Exhibition finale not totally meaningless

Individual battles for final roster spots were an intriguing game within the game

CLEVELAND — You might have yawned at the proceedings Thursday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Maybe you switched back and forth to the broadcast of the Republican National Convention.

Perhaps you chose "Glee."

Or played some Angry Birds on your smart phone.

You might have thought there was little to be gained from Browns-Bears. And that was true for most of us.

Even Bears general manager Phil Emery had to go into the game with a pretty clear picture of what his final roster would look like. But Emery did have something to gain from paying close attention.

Players who could be on the bottom of the Bears' roster were competing, trying to show Emery and coach Lovie Smith that they deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster, which will be decided Friday.

The game clearly meant something to Josh McCown.

"Tomorrow is not promised," said McCown, who played every snap on offense and was sharp enough to walk away with a 90.7 passer rating after completing 20 of 29 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. "I embrace it and have fun."

Because Matt Blanchard was cut last week and Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell were given the night off, this was McCown's game. He put his signature on it and added to his reputation as a player who can turn it on when needed.

The veterans watched him from the sidelines with smiles on their faces.

"He just has that it factor when he's back there," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "He commands the guys, has fun and makes plays."

In his first four series, McCown threw two passes that were touchdowns and another that could have been.

The first bounced off the hands of Brittan Golden, who ran an out route about 21 yards to the 2-yard line on the sideline. The second was a sweet strike to Dane Sanzenbacher in the end zone for a 30-yard score. The third throw led Armando Allen beautifully on an in route that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown.

If McCown did not convince the Bears it's worth keeping him as a third quarterback, the game was more meaningless than anyone thought.

The game meant something to Allen and Lorenzo Booker. Both played their hearts out in a battle to be the third running back.

Booker showed more nifty moves on his way to 81 rushing yards, but Allen peeled off a 49-yarder in the final minutes and wound up with 83.

Allen contributed in more ways, leading the Bears with 51 receiving yards, handling his pass protection well and forcing a fumble on a Browns punt return.

The game meant something to Ryan Quigley. He still was trying to prove to the Bears he can replace Adam Podlesh if Podlesh isn't healthy enough to punt in the opener.

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