CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow shook off a sloppy start to throw two touchdown passes and the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns 23-10 on Sunday, ending a five-game skid to their Ohio rival.
The Bengals (9-4) have won five straight and nine of 11. They remained tied for the AFC North lead with Baltimore, which beat Pittsburgh 16-14. Burrow picked up his first win in five starts against the Browns (5-8), whose playoff hopes are now all but nonexistent.
Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson was sharper than in his debut with the team last week and threw his first touchdown pass in 707 days, a 13-yarder to David Njoku in the third quarter.
But Watson also threw a fourth-quarter interception and couldn’t hook up with Donovan Peoples-Jones on a late fourth-and-goal from the 6 that would have made it a one-score game. He turned the ball over downs again on the Browns’ last drive when he threw incomplete to Amari Cooper.
Watson finished 26 of 42 for 276 yards, and his touchdown pass was the only one the Browns could muster as the Bengals bottled up Cleveland running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Burrow was 9 for 21 for 110 yards in the first half, including a 15-yard TD to Ja’Marr Chase. In the third quarter, Burrow found Trenton Irwin for an easy 45-yard scoring pass when the Browns bit on flea-flicker.
Burrow was largely reliant on Chase after his other top receivers, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, left the game with injuries. Chase had 10 receptions for 119 yards in his second game back since missing a month with a hip fracture.
The Bengals quarterback finished 18 for 33 for 239 yards and threw a fourth-quarter interception. Joe Mixon, who missed the last two games with a concussion, rushed for 96 yards, including a 40-yard breakaway on a drive that led to a Cincinnati field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Watson was terrible last week in a win at Houston, his first game since serving an 11-game suspension for allegations of sexual misconduct by two dozen women. His performance was promising at the outset on Sunday. He completed passes of 18, 13 and 3 yards on the Browns’ first drive, but it stalled. Then, on fourth-and-1 from the Bengals 25, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett entered the game and overthrew Peoples-Jones in the end zone.
The Bengals’ first touchdown was aided by Browns mistakes. First, Cleveland was called for roughing the punter to extend the drive. Two more Cleveland penalties helped move the Bengals to the Browns 15, and Chase turned around in double coverage and grabbed a pass for a touchdown.
Another Browns drive stalled when DJ Reader tipped Watson’s third-down pass, and Cade Reader came on for a 26-yard field goal.
The Bengals made it 13-3 in the closing seconds of the half when Samaje Perine bounced off the pile and around the right end for a 6-yard score to cap a drive extended by off-setting holding calls. A sack on third-and-10 was negated by the penalties, and Burrow found Trent Taylor for 34 yards on the next play to move the chains.
Boyd suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand early in the game and was later ruled out. … Higgins left in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury. … Bengals LB Clay Johnston left in the second half to be evaluated for a head injury.
Browns: Hosts Baltimore on Saturday.
Bengals: At Tampa Bay next Sunday.