LANDOVER, Md. — Deshaun Watson gave Browns fans a sneak preview of the future Sunday against the Commanders, and the future looks bright.
On a sunny, 62-degree day at FedEx Field, Watson threw three touchdown passes in the second half to secure a 24-10 victory over the Commanders and improve the Browns to 7-9. The Commanders, who needed a victory to maintain a realistic shot at the playoffs, dropped to 7-8-1.
Watson, who made some sensational throws in last week’s 17-10 victory over the Saints despite minus-16 windchills and 30 mph wind gusts to leave the Browns encouraged, flourished on the gorgeous day here. He had two touchdown passes to Amari Cooper (3-of-4 targets for 105 yards, 2 TDs) and one to Donovan Peoples-Jones (1-of-3 targets, 13 yards, 1 TD).
Watson finished 9 of 18 for 169 yards, three TDs, and a 122.5 rating.
Meanwhile, the Browns intercepted Carson Wentz (16-of-28, 143 yards, 3 INTs, 31.4 rating) three times, including two by Grant Delpit and one by Denzel Ward.
That made three picks by Delpit in the past two games, and eight by the Browns in the last five games.
Wentz, who made his first start after missing the last nine with a broken finger, was roundly booed by the home crowd, which chanted for backup Taylor Heinicke after each interception.
Wentz dropped to 2-5 as a starter this season.
Delpit ran to the stands after his second interception with 3:11 left in the game, and handed it to his mom. Oddly enough, the Browns managed only three points off the three interceptions and one Commander turnover on downs.
Cooper has talked lately of how good he and Watson can be together, and Sunday’s victory foreshadowed that. Cooper had a 46-yard catch-and-run that made it 10-7 in the third and a 33-yarder that made it 24-10 on which he stretched over the pylon for his ninth TD catch of the season.
Nick Chubb (14 carries for 104 yards), now No. 2 on the NFL rushing list for the season, went over 100 yards for the seventh time this season, and over 90 for the 10 times this season.
The Browns are trying to help Chubb win the rushing title this season, but it’s still a long shot.
Myles Garrett sacked Wentz 1.5 times for 15 on the season. He headed into the game four sacks behind San Francisco’s Nick Bosa, who led the NFL with 17.5.
The Commanders narrowed the gap to 17-10 on a 43-yard field goal with 10-26 left in the game, but Watson responded with his third touchdown pass of the afternoon. The 33-yarder to a wide open Cooper — his second of the day — gave the Browns a 24-10 command with 5:21 left in the game.
It was the third straight TD pass for Watson on as many drives in the second half.
Cleveland went ahead 17-7 on a 13-yard TD catch by Donovan Peoples-Jones, who dropped the out route the play before on second down.
But Watson came right back to him, and he delivered. Peoples-Jones also dropped a TD pass in the end zone on the Browns’ final drive in last week’s 17-10 loss to the Saints, but Watson demonstrated that he has faith in his pass-catchers.
Watson had his first multi-TD pass game in his five starts.
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The Browns forced a three-and-out on the Commanders’ first drive of the second half, and then went down and scored on a 46-yard catch-and-run by Cooper to go ahead 10-7 with 10:03 left in the third quarter.
Cooper shook off the tackle attempt of cornerback Kendall Fuller at the Commanders 37 and sprinted up the left sideline for the score. It was Cooper’s team-leading eighth touchdown catch of the season.
The Commanders took a 7-3 lead with 21 seconds left in the half on a 1-yard run by Wentz, who vaulted up and over the top to cap a 21-play, 96-yard drive that knocked 11:27 off the clock. .
It shut up the “Heinicke, Heinicke” crowd for the moment.
The Browns got only three points out of an INT-downs-INT start for the Commanders.
They mustered a 37-yard Cade York field out of Ward’s pick on Wentz’s opening drive, and that was it. As it was, they had to settle for a field goal on that march after Watson’s third down pass to David Njoku was broken up at the 10 by cornerback Danny Johnson.
Ward tied his career-high of three interceptions when he picked off the third-down pass with 10:48 left in the first quarter. He had three last season, and in his rookie year in 2018.
On the Commanders’ second drive, they went for it on fourth and 1 from the Browns’ 40, but Jadeveon Clowney and Garrett combined to drop running back Jonathan Williams for a 2-yard loss.
The Browns took over at their 42, but also turned the ball over on downs when Chase Young stopped Watson for a 1-yard gain on fourth and 3 from the 3.
York made a 25-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter, but the Commanders jumped offsides to give the Browns another chance. They went for it, and Young made the big play.
The Commanders got the ball at their 2, and Delpit picked off Wentz on another third-down pass from their 12, this time a deep ball for Curtis Samuel with 13:14 left in the half.
It was Delpit’s second INT in as many weeks, having swiped one from Andy Dalton in last week’s 17-10 loss to the Saints.
Both quarterbacks struggled in the first half. Watson went 3-of-8 for 23 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions for a 45.8 rating. Wentz went 6-of-10 for 62 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 38.3 rating. Watson was also sacked four times, and Wentz once.
Chubb rushed for 68 yards in the first half.
The Browns close out their season Saturday or Sunday in Pittsburgh. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm
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