The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — On his first trip back to Cleveland, Josh McCown experienced something new — and something unexpected.
“It took me three years and two teams,” New York’s quarterback said. “But dang gummit, I got me a win at FirstEnergy Stadium.”
As a visitor.
Released by the Browns in February after two seasons, McCown got some revenge on his former team by throwing two touchdown passes and leading the surprising Jets to a 17-14 win over the winless Browns and coach Hue Jackson, who benched rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and is under more pressure after falling to 1-20.
McCown won only one game as a starter in two seasons with Cleveland, and that came in Baltimore. He went 0-7 at home for the Browns (0-5), who released him Feb. 7 in a cost-cutting move. The 38-year-old wasn’t looking for payback, but he got it with two second-half scoring passes.
Little was expected this season of the Jets (3-2), but they’ve become a shocking success story.
“We haven’t done anything,” coach Todd Bowles said. “We’ve won three games. By no means are we perfect. We’ve got to play a lot better to beat New England (next week) or anyone else.”
McCown threw a 2-yard TD pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the third quarter and a 24-yarder to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth to give the Jets a 17-7 lead en route to their third straight victory.
Kearse’s TD capped a 97-yard drive after Jackson decided not to try a potential tying field goal — rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez missed two attempts in the first half — and went for it on fourth down.
However, running back Isaiah Crowell was stopped short by New York’s defense and McCown moved the Jets down the field, helped by a 34-yard pass on third down to tight end Eric Tomlinson.
Jackson said Gonzalez’s earlier misses factored into his decision, but he was confident that his defense would get the ball back in good field position.
While the choice to shun the field goal was debatable, Jackson’s conclusion to bench an ineffective Kizer for Kevin Hogan was the right move.
Hogan threw two touchdown passes, a 21-yarder to rookie tight end David Njoku and a 41-yarder to Duke Johnson in the final two minutes to pull the Browns within 17-14.
Cleveland tried an onside kick, but Jets linebacker Julian Stanford recovered it and McCown knelt three times to run out the clock. It is the first time in his 15-year career that McCown has won three consecutive starts.
When the game ended, McCown chased down Jackson and put his arm around the embattled coach.
“I told him to hang in there,” McCown said. “Fight the fight.”
With his future growing cloudy, Jackson opened the second half with Hogan, who came into training camp as the team’s forgotten No. 4 quarterback. Hogan brought a spark, driving the Browns to a touchdown — and their first lead of the season — on the opening possession of the third quarter.
“I didn’t think it was going in the right direction,” Jackson said of Kizer’s benching. “That is why I made the decision to take him out. We go into every game trying to win. That is our goal. That is our job. That is my job. I’m not here just to get players better. That is part of it, but it is also to win. I think if there is a decision that needs to be made to win, that is the decision I am going to make.”
Kizer was understandably upset following the game.
“Frustrated for sure,” said the second-round pick, who has nine interceptions and a league-low 49.5 rating. “This is all new to me. Being 0-5 is new to me. This organization and this city deserves wins.”
Kizer stood on the sideline next to Jackson wearing a baseball cap and blank expression as Hogan completed five straight passes, including his scoring pass to Njoku, who snared the pass with a diving, one-handed grab.
Jackson said he’ll wait to watch the tape before making a decision on his quarterback for next week when the Browns visit Houston.