CLEVELAND — The New York Jets, forecast to be one of the worst teams in the NFL before the season began, are on a roll they want to continue as long as they can.
Quarterback Josh McCown threw two touchdown passes in the second half on Sunday and the Jets won for the third time this season by beating the winless Cleveland Browns 17-14.
Kevin Hogan, who replaced rookie DeShone Kizer at quarterback after halftime, gave the Browns (0-5) their first lead of the season on a 21-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end David Njoku with 9:23 left in the third quarter. Njoku made a leaping one-handed catch to haul the ball in and give Cleveland a 7-3 lead.
The Jets (3-2) regained the lead, 10-7, before the quarter ended when they cashed in an interception by cornerback Morris Claiborne, who returned the ball 28 yards to the Browns’ 13-yard line. Two plays later, McCown tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
“It was a really good throw by Josh,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “It was a fade route. The guy was playing inside presence. Josh and I have been working on that route all week. He put it up perfectly. I thought something was wrong because it was so open. I thought the play stopped, but I’m glad it didn’t.”
The Jets expanded their lead to 17-7 with a 97-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown pass from McCown to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. The drive began deep in Jets territory because the Browns decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 rather than attempt a 20-yard, game-tying field goal.
Hogan connected with running back Duke Johnson on a 41-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 remaining to cut the margin to three points, but the Jets recovered the subsequent onside kick and ran out the clock.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson has a decision to make before the Browns play the Texans in Houston next Sunday; stick with Hogan, who gave his team a chance, or go back to Kizer.
The game was scoreless until Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 57-yard field goal for the Jets on the final play of the first half to cap a six-play, 32-yard drive. It was the Jets’ first scoring opportunity of the game.
“I was just doing my job,” Catanzaro said. “The snapper and holder did a great job and the protection up front did a great job. We knew it was going to be a tough battle on the road.”
Prior to that, the Browns, a reflection of being 0-4 when the game began, squandered four excellent scoring opportunities.
The Browns started a drive at the Cleveland 43 with eight minutes left in the first quarter and moved to the Jets’ 3 in 13 plays, converting three third downs along the way. On third-and-goal from the 3, however, a botched pitch from Kizer to running back Isaiah Crowell was recovered by Jets linebacker Freddie Bishop at the Jets 17. It was one of the plays that led to Kizer being benched.
“I was frustrated, for sure,” Kizer said. “My job as quarterback here is to do whatever I can to help win and it’s tough to do that when you aren’t in the game due to poor performance.”
The Browns penetrated to the Jets’ 32 the next time they got the ball, but then two penalties pushed them back to the Jets’ 47. That drive ended with rookie Zane Gonzalez missing a 52-yard field goal wide left.
Another takeaway by the Jets thwarted Cleveland’s next scoring drive. The Browns, behind the strong running of Crowell, moved to the Jets’ 4, but they came up empty again when Jets safety Marcus Maye intercepted a pass intended for tight end Seth DeValve at the New York 2.
A kick wide left from 39 yards by Gonzalez with 31 seconds left the next time the Browns had the ball led to a Jets’ field goal before halftime.
“I yanked the first one a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “The other, I felt like I hit it better. The wind pushed it a little bit left. Two kicks should have been made. It just sucks.
“Everybody has a day you want to forget. That’s today, obviously. My teammates have all the faith in the world in me. A loss by three points — that sucks extra bad.”
Hogan finished the day 16 of 19 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Kizer was 8 of 17 for 87 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
McCown was 23 of 30 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and one pick.
NOTES: Jets QB Josh McCown began the game with his first two-game winning streak as a starter since 2004 when he was with the Cardinals. He extended that to a three-game winning streak. ... Former Browns LB Demario Davis leads the Jets with 55 tackles after making six on Sunday. ... WR Kenny Britt was inactive for the Browns with groin and knee injuries after starting the first four games. ... Browns LB Jamie Collins missed his third straight game with a concussion. The Browns have given up 31, 31 and 17 points in his absence.