Browns linebacker Deion Jones celebrates as he gets up after sacking Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow during the second half Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Cleveland.

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Bengals, Joe Burrow scheming for first win vs. rival Browns

Cincinnati Bengals star Joe Burrow has defeated the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs three times over the past 11-plus months, but a different win-loss mark hangs over him this week.

Burrow is 0-4 against Cleveland and the quarterback who defeated Patrick Mahomes again last weekend will try to change that ugly factoid when the Bengals host the Browns on Sunday.

“We haven’t executed up to our ability, so we’re gonna have to execute the game plan to the best of our ability and move the ball, put points on the board and keep their offense off the field,” Burrow said during Wednesday’s press conference on how to end the skid against Cleveland.

Overall, the Bengals (8-4) have lost five straight and eight of the past nine to the Browns (5-7).

On Halloween, it was a one-sided win for host Cleveland. Jacoby Brissett was 17-of-22 passing for 278 yards and one touchdown and Nick Chubb rushed for 101 yards and two scores as the Browns rolled to a 32-13 victory and outgained Cincinnati 440-229.

Burrow completed 25 of 35 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. But he was sacked five times and also threw an interception. He has been sacked just five times in Cincinnati’s four games since losing to the Browns.

The quarterback who guided the Bengals to last season’s Super Bowl before losing to the Los Angeles Rams will see a new face this Sunday. It marks the first time he has matched up against Deshaun Watson.

Watson will be making his second start for the Browns after serving an 11-game suspension from the NFL due to alleged sexual misconduct involving more than two dozen massage therapists.

He was just 12 of 22 for 131 yards with a career-low 53.4 passer rating in last Sunday’s 27-14 win over the Houston Texans. Cleveland didn’t score an offensive touchdown during an outing in which Watson was clearly rusty.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said there is no way of knowing how long it will take for Watson to find his form.

“I don’t know if I can put a timeframe on it,” Stefanski said Wednesday. “He’s working very hard. He’s locked in on the game plan, working hard out at practice. There were things that come up in your first game back that you just have to correct.”

Cleveland tight end David Njoku, who is hopeful of returning from a one-game absence due to knee injury, is eager to see Watson firsthand.

“He’s progressing every day,” said Njoku, who was limited in practice on Wednesday. “That’s all we really ask for him is to progress every day. We’re all excited for his progression.”

The game against the Texans — his former club — was the first in 700 days for Watson. The three-time Pro Bowler passed for an NFL-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 2020, his final season with Houston.

Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader played three seasons (2017-19) with Watson and hopes there isn’t a quick turnaround.

“Hopefully a couple more weeks,” Reader said of Watson hitting his stride. “I’m always cheering for him. That’s my brother. I went through a lot of battles with that guy, I know where he comes from, I know the cloth he’s cut from, I just want to see him do well, but we are going to get after him on Sunday.”

The Bengals have won four straight games and eight of their past 10 games after an 0-2 start. The Browns have won their past two games and are trying to make a late push for a playoff spot.

Cleveland placed linebacker Sione Takitaki (ACL) and receiver Anthony Schwartz (concussion) on injured reserve on Wednesday.

Three active Browns missed Wednesday’s practice due to injuries — cornerbacks Denzel Ward (ankle, illness) and A.J. Green (knee) and offensive tackle James Hudson (illness).

Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst (calf) has been deemed doubtful to play by coach Zac Taylor. Hurst was injured during the 27-24 win over Kansas City. Running back Joe Mixon (concussion) was a full participant after missing the past two games.

–Field Level Media

Aug 27, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Jaelon Darden (1) runs onto the field before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Browns claim Jaelon Darden; Anthony Schwartz to IR

The Cleveland Browns claimed Jaelon Darden off waivers and placed fellow wide receiver Anthony Schwartz on injured reserve Wednesday.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived Darden, their fourth-round pick in 2021, on Tuesday.

Darden, 23, leads the NFL in punt returns (31) and punt return yards (330) this season and has two catches for 26 yards in 12 games. He has eight receptions and 980 all-purpose yards in 21 career games.

Schwartz, 22, sustained a concussion during Sunday’s 27-14 win at Houston.

The 2021 third-round pick had four catches for 51 yards and four rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown in 11 games this season. Schwartz has 14 receptions, 604 all-purpose yards and two scores in 25 career games (three starts).

