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Game Balls: 5 standouts who helped lead the Browns to a Week 17 victory

Several key veterans stepped up to push the Browns to a Week 17 road win


The Browns won, 24-10, over the Commanders in Week 17, which means it's time to give away a round of game balls to those who helped Cleveland secure its seventh win of the season.

QB Deshaun Watson

The game — or rather, the half — the Browns had been waiting for from Watson and the offense finally arrived when they built three consecutive touchdown drives to start the second half. They claimed the lead, padded it a little more and then shut the door on the Commanders behind several strong throws from Watson, who was able to overcome a particularly rough first half where he was only able to complete three of his eight pass attempts for 23 yards.

Watson finished the game 9-for-18 with 169 passing yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers obviously wouldn't appear as stellar if it weren't for the touchdowns, but when the Browns needed Watson to deliver crucial throws in the second half, he got the job done and played his best football yet since becoming the starter five games ago.

"We just got into rhythm," he said. "We started, instead of pressing and trying to fall into what the Commanders were doing on defense, we started controlling the game. That's what we did, and seeing the tempo and urgency, everything, had to wake up as a whole. We came in at halftime, wasn't much to say. We knew what we had to do. We just had to make the game simple for us, and that's what we did."

What made his performance even more encouraging was that he thrived with his top receiver.

WR Amari Cooper

Cooper turned in his best game yet with Watson at QB, catching two of his touchdown throws and totaling 105 yards on just three catches. Both touchdowns were well-schemed and well-executed and featured good throws from Watson, with the first touchdown going for 46 yards and the second for 33 yards.

Cooper hasn't been fully healthy since he suffered a hip injury during practice before Week 14, which is part of the reason why his production hasn't been quite as high since Watson took over at QB. The touchdowns were the first trips to the end zone Cooper has completed with Watson under center, but they were examples of just how smooth the offense can look when the connection between him and Watson clicks.

"I'm hoping I will (play with him) for as long as he continues to play — until he retires," Watson said. "He's super good. Like I said, he's still trying to get healthy and the plays that he made today while not being healthy, I mean, the sky's the limit for him. Really no limit for him. He can be as good as he wants to be, so I'm excited about that."

It's been said all season by players and coaches about Cooper, but it deserves to be said again: He's been everything the Browns could've asked for, and more, since they acquired him this offseason. His two touchdowns gave him nine on the year, which is a career-best for him in his eighth NFL season. He also topped 100 receiving yards for the fifth time in a game this season. The five 100-yard games and nine touchdowns is the most any Browns WR has had since Josh Gordon achieved both those totals in 2013.

And don't forget: Cooper was acquired from the Cowboys in March for only a fifth-round pick and an exchange of sixth-round picks. "Bargain" isn't a strong enough word for that deal.

"I think there's great trust in Amari," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. 'I think there's great trust in the receivers in general, but when you have a veteran like Amari, there's a lot of conversation that occurs between the quarterback and Amari in practice and in-between periods about what he's seeing and how he's going to run this route.

"I think that great dialogue shows up then in the game, and you see those two are very much on the same page."

S Grant Delpit

Delpit is finishing his third NFL season on a high note and snagged two of the Browns' three interceptions off Commanders QB Carson Wentz. Both interceptions were on risky deep ball throws from Wentz, but Delpit deserves credit for reading the passes and putting himself in perfect position to make the plays.

"The ball hanging in the air," Delpit said. "He kind of just hung it up for me. I was just trying to make a play and I was able to get it."

Delpit has three interceptions in the last two games and four total on the season, which leads all Browns players. His 92.3 grade from Pro Football Focus in the game was also the highest of his career.

DE Myles Garrett

Garrett gave himself a chance to make history in the final game of the season next week against the Steelers by notching 1.5 sacks against Wentz, which gives him 15 on the season. He's now just one sack away from tying the franchise single-season sack record, which he set himself last season with 16.

Garrett is also fourth in the NFL in sacks and just 2.5 behind San Francisco's Nick Bosa for the league lead. It's unlikely, although not impossible, that Garrett is able to give Bosa a run for the No. 1 spot next week against the Steelers.

"It's out there if I want it, so I just gotta go get it," he said. "Pittsburgh never made it easy for us, so we're going to have to go out there and earn it. We're going to have to stop the run and pretty much do what we did today."

RB Nick Chubb

Chubb crossed the 100-yard plateau for the seventh time this season with 104 rushing yards, including a 35-yard rush that was his longest run since Week 5. Because of Chubb's success, the Browns were able to run a balanced offensive attack that led to their three-touchdown drive sequence in the second half.

Watson's appreciation for Chubb in not only how he runs the football, but how he's able to open things up for the rest of the offense has only grown since he became the starter.

"It's amazing," he said. "It's amazing to see it. I watched him as a fan for a long time, really since high school. Now seeing it live and being able to hand him off the ball. He's a future legend and having that on our side and being able to keep that balance definitely helps our offense."