Steelers stay perfect on the season, beat Texans 28-21
PITTSBURGH — James Conner ran for 109 yards and the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter as the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed perfect by rallying past the Houston Texans 28-21 on Sunday.
The Steelers improved to 3-0 for the first time in a decade by putting the clamps on the Texans in the second half. Houston managed just 51 yards and two first downs after halftime as an early 11-point lead vanished. The Texans dropped to 0-3.
Houston started with the same mark in 2018 and rallied to win the AFC South. The going might be tougher this season if the defense can’t find a way to keep opposing running games in check. The NFL’s 31st-ranked run defense wore down in the second half as the Steelers methodically pulled away.
The game turned early in the fourth quarter when Houston quarterback DeShaun Watson threw into double coverage deep in Pittsburgh territory with the Texans leading 21-20. Steelers nickelback Mike Hilton picked it off. Pittsburgh put together a 12-play 79-yard drive, with Conner covering the last 12 on a sprint to the end zone to give the Steelers the lead with 6:24 to go.
Pittsburgh’s defense then forced its third three-and-out of the second half and Conner did most of the rest as the Steelers chewed up the last 4:47 to ice it.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in his franchise-record 221st appearance. Rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. added 42 yards rushing in his NFL debut. Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster each caught a touchdown pass as the Steelers stayed unbeaten through three weeks for the first time since 2010.
Pittsburgh reached the Super Bowl that season. The Steelers believe they have the tools to do it again in 2020. The defense overcame a shaky first half to overwhelm the Texans over the final two quarters. Watson finished 19 of 27 for 264 yards and two scores, but went just 5 of 9 for 62 yards in the second half. Houston managed just 29 yards rushing, turning them one dimensional and Pittsburgh pounced.
The Steelers collected five sacks, extending their streak of games with at least one sack to 60, the fourth-longest stretch in NFL history.
The Watt family reunion — just the second game in the NFL in 93 years to feature three brothers — began with a group photo well before kickoff and included Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt and big brother, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, meeting at midfield for the opening coin toss.
Middle brother Derek, a fullback for the Steelers, watched from the sidelines and spent most of the afternoon there. Derek played occasionally in the first half before leaving with a hamstring injury.
T.J. Watt earned family bragging rights, picking up a key sack on Watson to push back the Texans at the start of their final possession.
Browns 34, Washington 20
CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield threw two touchdown passes, Nick Chubb ran for two more and the Browns moved over .500 for the first time since 2014 with a 34-20 win Sunday over the Washington Football Team, which lost rookie defensive end Chase Young to a groin injury.
With their second straight win under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns are 2-1 for the first time since 2011.
It’s also the first time they’ve had a winning record since Week 14 in 2014, when they were 7-6 before dropping their last three and costing Mike Pettine his job.
Stefanski downplayed the significance of Cleveland’s solid start.
“We’re just trying to get to 1-0 every week,” he said.
Young, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, left in the second quarter with his injury. The former Ohio State All-American had an early pressure on Mayfield, but otherwise had little impact before he went out.
Washington coach Ron Rivera didn’t have a specific update on Young, who will receive more treatment and evaluation Monday. Young joined his teammates on the sideline in the second half and was animated while cheering them on.
Led by Garrett, the Browns’ defense, which spent the week hearing about Young and Washington’s sack-hungry front, intercepted Dwayne Haskins three times and forced two fumbles.
Garrett’s strip sack and recovery midway through the fourth effectively sealed Cleveland’s win.
Mayfield’s 3-yard TD pass to rookie tight end Harrison Bryant with 11:14 left helped the Browns shake off a horrid third quarter, when Washington (1-2) scored two TDs to take the lead.
Chubb then scored on a 20-yard run with 8:40 left to make it 31-20, the TD coming after linebacker B.J. Goodson intercepted Haskins at the Washington 35.
Chubb finished with 108 yards on 19 carries.
Haskins threw two TD passes to Dontrelle Inman, but the second-year QB continued to make mental errors and his two picks before halftime helped Cleveland open a 17-7 lead.
“My teammates did a great job trying to keep my head up knowing there were plays I wish I could have back,” Haskins said. “I’m going to make sure I’m better and take the blame for what I did and get better from it.”
Young came into the game tied for the league lead with 2 1/2 sacks, and the Browns spent the week scheming ways to slow him down.
Without Young, Washington’s defensive front lost some of its teeth and the Browns took advantage.
Mayfield’s 9-yard TD pass to Hunt in the final minute of the first half was set up by linebacker Malcolm Smith’s interception.
Down by 10, Washington’s defense turned it up without Young in the third quarter, and a TD run by Antonio Gibson and Haskins’ second scoring connection to Inman put Washington ahead 20-17.
Chubb’s 16-yard TD in the second quarter came on one of the “dirty runs” that Stefanski talked about earlier in the week.
Taking a handoff and going right, Chubb cut back, made one Washington defender miss badly, ran out of another tackle and then powered his way over the final 5 yards to make it 10-7 in the second quarter.
The game marked the first time two female coaches were on the sideline with a female official on the field.
Jennifer King is on Washington’s staff, while Callie Brownson is the chief of staff for Stefanski. Sarah Thomas was the down judge.
Haskins, Young, Washington safety Landon Collins and defensive end Montez Sweat raised their fists during the national anthem. However, players on both sidelines stood throughout the playing.
Washington: Inman hurt his wrist in the fourth quarter. … Besides Young, the defensive line lost more depth when tackle Matt Ioannidis injured his arm in the first half and didn’t return.
Browns: CB Denzel Ward (groin) started after being listed as questionable, but didn’t play in the second half. … Returner/WR JoJo Natson (knee) and LB Tae Davis (elbow) also went out in the first half.
Washington: Host their neighbors, the Baltimore Ravens, next Sunday.
Browns: Visit Dallas next Sunday for the first time since 2012. Cleveland lost in overtime on its previous trip to Jerry World.