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) leaves the game on a cart during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Browns LB Sione Takitaki (ACL) done for season

Cleveland Browns starting linebacker Sione Takitaki will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed the news Monday after Takitaki left Sunday’s win against the Houston Texans.

Takitaki, 27, had nine tackles against the Texans before the injury. He has 71 tackles in 12 games (eight starts) to go with a forced fumble and a sack this season.

Takitaki has played in 57 games (29 starts) since the Browns selected him in the third round of the 2019 draft.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) scrambles against the Houston Texans in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson rusty but Browns beat lowly Texans

Propelled by three non-offensive touchdowns, the Cleveland Browns overcame a rusty effort from Deshaun Watson in his anticipated return to defeat the Houston Texans 27-14 on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

Watson was making his first start in 700 days after sitting out the 2021 season prior to serving an 11-game suspension he received after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women.

Following his offseason trade from Houston to Cleveland, he delivered an erratic showing, completing 12 of 22 attempts for 131 yards plus a red-zone interception. The Browns (5-7) recorded their first points on offense with 9:36 remaining in the game when Cade York capped an 11-play, 42-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal that gave Cleveland a 17-8 lead.

Prior to the York field goal, the Browns constructed their lead on Donovan Peoples-Jones’ 76-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:41 left in the first half and a 4-yard fumble return for a score by Denzel Ward at the 10:10 mark of the third quarter. And almost immediately following the York kick, Tony Fields II returned an interception of Texans quarterback Kyle Allen 16 yards for a touchdown on a pass deflected by Chase Winovich.

The Texans (1-10-1) suffered their seventh consecutive loss as a byproduct of critical errors and offensive ineptitude. Allen produced a third turnover in addition to the fumble returned by Ward and Fields’ pick-6, with his deflected pass on the first play of scrimmage picked off by John Johnson III.

Houston amassed 162 total yards in the first half, with 73 coming on a drive that stalled at the Cleveland 1-yard line. The Texans punted to conclude five first-half possessions.

However, Houston secured a 5-0 lead with Ka’imi Fairbairn booting a 44-yard field goal with 8:02 left in the first quarter and Roy Lopez tackled Nick Chubb in the end zone for a safety at the 11:53 left in the second.

The Texans stalled in the red zone after Desmond King II recovered a fumble by Browns receiver Anthony Schwartz at the Cleveland 38-yard line. Houston sputtered again despite four snaps from inside the Cleveland 5, a drive initiated when rookie safety Jalen Pitre picked off Watson in the end zone and returned that interception 29 yards to the Houston 26.

The Texans finished 1 for 4 in the red zone and 1 for 12 on third downs. Allen tossed a 6-yard scoring pass to Nico Collins with 1:57 left to play.

–Field Level Media

Browns quarterback Joshua Dobbs warms up before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

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Ex-Browns QB Joshua Dobbs works out for Broncos

Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Joshua Dobbs worked out for the Denver Broncos on Friday.

The Browns released Dobbs on Monday after activating Deshaun Watson from the suspended list.

Dobbs, 27, was a fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2017 NFL Draft.

He appeared in a total of six games for the Steelers in the 2018 and 2020 seasons, completing 10 of 17 passes for 45 yards with one interception. Dobbs also rushed six times for 31 yards.

Cleveland reportedly is hoping to re-sign Dobbs to the practice squad.

–Field Level Media

Aug 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA;  Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) gives a thumbs up to fans before the game between the Browns and the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Rusty or not, Deshaun Watson makes Browns debut vs. Texans

For all the hubbub over the return of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the individual with the least to say about the unusual circumstance is Watson himself.

Watson, reinstated on Monday after serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, will make his Browns debut when Cleveland (4-7) visits the Houston Texans (1-9-1) on Sunday.

Watson sat out the 2021 campaign after a trade demand from Houston prior to that season and he hasn’t played this year due to the suspension he received after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women.

On Sunday, Watson will get his first action since Jan. 3, 2021, when he passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-38 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Houston.

Watson earned three Pro Bowl nods in his four seasons with the Texans and led the NFL in passing yards (4,823), yards per attempt (8.9) and yards per completion (12.6) during his final season in Houston.

