LANDOVER, Md. — Duke Johnson believes he recovered his fourth-quarter fumble, but he can’t argue the Browns gave the game to the Redskins.
They turned the ball over on three straight second-half drives to lose 31-20. The Redkins scored 14 fourth-quarter points off those takeaways.
The loss erased the Browns’ 20-17 third-quarter lead after they stormed back from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit. It also dropped them 0-4 and left them as the only winless team in the NFL. The Redskins improved to 2-2.
The giveaways were fumbles by Malcolm Johnson and Duke Johnson, and an interception by Cody Kessler, who was picked off by cornerback Josh Norman on a pass intended for Terrelle Pryor.
But the Duke Johnson fumble was controversial, because the running back came up with the ball just a split-second after he coughed it up. Terrelle Pryor and others were steamed after it was awared to the Redskins.
Line judge Sarah Thomas explained to Hue Jackson that the Redskins had it before Johnson held it up, and that it was reviewed upstairs.
Johnson said that to his knowledge, the Redskins never recovered it. It was all his. But what could he do?
The Redskins failed to cash in on Duke’s fumble, but they converted Kessler’s pick into a 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Jones that produced the final margin with 4:25 remaining.
The turnover that really killed them, however, was Malcolm Johnson’s fumble with 1:07 left in the third quarter when the Browns had driven to the 16 and were threatening to extend their 20-17 lead. A college tight end, it was Johnson’s first carry at the college or professional level.
The Redskins recovered at the 9 and embarked on a 91-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 5-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins to running back Chris Thompson. That put the Redskins on top again, 24-20, with 10:39 left in the game.
Then came Duke Johnson’s fumble near midfield after a 7-yard run, but the Browns defense held and forced a punt.
Unfortunately for Kessler, however, he was pinned back at his 2. On his second play, he threw slightly behind Pryor and Norman picked it off. Jones, who ran all over the Browns’ defense 22 times for 117 yards, peeled off a 16-yard run to the 1 and then punched it on the next play.
Kessler completed 28-of-40 attempts for 223 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT for an 81.6 rating. Cousins completed 21-of-27 for 183 yards with 3 TDs and one pick. His rating was 116.5.
Cousins quick-snaps Browns for TD
Officials called for Jamar Taylor to be checked for a concussion on the sidelines just before the Thompson TD, and Cousins quick-snapped the ball and fired it in to a wide-open Thompson on the right side. On the next drive, they stripped Duke Johnson too.
Redskins jump out to 14-0 first-quarter lead
The Redskins jumped out quickly with touchdown passes from Cousins to tight end Jordan Reed on each of their first two drives.
Cousins marched the Redskins 75 yards in 12 plays on his opening campaign, hitting Reed with an 8-yard TD pass in the end zone over safety Jordan Poyer to make it 7-0. Cousins completed 7-of-7 passes on the drive for 52 yards.
On his second drive, Cousins went deep right for DeSean Jackson and drew a 50-yard pass interference call against safety Jordan Poyer to the Browns’ 30.
Eight plays later, Cousins found Reed again, this time over linebacker Demario Davis at the left side of the end zone. That made it 14-0 Redskins with 27 seconds left in the half.
But the Browns, establishing themselves as a big-play offense, stormed right back with two straight touchdowns of their own to tie it 14-14 on a 2-yard run by Isaiah Crowell and a 9-yard catch by Terrelle Pryor.
The Redskins went up 17-14 on a 49-yard field goal with 2:29 left in the half. But Browns new kicker Cody Parkey made a 51-yarder as time expired in the half to knot it at 17. Pryor was quick to congratulate Parkey after the kick.
The Browns took their first lead of the game, 20-17, on a 45-yard field goal by Parkey with 9:25 left in the third quarter. Parkey made the kick after being pushed back 5 yards for a false start. He received high-fives from numerous teammates back on the sidelines.
Crowell’s big day
Crowell ran hard all afternoon and gave the Redskins’ challenged run defense fits. He finished with 15 runs for 112 yards. He had carries of 17, 19 and 18 yards, the last setting up Parkey’s go-ahead 45-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half.
The Redskins were tied for 24th against the run heading in. Crowell also caught a 14-yard pass in the third quarter to the Redskins 16, but Malcolm Johnson fumbled the ball away at the Redskins’ 9. Crowell, who came in as the NFL’s second-leading rusher, became the first Browns running back since Earnest Byner in 1985 to have at least 60 yards in each of the first four games.
Terrelle Pryor’s 1st career TD catch
Pryor’s 9-yard TD catch from Kessler that tied 14-14 was the first of his career. It was also the first touchdown pass for rookie Kessler. Pryor beat Will Blackmon at the right side of the end zone.
Afterward, he celebrated with the LeBron James chalk toss, but he did so using the ball as a prop, which earned him a 15-yard flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. The TD cashed in on Jamar Taylor’s interception and 29-yard return.
Jamar Taylor’s 2nd career pick
Taylor, acquired in a draft-day trade with the Dolphins, went the first three years of his career without an interception. Now, he’s had one in each of the past two weeks, including one in Miami last week.
Joe Haden active, Alvin Bailey benched
Browns cornerback Joe Haden was active despite his groin injury, and right guard Alvin Bailey was benched following his arrest for driving while impaired early Monday morning.
John Greco went back to right guard, and Austin Reiter, signed off the Redskins’ practice squad about 10 days ago, started at center in place of Cam Erving (bruised lung).
Linebacker Corey Lemonier, who strip-sacked Ryan Tannehill near the end of last Sunday’s 30-24 overtime loss to the Dolphins, returned to the team and played. He was absent Friday for a personal reason and was doubtful.
In addition, free safety Ibraheim Campbell, who was listed as questionable, was inactive with his hamstring injury and replaced by rookie Derrick Kindred.
As expected, cornerback Tramon Williams, who started last week while Haden was idle, was inactive with his sprained shoulder.
The other inactives were players who had already been ruled out: Josh McCown (broken collarbone), Corey Coleman (broken hand), Erving, rookie tight end Seth DeValve (knee), and defensive lineman Carl Nassib.
For the Redskins, inactives were receiver Josh Doctson, starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland and starting left guard Shawn Lauvao, a former Brown. Quinton Dunbar started for Breeland and Arie Kouandjio started for Lauvao.