The Browns watched their tight lead over the Steelers slip away late in the fourth quarter off an offensive mishap.
QB Deshaun Watson was sacked with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and OLB Alex Highsmith forced the fumble on the play. LB T.J. Watt recovered it and returned the ball 16 yards for a touchdown. The fumble return gave the Steelers a 26-22 lead — which would hold to the end — over the Browns, and Cleveland was not able to answer in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
That fumble recovery would seal the win for the Steelers, and the Browns dropped to 1-1 on the season.
The Browns also dealt with a significant injury to the heart and soul of their offense early in the second quarter when RB Nick Chubb sustained a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field and immediately ruled out for the remainder of the game.
The Browns dealt with struggles on the offensive end from the first snap of the game, when Watson’s pass was tipped and intercepted, and then returned for a pick-6. Watson finished the game throwing 22-of-40 for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked a total of six times over the course of the game.
The Browns committed four turnovers on the night with two being turned directly into touchdowns. The Browns defense, which remained stout for a second straight game, forced two turnovers — a Grant Delpit interception and a fumble recovery — but was only able to turn one of them into points.
Jerome Ford, who took over the lion’s share of work at running back after Chubb’s injury, rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries. Amari Cooper led the Browns through the air, catching seven passes for 90 yards and registering his 600th career catch along the way.
The Browns found their way into the end zone in the second quarter with some improvisation from Watson for a 3-yard pass to RB Jerome Ford to run the ball in. They punched in the two-point conversion off a run by Ford to put the Browns up 11-7.
K Dustin Hopkins put the Browns’ first points on the board with a 43-yard field goal in the first quarter and added a 55-yard field goal late in the second that narrowed the Steelers’ halftime lead, 16-14.
The Browns re-established their lead in the third quarter after a 69-yard run from RB Jerome Ford set up Pierre Strong Jr. for a 1-yard touchdown run. Watson ran in the two-point conversion to put the Browns up, 22-19, with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Browns clung to that lead well into the fourth quarter but ultimately surrendered it for good on Watson’s fumble.
The Browns are back in action Sunday when they host the Titans at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
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