He has practiced with the Browns since Nov. 16, and given his reputation, enthusiasm is cresting in Cleveland as Watson returns despite the long layoff between contests.

“We’re all excited. We’ve all waited for a long time for him to come back,” Browns running back Nick Chubb said of Watson, who has not spoken publicly since his suspension was announced.

“He’s special. He’s a playmaker. He puts the ball exactly where he needs it to go and guys like that. Guys are excited. We all are. We’re ready.”

In theory, Watson should be a boon for an offense that ranks fifth in total yards (4,146), bolstered by the Chubb-led rushing attack that also ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,698 yards. The Browns should benefit from having a quarterback renowned for accuracy — Watson completed 70.2 percent of his attempts in 2020 — and an ability to dismantle defenses with his scrambling ability.

Still, the concern over the time that has elapsed since Watson last played is a legitimate one. And while it is difficult to anticipate how rusty Watson will be, there is an expectation for rust.

“I don’t think I can predict that type of thing,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “But I know this: he’s focusing on his work. Really, in any endeavor, you’ve got to focus on your preparation for Sunday. You can’t really worry about Sunday until you worry about Wednesday.”

The Texans, mired in a six-game losing skid, are in a position similar to that of the Browns, just from a different perspective. Houston has ample game footage of Watson to dissect and first-hand knowledge of his myriad skills. The struggle for the Texans is factoring in the layoff and how that shapes what version of Watson will be under center for the Browns.

Expecting the Pro Bowl iteration of Watson would seem to be folly. However, the Texans are preparing for precisely that.

“We’re telling our guys we’re going to see the best version of Deshaun,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “I think you go into every game that way. We have no idea. He hasn’t played for a long period of time, but we hope there is some rust and all those things. But no, that’s not what we’re telling them.

“We’re showing them the stats. One of the best offenses in the league statistically, adding a great player, so that should say that they’re going to be better. That’s how we’re going into the football game.”

–Field Level Media

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with head coach Kevin Stefanski after minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in Canton.

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Deshaun Watson officially reinstated Monday

It’s officially Houston week for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The end of Watson’s league-issued suspension officially arrived Monday afternoon and Cleveland begins preparing for a trip to play the Texans (1-9-1) with practice Wednesday.

At 4-7, the Browns need a lot of breaks to crash the AFC playoff picture in December. Watson was confirmed as the starting quarterback for the Week 13 visit to his former team by head coach Kevin Stefanski despite a significant win on Sunday behind Jacoby Brissett.

The Texans have lost six consecutive games and started backup Kyle Allen for the first time on Sunday. Houston owns the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft based on current standings.

Watson was permitted to participate in all team activities starting Nov. 14 under terms of the 11-game suspension.

Watson was acquired from the Texans in March and signed to a $250 million contract. He was banned for 11 games in August for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, when the NFL ruled his behavior with massage therapists was “egregious” and “predatory.”

Watson agreed to a $5 million fine and the suspension, and vowed to undergo counseling and treatment.

Since the ruling, Watson was mostly away from the team. He was cleared to attend meetings and use weight room facilities last month.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs with the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards (32) defends during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb’s TD run lifts Browns over Bucs in OT

Nick Chubb ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in overtime to give the Cleveland Browns a 23-17 victory Sunday against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The winning run was set up by a 46-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett to Amari Cooper that moved the ball to Tampa Bay’s 3-yard line. Defender Carlton Davis III fell down on the play before Cooper made the reception.

Brissett passed for 210 yards, one TD and one interception in what was likely his final start before Deshaun Watson returns from his suspension.

Cleveland tied it at 17-17 with 32 seconds left in regulation on Brissett’s 12-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku on fourth-and-10 and Cade York’s extra point.

After the teams exchanged punts on the first three possessions of OT, the Browns (4-7) began their winning drive on their own 29 with 2:45 left.

Chubb rushed for 116 yards on 26 carries as the Browns snapped a two-game losing streak. Cooper caught seven passes for 94 yards.

Tom Brady passed for 246 yards and two scores for the Bucs (5-6). Chris Godwin had 12 catches for 110 yards and a TD.

The Buccaneers had taken a 17-10 lead with 7:41 left in the third quarter on Brady’s 5-yard TD pass to Ko Kieft.

