Sam Bradford, bottom, of the St. Louis Rams is looked at by trainers after being injured in the first quarter Saturday at Cleveland. (Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
Cleveland — Sam Bradford’s left knee failed him again. The Rams are once more a little shaky.
Bradford reinjured the knee he had surgery on last season and St. Louis had four other starters hurt in a 33-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night.
Bradford went down on his own after being hit by Browns defensive lineman Armonty Bryant in the first quarter. The Rams starting quarterback grabbed his knee and winced in pain before walking gingerly to the sideline with Rams coach Jeff Fisher watching every delicate step.
He was examined on the bench, then escorted to the locker room for further medical tests.
Following the game, Fisher thought Bradford hyperextended his knee, but will wait for more tests on Sunday.
“I’m very optimistic for his quick return,” said Fisher, who didn’t provide many details of the injury.
Fisher said he spoke with Bradford, who was not available for interviews.
“He’s fine. He’s upbeat,” Fisher said. “We’ll see.”
Browns starting quarterback Brian Hoyer (Michigan State) threw a touchdown pass and celebrated rookie backup Johnny Manziel had a 7-yard TD run. Manziel was also sacked twice by Rams rookie Michael Sam, who punctuated the first takedown by mimicking Manziel’s “money” sign.
“If you’re going to sack Johnny, you’ve got to do that once,” Sam said with a smile.
The Rams are holding out hope Bradford’s injury isn’t serious.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick missed nine games last season after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament and having surgery, and St. Louis was counting on him to bounce back and have a big year.
Third-string St. Louis quarterback Austin Davis threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter. The second was a short strike to wide receiver Chris Givens, who broke Browns rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert’s tackle and went 75 yards to make it 20-0.
Bradford’s injury wasn’t the only one sustained on a rough night for the Rams. The most serious appeared to be to cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who was carted off with a towel draped over his head in the second quarter. Johnson and tackle Michael Brockers were injured on the same play, but Brockers walked off under his own power.
Earlier, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and offensive guard Rodger Saffold sustained ankle injuries.
“It was difficult for our team there to have those things happen,” Fisher said. “I don’t want the injuries to be the focus of this game. It’s the third preseason game and we set our sights high and accomplished what we wanted to accomplish tonight.”
The Rams racked up 472 yards on offense, recorded four sacks and kicker Greg Zuerlein had four field goals.
Fisher took a cautious approach with the 26-year-old Bradford in training camp and delayed the QB’s exhibition debut until last week against Green Bay. Bradford played well, completing 9 of 12 passes for 101 yards, and Fisher had hoped to give him more time against the Browns.
But he didn’t get past the Rams’ opening possession. After driving St. Louis to the Cleveland 12, Bradford, who wears a brace on his knee, dropped back and was hit high by Bryant as he threw an incompletion. Bryant didn’t wrap his arms around Bradford, who turned and fell.
“It appeared to be just a hyperextension of the same knee,” Fisher said. “We’ll get you the information.”
The Browns have their own issues at quarterback.
Coach Mike Pettine picked Hoyer this week over Manziel, the super-hyped first-round pick who didn’t do enough in training camp to win the starting job. Manziel did provide some excitement in the second half, bursting from the pocket and diving into the end zone before celebrating his first rushing TD in his home debut with his trademark finger-rubbing gesture.
“It was a great first experience in the stadium,” Manziel said. “To get a touchdown was incredible.”
Hoyer finished 10 of 16 for 84 yards with one touchdown.
Manziel went 10 of 15 for 85 yards. In the fourth quarter, he was blindsided by Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player who is fighting to make the Rams’ roster.
“I thought I played great in the fourth quarter,” Sam said. “I think I got better today, which is very important. You have to do with the plays you have that you make sure you perform, and I thought I came up big.”
Other exhibition games
Saints 23, (at) Colts 17: Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter and led New Orleans to a win at Indianapolis.
After missing more than two weeks of practice and the Saints’ first two exhibition games with a strained left side muscle, Brees showed no sign of rustiness. He went 9 of 15 for 128 yards with no interceptions for New Orleans (3-0).
Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne suited up for the Colts (0-3) for the first time since tearing his right ACL last October, but Indy’s offense struggled.
Andrew Luck played into the third quarter and finished 10 of 18 for 103 yards with one TD and one interception. Wayne caught two passes, both of which were wiped out by penalties.
Brees’ 13-yard TD pass to Marques Colston made it 14-7 and the Saints never trailed again.
