LANDOVER, Md — The Browns defeated the Commanders, 24-10, on Sunday at FedEx Field behind a season-best performance from their QB1.
QB Deshaun Watson shined in the second half with three touchdowns and completed 9 of 18 pass attempts for 169 yards and no interceptions in the game, showcasing some of the strides the Browns were confident he'd be able to take after his four starts, the last two of which were played in frigid, wintry conditions that made it difficult to generate much pass production.
With the playoffs no longer possible for the Browns, Cleveland's top priority to close the season was to see some improvement from the Waston-led offense, which had entered Sunday without a multi-touchdown performance since Watson returned in Week 13.
That finally changed in Washington.
After a slow first half where the offense picked up just five first downs and totaled 23 passing yards, the Browns found the end zone on their first drive of the third quarter with a 46-yard touchdown from Watson to WR Amari Cooper to take a 10-7 lead. The momentum continued to build for Watson, who found the end zone again on the next drive on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Watson to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Watson made it three straight drives with a touchdown when he connected with Cooper again for a 33-yard touchdown pass on the next drive, extending the Browns' lead to 24-10.
The defense also shined, too, and intercepted Commanders QB Carson Wentz twice on the first three drives of the game. CB Denzel Ward intercepted Wentz first, and S Grant Delpit added two interceptions. The Browns have totaled 11 takeaways in their last five games.
DE Myles Garrett also inched closer to breaking the Browns' single-season sack record, which he set himself last season with 16 sacks. Garrett, a 2022 Pro Bowler, tallied 1.5 sacks in the game, bringing his season total to 15 sacks.
Cooper's two touchdowns also brought him to nine on the season, which gave him the most receiving touchdowns by a Browns wide receiver since Josh Gordon caught nine in 2013.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Commanders in Week 17
Moment that mattered most: With 6:20 left in the third quarter, Watson orchestrated arguably his best drive yet with the Browns on a 12-play, 89-yard drive that featured several strong, accurate throws for first downs. He ended the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones, which gave the Browns a 17-7 lead and their first back-to-back touchdown drive sequence yet with Watson as the starter.
Player of the game: Watson. This was the performance the Browns knew he was capable of building once he found his footing again, and there was no denying the roll the offense found in the second half once the pass game began to click. The Browns doubled the number of offensive touchdowns they had scored in the first four games with Watson as their QB.
Stat of the game: 105. That's the receiving total from Cooper, which is his highest in a game with Watson and his largest total since Week 11. Cooper led the Browns in receiving yards and played a major role in Watson's resurgence, and he achieved that total despite catching just three passes on four targets.
The game was decided when: Cooper caught his second touchdown of the day, a 33-yard pass that was perfectly placed by Watson over the head of a Commanders defender. Cooper had one more defender to beat to score the play and succeeded, which brought the Browns to a two-possession lead with five minutes left. The Commanders' struggling offense wasn't able to close the gap.
What's next?: The Browns will finish the regular season next week on the road against the Steelers in Pittsburgh at Acrisure Stadium. The game will be played on either Saturday or Sunday, and the kickoff time has yet to be announced.