CLEVELAND (AP) — Josh McCown came back to Cleveland and beat the team that cut him, throwing two touchdown passes and leading the surprising New York Jets to a 17-14 win over the winless Browns, who benched rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and fell to 1-20 under coach Hue Jackson.
McCown went just 1-10 in two seasons as a starter for the Browns, who released him on Feb. 7 in a cost-cutting move. The 38-year-old wasn’t seeking revenge, but he got it with two second-half scoring tosses.
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 (3-2) 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.
Jackson also decided to replace Kizer in the second half for backup Kevin Hogan, perhaps a sign the coach is worried about losing his job. Hogan threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end David Njoku.
The Browns (0-5) dropped to 2-30 in their past 32 games, but they did finally get to see No. 1 overall draft pick Myles Garrett.
Garrett, who missed Cleveland’s first four games with a high ankle sprain, recorded a sack on his first play and finished with two.
McCown’s short pass to Seferian-Jenkins gave the Jets a 10-7 lead in the third quarter. The score was set up by cornerback Morris Claiborne, who picked off Hogan’s overthrow and returned it 28 yards.
Hogan’s 41-yard TD pass to Duke Johnson with 1:49 left pulled the Browns within 17-14, but Julian Stanford recovered the onside kick for New York 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.
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.
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.
The QB switch was startling since Jackson had given his unconditional support to Kizer, promising to stick with him no matter what happened this season.
The Jets did next to nothing on offense in the first half, but together a 32-yard drive in the final 31 seconds to set up Chandler Catanzaro’s 57-yard field goal, the longest in franchise history.
The Browns squandered four scoring opportunities during a sometimes comical — and difficult to watch — first half in which they dominated statistically but couldn’t get out of their own way.
Gonzalez missed field goals from 52 and 39 yards, Crowell fumbled a pitch inside the Jets 10, and Kizer locked in on tight end Seth Devalve and threw an interception just short of the goal line.
So instead of leading by double digits, the Browns went to the locker room at halftime trailing 3-0 after Catanzaro’s long boot.
Some Cleveland’s fans booed while others shrugged their shoulders at the latest display of incompetence.
The Browns aren’t good enough to overcome their errors and they made four crucial ones in the first half.
Gonzalez also missed a 48-yard field goal last week, and with his first-half pick, Kizer has nine in five games.
Jets: RB Bilal Powell exited in the second quarter with a calf injury, forcing third-stringer Elijah McGuire into action. Starter Matt Forte was inactive for the second straight week with turf toe.
Browns: LB James Burgess sustained a lower leg injury in the fourth and walked off. … Starting LB Jamie Collins missed his third straight game with a concussion.
Jets: Host New England next Sunday.
Browns: At Houston next Sunday.