The unthinkable collapse still fresh in their minds, the Browns managed to avoid the second in four days.
Jacoby Brissett threw two touchdown passes, Nick Chubb ran for a score and Cleveland bounced back from a slump to beat the rival Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17 on Thursday night.
The Steelers (1-2) pulled within 23-17 on Chris Boswell’s 34-yard field goal with 1:48 left before Pittsburgh attempted an onside kick. But unlike Sunday’s 31-30 loss, when the New York Jets overcame a 13-point deficit in the final 1:55 and recovered, the Browns ran the ball out of bounds.
In a split second, it looked like Sunday again.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was asked what he was thinking when the ball bounced near Pittsburgh. He paused for six seconds before answering.
“It’s a lot,” he said.
Cleveland fans could finally let out a sigh of relief when linebacker Denzel Ward fell on a Steelers fumble in the end zone on the last play for a meaningless touchdown.
Brissett connected with Amari Cooper and David Njoku on TDs, and completed 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards. The 29-year-old had his second straight game as he filled in while Deshaun Watson served an 11-game suspension.
Chubb had 113 yards and a push and twist to the goal line on fourth-and-four with 9:29 left to put the Browns ahead 23-14.
Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers’ stagnant offense showed signs of life in the first half, but fizzled after halftime, hitting their first three possessions for just 54 yards.
Criticized for not throwing deep in the first two weeks, Trubisky threw a few long balls but didn’t connect nearly enough.
“I think Mitch made some plays, but we’ve all been successful together,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who said he has no plans to trade rookie QB Kenny Pickett. “Winning is our business. I wasn’t looking to impress, I was looking to win the game.”
Pittsburgh’s defense is missing star tight end TJ Watt, but Cameron Heyward said that wasn’t the problem.
“If you try to fight Nick Chubb, he’s going to make you pay,” Heyward said. “We need to do a lot better.”
The win capped off a tough few days for Cleveland.
Sunday’s debate was followed by Myles Garrett criticizing fans for booing the Browns as they left the field, while their fan was arrested for throwing a plastic bottle at owner Jimmy Haslam on the sidelines.
But there was little drama this time, just a victory over their hated neighbors from Pennsylvania.
Rookie Cade York’s 34-yard field goal gave the Browns a 16-14 lead in the third quarter, when Cleveland lost four players, including starting quarterback Anthony Walker Jr. and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, due to injury.
Brissett’s seven-yard TD pass to Njoku put the Browns up 13-7 with 8:58 left before halftime. But for the second straight week York missed another point.
Trubisky led the Steelers on a 75-yard scoring drive — 51 yards coming on the ground — before the QB rolled right and scored on the one. Boswell’s PAT put Pittsburgh ahead 14-13.
Steelers rookie wide receiver George Pickens expressed frustration about not getting the ball in last week’s loss to New England, saying he was open “90 percent of the time.” He wasn’t kidding, either.
Trubisky finally hit him with a long ball, but it took a spectacular, one-handed catch by Pickens for a 36-yard gain.
Garrett failed to record a sack and remains one shy of Clay Matthews’ team record of 62. The Browns’ All-Pro defensive end was a double-team, filtered and credited with just one tackle and assist.
Cavaliers star guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland served as honorary captains for the Browns. Mitchell, who was recently traded to Utah, smashed a fake guitar during the pregame festivities.