CLEVELAND -- Brady Quinn's biggest throw could turn out to be a monkey wrench.
With flashbulbs popping all around the stadium, Cleveland's rookie quarterback tossed two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in his first NFL exhibition game and looked better than any Browns quarterback in a 23-20 loss to Detroit on Saturday night.
Quinn's performance -- 13-of-20 for 155 yards in the final 9:20 -- may muddle Cleveland's starting quarterback competition between Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson, who were both booed by Browns fans.
Asked if Quinn is now in the mix to be his starter, Browns coach Romeo Crennel didn't say no.
"I think you've got to give the young man credit," Crennel said. "Their best guys weren't in there but our best guys weren't in there either. I'll look at the tape and we'll decide. He's still a young quarterback and he had a limited offense and I believe in time that he's going to be a good quarterback.
"But the reason he didn't play more tonight was that he wasn't ready. I've said all along we'll see what the kid can do and when he gets a better grasp of the offense we'll ask him to do more."
Crennel said he may have to delay his decision on who will start the Sept. 9 season opener against Pittsburgh.
"If we have to go another week, we have to go another week," he said.
The former Notre Dame star entered with the Browns down 23-7.
As No. 10 jogged onto the field, Cleveland fans welcomed Quinn with a roaring ovation, and many of them stayed on their feet after Quinn hit Chris Barclay on a screen pass that went for 30 yards on his first play.
Quinn completed five passes in a row before his first miss. On second-and-3 at Detroit's 4, he calmly rolled to his right and drilled a TD pass to rookie Efrem Hill, who got open near the sideline.
The next time Cleveland got the ball, Quinn drove the Browns 92 yards in 1:52, hitting Jerome Harrison with a 6-yard TD pass with 18 seconds left.
Quinn was pleased with his performance, but was happiest about getting back on the field.
"I was trying to do my best to stay calm," Quinn said. "It felt good to cross the lines and play. Hopefully I'll get better and better."
Quinn missed 11 days of training camp before signing a five-year, $20.2 million contract, and didn't get off the sideline in last week's win over Kansas City. Crennel has insisted Quinn is behind in learning Cleveland's new offense, but with the way Frye and Anderson are playing, he may be able to catch up quickly.
Quinn was antsy to show what he could do.
"I'd been holding a clipboard for one game and three quarters," he said. "It's been tough to wait it out."
As for entering the quarterback race, Quinn knows that's not his call.
"That's not my decision," he said. "I think anyone of those guys could have done that facing that situation in the two-minute drill. The defense was in soft coverage."
Maybe so, but Quinn didn't make any mistakes either.
"We now need to see if he can do that against first- and second-team defenses," Browns receiver Joe Jurevicius said. "It's not a takeaway from him. He did a good job when given the opportunity."
While the Browns have quarterback issues to resolve before their season opener, the Lions appear to be set.
Playing the entire first half, Jon Kitna finished 12-of-16 for 137 yards and hit Shaun McDonald with a 14-yard scoring pass just before halftime for the Lions (2-0), who seem to be making strides in coach Rod Marinelli's second season.
"The positives were we ran the ball well and didn't have any turnovers," Marinelli said. "Our first team defense still hasn't given up a touchdown and we got some good work done in the two-minute drill."
The Browns were booed off the field at halftime by their passionate fans, who are quickly losing patience and began chanting Quinn's name late in the third. Crennel understands the fans' eagerness and appreciates their opinion, but won't let it affect his decision on a starter.
"Let them get excited, but we will still do what is best for the team."
For the second straight week, Frye (5-for-10, 42 yards) had a mental error and threw an interception. Anderson (6-for-8, 65 yards) had two turnovers, including an interception near the goal line following a comedy of errors by Cleveland's offense.
Backup kicker Kenny Byrd booted three field goals and T.J. Duckett had a 15-yard TD run in the third quarter for Detroit, which built a 23-0 lead.
Kitna never looked in rookie wide receiver Calvin Johnson's direction, and the No. 2 overall pick did not have a reception. Detroit was without starting wideouts Roy Williams (hamstring) and Mike Furrey (knee), defensive ends Dewayne White (groin) and Kalimba Edwards (ankle) and kicker Jason Hanson (hamstring).
The Lions sustained a few more injuries, the most prominent to guard Damien Woody (right ankle) and defensive tackle Cory Redding (sprained left elbow).
- Associated Press