Austin Davis will make his first start of 2015, the Browns announced Wednesday. He replaces the injured Josh McCown, who suffered a fractured collarbone during Monday night's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. McCown left the game midway through the fourth quarter before Davis came in and had an up-and-down showing in his brief appearance.
After going three-and-out on his first drive, Davis and the Browns' offense got the ball back, trailing 27-20 in the final minutes. Davis proceeded to lead Cleveland down the field before hitting receiver Travis Benjamin for a 42-yard touchdown.
That tied the game at 27-all with 1:47 left, but the Browns went on to lose after Baltimore blocked a field goal as time expired and returned it 64 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Cleveland was attempting a field goal because Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub threw a bad interception (shocker) that put the Browns close to field-goal range.
Davis almost did the same thing himself in the prior drive, throwing a pass right into the arms of Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb that should have been intercepted with 1:17 left, but Webb dropped it. Davis then took a bad sack and threw an incomplete pass before Cleveland punted the ball away.
Davis finished 7-of-10 passing for 77 yards with one touchdown and a 125.8 passer rating in about half a quarter of play. This Sunday will be his first NFL start since Week 10 of the 2014 season with the St. Louis Rams. He appeared in 10 games (8 starts) and completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,001 yards (7.0 yards per attempt) with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Davis will also be the 15th Browns quarterback Marvin Lewis has faced as the Bengals head coach in 13 years. During that span, Lewis has had just four starting quarterbacks, including Jon Kitna, Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick (filling in for an injured Palmer), and Andy Dalton. You could argue all four of those quarterbacks have had better careers than any signal-caller the Browns have had since their return to Cleveland in 1999.
Speaking of, Davis will be the 24th starting Quarterback for the Browns since 1999, the most in the NFL in that span. It's too bad for Cleveland, as McCown was having one of the best seasons a Browns passer has had since returning to Cleveland. McCown finished his 2015 season having completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 2,109 yards (7.2 yards per attempt) with 12 touchdowns vs four interceptions and a passer rating of 93.3.
As for who will back up Davis on Sunday, that will be the infamous Johnny Manziel, who started vs the Bengals in Week 9, but is still being disciplined by the Browns for his actions during the team's bye week. Regardless of who starts for Cleveland, this is a team Cincinnati should beat, as evidenced by the 61-10 combined margin of victory in their past two meetings.