Tampa Bay used up only 25 seconds on a possession that resulted in a punt from its own 10-yard line with 2:10 left in regulation. The Browns began their game-tying drive at Tampa Bay’s 46.

The Buccaneers had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Anthony Schwartz took a pitch from Kareem Hunt and ran 31 yards on the reverse to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead at 10:45 of the first quarter.

Brady connected with Godwin on a 10-yard TD pass to level the score with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

York’s 51-yard field goal gave Cleveland a 10-7 edge with 2:22 remaining in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay tied it up again on Ryan Succop’s 42-yard field with 39 seconds left in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Munich, Germany; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks during an NFL International Series game at Allianz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now atop division, Buccaneers look for more success vs. Browns

Coming off their bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will return to action — and the United States — when they visit the struggling Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

The Buccaneers (5-5) sit atop the NFC South after defeating Seattle 21-16 in Munich on Nov. 13.

Quarterback Tom Brady said Tampa Bay faces “a big, big stretch ahead” as the prepares to face Cleveland.

“This time of year, some teams get worse and stop believing, lose hope,” Brady said Wednesday. “And other teams do the opposite.”

The Browns (3-7), who lost to Buffalo last week in a game moved to Detroit due to severe snow in upstate New York, are trying to avoid losing hope after dropping two straight and six of seven. They trail first-place Baltimore by four games in the AFC North.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is expected to make his final start for Cleveland before Deshaun Watson becomes eligible for the Dec. 4 game at Houston.

Watson returned to practice last week for the first time during his 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He faced sexual misconduct allegations stemming from massage therapy sessions but has since reach confidential settlements with a number of the women who filed civil lawsuits against him.

Brissett said he remained focused on this week’s game against Tampa Bay and former New England Patriots teammate Brady.

“I haven’t really thought about the future yet, and honestly don’t want to right now because of how much this week means to me,” Brissett said.

With rain in the forecast for Sunday’s game, Cleveland’s ability to run could be key. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have helped the Browns average 150.9 rushing yards, fifth best in the league.

Tampa Bay’s run defense — which has yielded 116.6 rushing yards per game — includes nose tackle Vita Vea, who did not practice Wednesday due to a foot injury.

“He’s a great player,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s so physically just big from a measurement standpoint, not just the way he moves his feet. It’s very, very rare to have a guy that size that moves laterally and then is so powerful.”

Brady, understandably, also concerns Stefanski since Tampa Bay’s offense features the fifth-best passing attack (269.8 yards per game).

“He doesn’t take sacks, he doesn’t throw interceptions, throws it at a high level,” Stefanski said of Brady. “He’s on time, accurate.”

Unlike Cleveland, Tampa Bay has struggled to run the ball. The Bucs are last in the league with an average of 70.7 rushing yards, though they ran for 161 in beating the Seahawks.

“We got the win (against Seattle), but we’ve got to do it every week,” Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said. “We have seven games left. We just got to produce and execute every week.”

Tampa bay running back Leonard Fournette (hip) and guard Luke Goedeke (foot) had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice for Tampa Bay. Receiver Russell Gage Jr. (hamstring) did not practice.

An extensive Browns injury report listed nine players who did not practice, including safety D’Anthony Bell (concussion), guard Joel Bitonio (illness/rest), defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (rest) and Myles Garrett (rest) and tight end David Njoku (ankle/knee). Receiver Amari Cooper was also held out due to rest.

–Field Level Media

Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center Ethan Pocic during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Cleveland.

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Browns put starting C Ethan Pocic on IR

The Cleveland Browns placed starting center Ethan Pocic on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury suffered last week.

Pocic, 27, will have to miss at least four games. He was injured on the Browns’ first offensive play in last Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. Pocic had played 100 percent of the snaps this season before getting hurt. Hjalte Frodholt replaced Pocic against the Bills.

To replace Pocic, Browns signed center Greg Mancz on Tuesday.

Pocic replaced Nick Harris when he went down with injury in the Browns’ first preseason game. Pocic is in his first season in Cleveland after five seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. He’s started 50 of 67 games in his career.

Safety Bubba Bolden and offensive lineman Will Holden were added to the practice squad Tuesday and offensive lineman Jordan Meredith was released.

–Field Level Media