CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson threw two touchdown passes — one bouncing off an Arizona helmet — in his second start for Cleveland in five weeks due to a shoulder injury and the Browns held the Cardinals to just 58 yards in a 27-0 win Sunday.
It was Cleveland’s first shutout since 2007.
Watson looked rusty and indecisive at times in his first full game since Sept. 24, when he sustained a strained rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 219 yards — 139 to Amari Cooper.
“I’m not 100%,” Watson admitted to reporters after the game. “I just came from an injury, so yeah, I just miss whatever. I was 19 for 30, so I miss a couple of throws that I want, that I know I can make, and, yeah, we just got to keep striving, and I’m striving to get better each and every opportunity that I get.”
But while Watson and the offense struggled to re-establish any rhythm following their time apart, the Browns (5-3) leaned on their top-ranked defense to stifle the Cardinals (1-8), who started rookie quarterback Clayton Tune.
Cleveland’s defense set up both Watson TD passes with turnovers, and the Browns recorded seven sacks, with Dalvin Tomlinson getting Tune 2 1/2 times.
Defensive end Myles Garrett referred to Sunday as a bounce back game.
“We haven’t been playing up to the standard that we’ve set on defense and we took the challenge that [Jim] Schwartz set for us, and we played with our hair on fire,” Garrett said following the game. “Guys really responded and happy they did to the level in which they did.”
Watson connected with Cooper on an 11-yard scoring pass in the second quarter and hooked up with tight end David Njoku on a 5-yarder in the third.
Kareem Hunt had a 3-yard TD run and Dustin Hopkins kicked two field goals for Cleveland.
Arizona has lost six straight.
The Cardinals announced Saturday that Tune, a fifth-round pick from Houston, would start instead of activating Kyler Murray, who is close to making his return after suffering a knee injury last season.
Tune couldn’t get anything going against the Browns, who pressured him on virtually every snap. He completed 11 of 20 passes for 58 yards with two interceptions.
The Cardinals had just 31 yards at halftime as their six first-half possessions went punt, punt, punt, interception, punt and punt. It didn’t get much better after halftime.
The Browns led 13-0 at the break on the strength of two field goals by Hopkins and a fluky touchdown, which came after Denzel Ward picked off Tune.
Cleveland caught a huge beak on the scoring play as Watson’s throw deflected off the helmet of Cardinals defensive lineman Dante Stills, caromed high in the air and was grabbed by Cooper in the end zone.
A week ago, the Browns were victimized by a similar play when a late pass by backup QB P.J. Walker bounced off the helmet of a blitzing Seattle defender and was picked off, setting up the Seahawks’ comeback win.
Following the game head coach Kevin Stefanski was appreciative of the Browns fans.
“Yeah, they were outstanding. They had a beautiful day,” Stefanski said. “So, I guess the Muni Lot was packed early, but they were loud. They were into it, you know, when our defense is playing at that level, they feed off the energy of this crowd. I think that’s without a doubt. So, they did a great job today and we’ll see them when we’re back out here.”
Browns: Starting LT Jedrick Wills Jr. appeared to suffer a serious lower leg injury. He was carted off in the third quarter with his right leg immobilized. …. WR Marquise Goodwin left with a head injury early in the third quarter. He was assisted from the field and taken straight to the locker room for evaluation and treatment.
Stefanski did not offer a significant update on Wills, saying the player was getting an MRI in the morning.
Browns: A visit to AFC North-leading Baltimore on Nov. 12.
Garrett said he looks forward to the challenge of taking on the Ravens, but that first his team is going to celebrate the win.
“Give it same the amount if you were to lose a game, you get that 48 hours,” he explained. “Give it a day to enjoy it. Give it a day to break it down, and then next, you’re on to your opponent.”