Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns offense had one of their best first halves of the season, but a second half to forget spoiled any shot at an upset.
After the Browns rattled off 20 unanswered points to take a 13-point lead, the Arizona Cardinals followed with 24 of their own in the 34-20 loss Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Cleveland's offense stalled in the second half, and veteran quarterback Carson Palmer and the Arizona offense made the Browns pay. The Cardinals turned it over twice in the second half to make it four on the game, but Cleveland couldn't capitalize on either opportunity.
The Browns moved to 2-6 with their third consecutive loss. Arizona extended its lead in the NFC West and heads to its bye at 6-2.
McCown was 11-for-17 with 122 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and finished 18-of-34 for 211 yards. Gary Barnidge caught one of those touchdowns and finished with seven receptions for 53 yards.
Palmer threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns, three coming in the second half. Chris Johnson ran for 109 yards on 30 carries.
The Cardinals took back the lead midway through the third quarter with back-to-back touchdown drives fueled by deep passes.
Arizona's first drive of the half was a quick one, as Palmer found Michael Floyd on a 60-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline. Its second started with great field position, was jump-started with a 39-yard Jaron Brown catch and finished with a 1-yard Troy Niklas touchdown catch.
Arizona extended its lead, 31-20, with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a Palmer 6-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 9:35 to play.
The Browns had opportunities to stem the Cardinals' momentum but were unable to get anything else on the scoreboard.
Johnson's second fumble of the game was followed by a three-and-out. A Tashaun Gipson interception inside the Cardinals' 30-yard line was followed by a McCown interception in the end zone.
Trailing by 11 midway through the fourth quarter, the Browns drove to midfield with a couple of first-down passes from McCown but gave the ball right back on a Robert Turbin fumble.
In a short span of time during the third quarter, the Browns lost Pro Bowl defensive backs Joe Haden and Donte Whitner to concussions.
A forced fumble midway through the first quarter kicked the Browns into gear, as they rolled off 20 unanswered points to take a 13-point lead with a shade under 5 minutes remaining in the first half.
With the Cardinals on top 7-0 thanks to a touchdown on their first possession, Johnson fumbled, Armonty Bryant scooped it up and ran it back to the 9-yard line. On third-and-goal, McCown found Brian Hartline in the end zone with a laser, giving the veteran wide receiver his first touchdown with the Browns.
Duke Johnson Jr.'s 52-yard catch-and-run near the end of the first quarter set up the second score. On third-and-goal once again, McCown hooked up with Barnidge on a back-shoulder throw to put Cleveland ahead. The touchdown was Barnidge's sixth of the season, which is three shy of the franchise record for most by a tight end.
McCown found Hartline for a second time to cap a 14-play, 7:32 drive to extend the Browns lead, 20-7. Travis Coons missed the extra point, his first miss of any kind this season.
The Cardinals sliced the deficit to 10 with a 37-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal at the end of the first half. The Browns dodged a bullet, as a Floyd touchdown catch with 2 seconds remaining was waived because of offsetting penalties.