OAKLAND, Calif. — Nursing a three-point lead and backed up to the shadow of his own goal posts, rookie Brandon Weeden engineered a touchdown drive that gave the Cleveland Browns a happy plane ride home for a change and hope for a much brighter future.
Weeden threw for a career-high 364 yards and a touchdown and made key plays on the clinching 94-yard drive that helped the Browns snap a 12-game road losing streak by beating the Oakland Raiders 20-17 on Sunday.
“That was kind of a statement,” Weeden said. “We strung together a lot of really good plays. That shows the potential we have as an offense, and that’s encouraging. We had a lot of guys make different plays.”
Weeden hit fellow rookie Josh Gordon on a 44-yard score in the second quarter and Trent Richardson scored on a 3-yard run after Sheldon Brown made a key interception deep in Cleveland territory when the Raiders (3-9) were driving for the potential tying or go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
It all added up to the first road win for the Browns (4-8) since beating Indianapolis 27-19 in the second game of the 2011 season.
The skid started a few weeks later with a loss in Oakland and went deep into this season.
“You don’t want streaks like that,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “Let’s face it, over the last few years we haven’t done a great job of winning games. And so, as we take this journey with this young football team, they’re starting to learn.”
The Raiders have lost five straight for the first time since a six-game losing streak in Lane Kiffin’s first year as coach in 2006 and have been eliminated from playoff contention for a 10th straight year.
There was more bad news after the game as Oakland coach Dennis Allen had to fly to the Dallas area to be with his father, former NFL linebacker Grady Allen, who has a serious health issue. Dennis Allen is expected to rejoin the team Wednesday night, a day before the Raiders host Denver.
The biggest blunder for the Raiders came when rookie Juron Criner used a double move to get behind Brown and Carson Palmer underthrew the deep ball with Oakland already in position for a game-tying field goal.
Brown intercepted the pass at the 6-yard line and Weeden engineered an impressive drive beginning with 9:31 to play.
“I was trying to take a shot there, go for the touchdown quickly and just didn’t put the ball in the right spot, didn’t give Juron a chance to make a play on the ball,” Palmer said.
Weeden completed an 11-yard pass on third-and-3 to Gordon to get the Browns started and also had a big 22-yard pass to tight end Benjamin Watson.
Weeden then converted a fourth-and-1 sneak from the Oakland 45 and Desmond Bryant jumped offside on a third-and-1 from the Raiders 10.
Richardson scored two plays later to give the Browns a 20-10 lead with 3:27 to go as the Browns won for the fourth time in seven games since an 0-5 start to match last season’s win total.
“Probably a defining drive of the season,” Brown said. “We had an opportunity to see the character of that offense.”
The Browns have been improved defensively of late and Weeden had one of his best games as a pro. He completed 25 of 36 passes and overcame two first-half interceptions to lead the impressive late drive against a banged-up secondary that lost safeties Matt Giordano and Mike Mitchell and cornerback Phillip Adams to concussions.
Richardson ran for 72 yards and Gordon had six catches for 116 yards as Cleveland took advantage of Oakland’s struggling defense.
“We can’t stop the run, we can’t stop the pass,” Raiders cornerback Michael Huff said. “Things just aren’t going well on defense. Right now I guess we’re just a bad defense. We can’t really hide it. At this point, the numbers don’t really allow it. We’re just bad right now.”
Palmer was 34 for 54 for 351 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown to rookie Rod Streater. He added a 17-yard TD pass to Brandon Myers with 1 second left but it was too late. Myers caught 14 passes for 130 yards, tying Tim Brown’s franchise record for catches in a game.
Oakland showed signs of life late in the third quarter when Desmond Bryant blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by Phil Dawson.
Four plays later, Streater made a good adjustment on a deep pass from Palmer that cut Cleveland’s lead to 13-10. But that’s as close as the Raiders got.
After getting outscored by 90 points during what general manager Reggie McKenzie recently described as a “terrible November,” the Raiders didn’t get off to a much better start in December.
They punted on their first four possessions of the game and fell behind 10-0 as Dawson kicked a 41-yard field goal early in the second quarter and Gordon beat Ron Bartell deep on a 44-yard touchdown pass later in the second.
Sebastian Janikowski got Oakland on the board with a 51-yard field goal, but was wide right on a 61-yarder at the end of the half.
Notes: Dawson had made a career-high 29 straight FGs before the block. … Janikowski kicked his 40th FG of at least 50 yards, tied with Morten Andersen for fourth most all time. … The attendance of 43,641 is lowest at Oakland since the Raiders drew 32,218 on Oct. 3, 2010.