the fourth.
Otherwise, Washington had problems putting together offensive threats. Dropped passes, inaccurate throws, penalties and some tough Cleveland defense, especially its pass rush, thwarted the Redskins, who were making their only home appearance of the exhibition season.
The good crowd of 40,039 wound up booing at times, but Coach Jack Pardee hardly seemed displeased afterward with what he saw.
"We accomplished about what I wanted to accomplish except we didn't win," he said. "We made mistakes and they capitalized on them and we didn't capitalize on their mistakes as well."
Yet other than the one successful march, the closest the Redskins came to scoring a touchdown was in the fourth quarter, when they drove to the Cleveland 17 only to bog down and be left with Lowery's field goal. They got to the 26 in the second period, but again the Browns held and Lowery missed a 43 yard kick.
Lowery played in place of Mark Moseley, who was sidelined for the second straight week with a sore leg. Lowery was activated yesterday afternoon after wide receiver Dennis Law, who had been obtained Thursday from Cincinnati, decided to retire.
Cleveland all but wrapped up the triumph in a 44 second span late in the first half by scoring two touchdowns.
The first came after Theismann was sacked by Lyle Alzado and Rich Dimler, forcing a fumble that the Browns' Mickey Sims recovered on the Washington 22.
Mike Pruitt sprinted around left end for 19 yards on first down. Then Greg Pruitt fumbled after being hit by middle linebacker Don Hover, but Cleveland recovered. Two plays later, Mike Pruitt plunged over from the one and Cleveland had a 7-0 lead.
Just when the Redskins began the ensuing series, it started raining heavily. Pardee said "normally we wouldn't have run our two minute offense in those kind of conditions but we needed work on it."
So with 1:59 remaining in the half, Washington went to the air while fans went to cover. Theismann found Danny Buggs for 13 yards and a first down at the 47. But, after Forte caught a short pass, he was knocked out on the tackle and line backer Clay Matthews grabbed the ball out of his arms.
As most of the Redskin offensive unit looked on in amazement, Matthews rambled 53 yards into the end zone. Theismann had the final shot at him around the 10 but Matthews eluded the tackle with some nifty footwork. Don Cockroft added the extra point and Cleveland led, 14-0, with 1:22 to go.
The Redskins made an effort to get back into the game early in the third period. With Theismann throwing well, they outwitted the Brown defense to post their first rushing touchdown of the preseason.
It took some accurate Theismann passing to pull off the score. He threw 20 yards to Buggs to get out of a third and 13 hole and hit Buggs for 14 yards to all but take care of a first and 15 predicament. A 16 yard fling to Ricky Thompson had the ball on the Cleveland 21, then John Riggins broke for five more and the Browns were penalized for unnecessary roughness.
On a first-and-goal from the eight, Riggins plunged for two yards. Theismann passed quickly to Malone, who was knocked out at the one. Malone, looking by far his best of the preseason, broke off right end and dove for the touchdown. Lowery failed on the kick and the Redskins trailed, 14-6.
Another powerful rush by Cleveland set up the Brown's final score. Theismann was smacked by Dimler just as he released a pass intended for Buggs. Instead, it went directly to Cleveland linebacker Dick Ambrose, who was tackled at the Washington 26.
The Redskins pushed back their opponents to a third-and-19, but Greg Pruitt burst up the middle on a draw for 23 yards and a first down at the 12, missed two wide-open receivers earlier, was right on target when Reggie Rucker broke free in the end zone. He zipped in a bullet and Cleveland was ahead, 21-6, with 12 seconds left in the third.
With Kim McQuilken relieving Theismann, the Redskins threatened once more. Don Harris picked off a Sipe pass at the Browns' 32, and a McQuilken-to-Clarence Harmon toss had the ball on the 13. Cleveland broke up a screen to Riggins and Jean Fuggett hauled in a pass but was out of bounds at the one, forcing Lowery to boot his 35-yard field goal.
Theismann, who had to scramble three times against the Brown's rush for 25 yards, wound up completing 11 tries picked off and was sacked twice of 22 passes for 145 yards. He had two for 19 yards.
Malone led Washington rushers with 53 yards on 14 carries, but the Pruitts gained 145 yards, mostly by outsprinting the Redskins around the ends.
Washington's defense, however, had one particular moment of glory. In the first half, the Browns found themselves on the Redskin one-yard line but wound up pushed back to the 35 before Don Cockroft failed on a 39-yard field goal.
A holding penalty began Cleveland's retreat. Then former Brown Turkey Jones smashed into Sipe, who fumbled. Dave Butz had a clean shot at the ball but tried to pick it up and run with it instead of gaining possession. When he failed, Cleveland's Tom DeLeone recovered at the 35. Two plays later, Cockroft was sent in.
Pardee said he used the contest "to get a look at a lot of players. I thought we lost our offensive continuity a bit in the first half, but we got our poise back in the third when we scored.
"I'm just glad exhibition season is over. Now we can get on to worrying about Houston."