CLEVELAND (AP) — Josh McCown’s ribs are bruised and maybe broken. Same goes for the Browns’ season.
McCown threw three touchdown passes in the first half, when Cleveland opened a 13-point lead, but the Arizona Cardinals stormed back for a 34-20 win Sunday over the Browns, who lost cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner with concussions and may have to make another switch at quarterback.
McCown spent much of the second half running from pressure or hunched over in pain as the Browns (2-6) lost their third straight and fell to 2-11 in their last 13 games under coach Mike Pettine.
For the second week in a row, McCown got battered by an opposing defense as the Cardinals teed off on Cleveland’s quarterback when the Browns fell behind and were forced to throw. He took a hard hit in the third quarter from Arizona linebacker Kevin Minter, and barely made it to the sideline before dropping to a knee.
At one point in the third quarter, McCown waved off Cleveland’s coaches as well as backup Johnny Manziel, who took a few steps onto the field thinking it was time to come in.
McCown underwent X-rays on his ribs following the game, but would not divulge the results. He’s hoping to play on Thursday night in Cincinnati against the undefeated Bengals, but it might be time for the 36-year-old to take a deserved break. McCown said he never considered leaving the field.
“I just wanted to be out there fighting with the guys,” McCown said. “I didn’t feel like I was hurting enough that it was going to keep me from doing my job.”
Pettine said the team discussed pulling McCown, but the veteran felt he could still perform adequately.
“We were going to take him out, and he said he could continue,” Pettine said. “We put it on our player if they are injured and need to come out to go down on the field.”
Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes — three in the second half — and for 374 yards as the Cardinals (6-2) stormed back from a 20-10 halftime deficit.
Michael Floyd got behind Haden for a 60-yard TD catch and tight end Troy Niklas had two short TD receptions as the Cardinals overcame four turnovers and won in Cleveland for the first time since 1985.
In a span of 7:25 in the third quarter, the Browns lost Haden, Whitner and the lead.
Haden had just returned after missing two games with a concussion and the Browns were as healthy as they’ve been in weeks with Tashaun Gipson and Craig Roberston both back after missing multiple games.
“There’s no question how devastating that is,” linebacker Paul Kruger said of losing Haden and Whitner on consecutive plays. “To win games at this level, you have to have your playmakers on the field at all times. There’s no other recipe for it. To have those guys go down was a crucial blow.”
The Browns managed just 98 total yards in the second half and McCown was their leading rusher with 18 yards.
The day began ominously as well as reports of potential trades involving the Browns surfaced on national pregame telecasts and across social media.
Kruger said he received several text messages informing him that his name — along with those of Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack and linebacker Barkevious Mingo — was being floated around in trade speculation in advance of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. league deadline.
Kruger, who has just one half-sack this season, isn’t surprised by the trade talk and hinted again that he’s not pleased with how he’s being used.
“Your value can only be so high based on how much you’re on the field,” he said. “I hope this is my home, and I don’t know where those came from.”
Thomas acknowledged the Browns are at a critical juncture in a quickly unraveling season.
“We are not where we want to be — 2-6 is not a good record,” he said. “We have to find a way to find some answers and win some of these games. It’s important to control the things that are in your control. People who are mentally weak are ones that worry about things that are out of their control. It’s a battle when you’re on a team that’s not winning.”
NOTES: TE Gary Barnidge caught another TD pass, his sixth. … WR Brian Hartline had a career-high two TD catches, but also dropped several passes. … The Browns forced a season-high four turnovers. … Manziel played the final 2:16, completing two of three passes for 12 yards.
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
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