Bears and Browns sit most regulars, Cleveland pulls out 18-16 exhibition finale win

Another Exhibition Schedule is now history.Brian Hoyer started by connecting with Josh Gordon on a 45-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage and ended the game with a comeback.

Hoyer threw for 307 yards and came on down the stretch for the Browns after Jordan Palmer dominated the first half for the Bears, leading Cleveland to an 18-16 victory in the preseason finale on Thursday night.

Hoyer was intercepted twice. But he also led the Browns (3-1) on a 76-yard touchdown drive that made it a one-point game in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t care if it is the fourth preseason game of the year or the last game of the year,” he said.

“When you’re out there, you’re out there to win, it doesn’t matter who is out there, you play the game to win, you don’t just play to play.”

Punter Spencer Lanning kicked a 40-yard field goal with just over three minutes left following a fumble by Harvey Unga to make it 18-16.

Robbie Gould then missed a 57-yarder wide right with just over a minute left, and the Bears (2-2) lost after leading most of the way.

Signed two weeks ago after third-stringer Matt Blanchard broke a knuckle on his left, non-throwing hand, Palmer made the most of his opportunity with Jay Cutler and Josh McCown sitting out.

Palmer, the brother of Arizona QB Carson Palmer, helped the Bears build a 10-3 halftime lead, completing 11 of 17 passes for 111 yards before giving way to Trent Edwards.

Palmer led the Bears to a field goal on their first possession after Demontre Hurst intercepted Hoyer and connected with Joe Anderson on a 5-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

Not bad, considering he thought his playing days were over. That changed when he got the call from the Bears, and now, he might have to cancel a trip to Europe next week with his wife.

“We’ve been putting it off for the past couple years. And I would love to cancel that trip,” he said.

But it was the Browns who finished the preseason on a winning note, with both teams resting their top players.

The Bears had said they would do just that, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall wasn’t even at the stadium. He had an excused absence.

Marshall also voiced frustration on Tuesday about his recovery from offseason hip surgery and missed practice on Wednesday.

He is expected to be ready for the opener against Cincinnati, which is the first game of the Marc Trestman era.

The Browns didn’t play Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson or Joe Thomas, among others.

With backup quarterback Jason Campbell out with flu-like symptoms, Hoyer got the call for the Browns and completed 24 of 35 passes.

His second interception — by Sherrick McManis — led to a 44-yard field goal by Gould that increased the lead to 16-9 early in the fourth.

Hoyer then led the Browns on the go-ahead touchdown drive, finishing with a 14-yard TD pass to Dan Gronkowski with just under 7 minutes left.

The Browns went for two, and the pass got broken up, preserving a 16-15 lead for the Bears.

Cleveland went ahead on Lanning’s 40-yarder after Unga fumbled and L.J. Fort made the recovery. Lanning was handling field goals after Shayne Graham injured his back in warmups, keeping him out of the game.

“I told him after he made that kick, you just never know what you’re going to have to do when you come to work every day,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He responded really well.”

Gordon started for Cleveland and caught two passes for 77 yards.

The Browns want to keep him sharp, since he was suspended for the first two regular-season games for violating NFL’s drug policy.

David Nelson made his first appearance since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in last year’s opener with Buffalo, catching four passes for 54 yards. He signed a one-year deal with Cleveland.

Brandon Jackson, trying to solidify his spot as the No. 2 running back, had just 5 yards on five attempts. The Browns are thin at the position with Dion Lewis (surgically repaired left leg) and Montario Hardesty (leg) on injured reserve.

While Palmer looked sharp in the early going for the Bears, Edwards threw for 135 yards in the second half.

He led the Bears to the 3 on the first drive of the third quarter, only to settle for a field goal, and had some bad luck on an interception that James-Michael Johnson returned 23 yards for a touchdown on the Bears next possession, making it 13-9. The ball bounced off the hands of the Bears Fendi Onobun.

Michael Ford, vying for the third running back spot with Armando Allen, ran for 48 yards on nine carries. Allen, who’s been limited by a hamstring injury, had 39 yards on 10 attempts.

The Bears held out rookie Jonathan Bostic, who’s been starting at middle linebacker with D.J. Williams injured. And Trestman also all but confirmed that first-round pick Kyle Long and fifth-rounder Jordan Mills will start at right guard and right tackle after sitting them on Thursday.

“We just feel that Kyle and both Jordan have really played well and practiced well,” Trestman said. “Going into next week unless both change it looks like they’ll be there.”

Bring on Cincinnati!