CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson looked less rusty in his first action this preseason, and Jacoby Brissett had a TD run in his return to Cleveland as the Washington Commanders beat the Browns 17-15 on Friday night in an exhibition delayed more than an hour at the start by a storm.
Watson took the Browns (1-1) on a 67-yard drive to Washington’s 1-yard line in his one series.
His performance — 3 of 3 for 12 yards, 20 yards rushing — was far better than his preseason debut a year ago, when he completed just one pass at Jacksonville just days before being suspended by the NFL.
Washington’s Sam Howell, who is trying to hold onto his starting job, threw a 26-yard touchdown pass — against mostly Cleveland backups — to Jahan Dotson and had a few other nice moments in his two series. He finished 9 of 12 for 77 yards.
Howell was replaced by Brissett, who went 4-7 in 11 starts for Cleveland in 2022 while Watson was out. The 30-year-old scampered 12 yards for a score in the second quarter to put the Commanders (1-0) ahead 14-2.
Browns rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw a TD pass to David Bell in the third, and Kellen Mond’s 20-yard scoring pass to Mike Harley Jr. with 1:39 left brought Cleveland within 17-15.
The Browns’ 2-point attempt failed.
The opening kickoff was pushed back by a thunderstorm that blew in about 30 minutes before the scheduled 7:38 p.m. start.
Fans were advised to “seek shelter immediately” and many scurried from their seats into the concourses and stadium tunnel ways. During the delay, Commanders coach Ron Rivera and several of his players came out of the locker room to check on the weather and to find out if there would be a game.
The kickoff eventually came at 8:48, and Rivera and Browns coach Kevin Stefanski decided to play most of their starters despite the wet field conditions.
Watson arrived at Browns Stadium wearing a No. 32 Jim Brown throwback jersey. The team invested $230 million in him despite Watson being accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than two dozen women.
Even when he returned, Watson rarely played up to expectations while going 3-3 in six starts. The Browns are counting on much more this season.
He’s got some new weapons and Watson quickly connected with one, throwing a 6-yard pass to Elijah Moore on Cleveland’s first play. Watson also showed his elusiveness, pulling free from Chase Young for a 9-yard run.
Moore left the field after Cleveland’s opening series. The team said X-rays on his ribs were negative.
It was Washington’s first game under new owner Josh Harris, who intends to take the franchise in a positive direction after Dan Snyder’s troubled tenure.
The Commanders did have a bit of a turbulent week.
Rivera had to clarify his remarks after making headlines by saying some players had expressed concern over first-year offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s fiery style. Bieniemy came over from Kansas City, where he won two Super Bowls.
TWO FOR ONE
Cleveland’s only points of the first half came on a safety when Washington tackle Andrew Wylie was called for holding in the end zone while trying to block Browns end Za’Darius Smith.
Cleveland’s Cade York had his second miss of the preseason, pushing a 46-yarder right in the third quarter. He missed a 49-yarder last week. Stefanski has vowed to stick with York despite his struggles as a rookie.
Browns starting safety Grant Delpit had a legitimate excuse for missing the game — to get his degree from LSU.
Delpit, whose career has been slowed by injuries since being selected in the second round in 2020 by Cleveland, practiced on Wednesday before going to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the ceremony.
Commanders: LBs Milo Eifler and De’Jon Harris were both shaken up when they collided breaking up a pass in the third quarter.
Browns: CB A.J. Green (shoulder) was hurt in the first half. … LB Jacob Phillips (shoulder) went out in the third.
Commanders: Host Baltimore on Aug. 21.
Browns: Head to Philadelphia for a pair of joint practices against the defending NFC champions before an exhibition on Thursday. The teams had a similar week against each other last year in Cleveland.