Texans 18, (at) Broncos 17: Peyton Manning and Emmanuel Sanders found their rhythm after an early miscue, connecting for two long touchdowns in the final 67 seconds of the first half of Denver’s loss to Houston.
Manning was whistled for taunting following his second TD toss to Sanders. The Broncos said that was apparently the first such penalty in the five-time MVP’s career.
Manning ran up to D.J. Swearinger and gave an earful to the Texans’ swaggering second-year safety who leveled Wes Welker with a forearm to the face one play earlier. Welker, who has a history of head injuries, was evaluated for a possible concussion.
With all that work they put in together, both teams treated this third game more like a second exhibition, with many stars getting cameos at best. Neither team sent front-line players out to start the second half for what is traditionally the final regular-season tuneup.
Titans 24, (at) Falcons 17: Rookie Bishop Sankey’s 3-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion with 5:45 remaining gave Tennessee its first lead as the Titans rallied for a 24-17 preseason win over the Falcons.
Sean Renfree led Atlanta to the Titans’ 4-yard line but couldn’t complete a fourth-and-2 pass to Julian Jones with 1:08 remaining.
Matt Ryan was sharp for Atlanta (1-2) as he threw first-half touchdown passes to Julio Jones and Devin Hester.
Each starting quarterback left after one series in the third quarter.
Ryan completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards with the two touchdowns. Jake Locker hit 12 of 17 passes for 188 yards for Tennessee (2-1). Locker threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington late in the first half.
Zach Mettenberger played most of the second half as the Titans rallied.
Vikings 30, (at) Chiefs 12: The Vikings’ Matt Cassel threw for 152 yards and a touchdown in his return to Kansas City, and Minnesota rolled to a victory.
Cassel, benched and then released by the Chiefs two years ago, found Cordarrelle Patterson for a 53-yard scoring strike on the Vikings’ first offensive series.
Teddy Bridgewater threw two TD passes to tight end Allen Reisner later in the game.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Chiefs counterpart Jamaal Charles dressed but did not play. Kansas City also was without wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway.
Alex Smith was 14 of 24 for 124 yards with two red-zone interceptions. The Chiefs’ first-team offense still has not scored a touchdown in 16 preseason possessions.
Buccaneers 27, (at) Bills 14: Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald provided quarterback Josh McCown and the rebuilt Buccaneers’ offense a hand in helping run up the score on the slow-starting Bills.
McDonald returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown and McCown directed two scoring drives. Doug Martin scored on a 1-yard run and McCown hit first-round pick Mike Evans on a perfectly placed 24-yard fade pass to the right corner in helping the Bucs (1-2) build a 24-0 first-half lead.
McDonald’s touchdown came 1:37 after Connor Barth hit a 43-yard field goal to put Tampa Bay ahead 10-0.
With Buffalo facing first-and-20 at its 22, Adrian Clayborn burst around the left side to sack EJ Manuel and force the ball loose. McDonald scooped it up and rumbled into the end zone.
Ravens 23, (at) Washington 17: Joe Flacco’s final throw was a touchdown pass, providing a positive ending to an uneven performance by the Ravens’ first-team offense.
Robert Griffin III concluded his horrid outing with an interception, leaving the Redskins much to consider.
If this was a dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Ravens had reason to be encouraged. Flacco went 16 for 23 for 180 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown throw to Steve Smith with 25 seconds left in the first half.
Although the Ravens (3-0) twice failed on fourth-and-1 runs and gained only 37 yards on the ground in the first half, they performed the two-minute drill to near perfection for first-year offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Griffin, on the other hand, never found his groove. The third-year quarterback went 5 for 7 for 20 yards in the first half and was sacked three times. He returned in the third quarter and threw just one pass, an interception by rookie C.J. Mosley deep in Washington territory.
(At) Dolphins 25, Cowboys 20: Orleans Darkwa ran in from 1 yard with 1:45 left, and the Dolphins rallied from two scores down in the final minutes to beat the Cowboys.
Gator Hoskins caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore earlier in the fourth period for Miami.
Ryan Tannehill completing 13 of 21 passes for 119 yards with an interception for Miami, and Knowshon Moreno had 64 yards on 10 carries in his preseason debut.
Tony Romo played the first half and completed 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards for the Cowboys. Tyler Patmon had a 9-yard interception return for a score and LaRon Byrd caught a 27-yard touchdown pass for Dallas, which got field goals of 52 and 50 yards from Dan Bailey.