EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The game — and perhaps the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation — turned on two big hits on one play late in the first quarter against the New York Jets.
Josh McCown suffered a concussion on a collision, ushering in backup Johnny Manziel, and the Browns dropped their 11th straight season opener with a 31-10 loss Sunday.
Manziel did some good things, such as leading the Browns to a 7-0 lead with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin. But it was mostly downhill from there as Manziel threw an interception and lost two fumbles.
“We’ll see what Josh’s status is,” Manziel said of McCown, who will have to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol. “For me, this week is being ready to go, getting in with those guys and get a chance to mesh with them.”
On third-and-goal from the Jets 14, McCown took off up the middle and dived for the goal line. As he left his feet, McCown was hit by Calvin Pryor and Demario Davis, knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and out of the end zone for a touchback.
Browns coach Mike Pettine defended McCown’s decision to go for the score instead of a protective slide.
“A running quarterback, guys who are mobile who get out in open space, I don’t know how many of them would have handled that differently when they get that close to the end zone,” Pettine said.
On his fifth play, Manziel lofted a perfectly placed pass down the left sideline that landed right in the hands of Benjamin, who outran Antonio Cromartie to give the Browns the lead.
But the Jets, who started slowly, finished strong in coach Todd Bowles’ debut. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and Chris Ivory ran for two scores.
“It wasn’t perfect, by no means, but we did what we had to do to win,” Bowles said.
The Jets (1-0) had five takeaways against the Browns (0-1), who committed 12 penalties.
“A disappointing way to open the season,” Pettine said. “There are no words to express that. … To lose the way we did, it’s difficult to swallow it.”
Manziel was 13 of 24 for 182 yards, including the long touchdown to Benjamin. He also led the Browns with 35 yards rushing on five carries.
“He just needs to show more ball security,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He needs to know that people are coming for him at all times. He’ll be fine.”
There was a scary moment in the fourth quarter for the Jets when rookie linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was taken to a hospital after being carted off the field with head and neck injuries. New York also lost Cromartie in the second quarter with an injured left knee.
Cleveland linebacker Scott Solomon was carted from the field early in the game with an ankle injury. Pettine had no immediate update on the severity.
Shortly after Cleveland took a 7-0 lead, Fitzpatrick’s throw to Brandon Marshall was picked off by Tashaun Gipson. But the Jets wide receiver ripped the ball out of Gipson’s hands for a fumble recovery that gave New York the ball at the Cleveland 9. Moments later, Ivory ran up the middle for a 10-yard tying TD.
“That, to me, was the play of the game,” Bowles said.
Marcus Williams intercepted a pass by Manziel intended for Brian Hartline in the third quarter and the Jets made the Browns pay. With a short field to work with, starting on the Browns 28, Fitzpatrick connected with Marshall for 17 yards on third-and-2 and then threw a fade to Marshall for a 1-yard TD on third down to give New York a 21-10 lead with 7:51 left in the third quarter.
Ivory sealed the game with a 3-yard run just over 10 minutes left.
NOTES: Isaiah Crowell, the Browns’ No. 1 RB after the trade of Terrance West last week, had just 20 yards on 12 carries. … Cleveland is 1-16 in Week 1 games since its expansion return in 1999. … McCown was 5 of 8 for 49 yards before leaving.
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