Jets, Fitzpatrick show resolve to rally past winless Browns
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (16) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Josh McCown (13) in the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
CLEVELAND (AP) Maybe Ryan Fitzpatrick can stop worrying about what the New York Jets coaching staff and front office thinks of him. The proof came at halftime of a 31-28 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Fitzpatrick walked into the locker room having completed just three of 14 passes for 30 yards while getting sacked twice and having his helmet go flying during a first-quarter scramble.
Yet head coach Todd Bowles refused to turn to backup Bryce Petty. The way Bowles figured it, the issues the Jets were facing little to do with its quarterback.
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''Ryan doesn't play defense and Ryan doesn't block, catch or run,'' Bowles said. ''We had to play better as a team.''
Fitzpatrick included. The veteran repaid his coach's patience by for 222 yards and a touchdown in the second half as the Jets (3-5) put together the biggest road rally in franchise history. New York has won two straight after dropping five of its first six. The fact the victories have come over reeling Baltimore and luckless Cleveland (0-8) hardly matters.
''Starting off the season the way we did, it's hard to come back from,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''It takes a veteran group of guys who have been through these things and know that each week you can change your fortune by winning a game. That is the track we are on right now. Hopefully we can continue to put the work in and continue to win games.''
The plan, for now, will continue to include Fitzpatrick. Bowles made Petty the backup behind Fitzpatrick on Sunday while rookie Christian Hackenberg was inactive, a small acknowledgement from Bowles that Petty has separated himself in the race to perhaps become Fitzpatrick's eventual successor.
''Bryce has been here a year and has a little more experience so we went that way,'' Bowles said. ''I thought Bryce was ahead of him, but Hack is not too far behind.''
In the end, it didn't matter. Fitzpatrick played well enough after halftime and the defense responded to a challenge from cornerback Darrelle Revis for the Jets to avoid the kind of loss that would have pretty much ended the competitive portion of their season before November.
''This is a great boost for us,'' Revis said. ''We can build off this. We showed a lot of courage today.''
The Browns have dropped 11 straight overall and 26 of their last 29 dating to 2014. They were good enough for long stretches to win for the first time in 322 days, but failed to make pivotal plays. Quarterback Josh McCown passed for 341 yards and two scores, but also tossed interceptions on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter and the defense was pushed around in the second half after doing the pushing in the first.
Three times, Cleveland's been up at the half this season. And, all three times, the Browns have lost. Cleveland, however, is trying to draw some inspiration from the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and baseball's Cleveland Indians, who have put together an unlikely run to the World Series.
''It is encouraging just to see how organizations fight through things and turn things around,'' McCown said. ''It is awesome … but at the same time, when you feel like the city has momentum like that, you want to be a part of that.''
Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall downplayed the idea he could be traded before Tuesday's deadline. The 32-year-old caught four passes for 68 yards on Sunday, while 24-year-old Quincy Enunwa did the heavy lifting. Marshall stressed he likes playing in New York and is nowhere close to giving up on the season or the Jets.
''I want to finish what we started here,'' Marshall said. ''We're not out of it. We're going to continue to fight, rally the troops, and get this team on the right track.''
The Browns paid tribute to the 1986 team that captured the AFC championship game, bringing in more than two dozen former players and coaches, including head coach Marty Schottenheimer. It was a nice bit of nostalgia to take the mind off the murky present.
Schottenheimer stressed ''there's nothing like Browns football.''
Maybe, but the day didn't exactly go off without a hitch. A series of banners held by the fans in the beloved Dawg Pound second behind one of the end zones got scrambled, leading to a spelling error symbolic of Cleveland's disjointed season.
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