Ryan Fitzpatrick shook off an ugly first half to throw for 222 yards and a touchdown while leading the Jets (3-5) on three long scoring drives after spotting the Browns (0-8) a 13-point lead.
Josh McCown passed for 341 yards with two touchdowns to Andrew Hawkins and two interceptions in his return to the lineup from a fractured collarbone. Terrelle Pryor caught six passes for 101 yards, but couldn’t keep Cleveland from its worst start since the 1975 team dropped its first nine games.
The Browns have lost 11 straight overall dating to Week 14 of last season and are 3-26 over their last 29. Cleveland blew a halftime advantage for the third time during the streak. This one might have been the most improbable.
The Jets managed all of 106 yards while getting thoroughly outplayed in the first half. New York trailed 20-7 at the break as Fitzpatrick completed just three of 14 passes while McCown and Pryor repeatedly went after New York cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Faced with the prospect of an embarrassing loss, the Jets responded emphatically.
Fitzpatrick, who complained the team had lost faith in him when it benched the veteran in favor of Geno Smith after Week 7, put together consecutive touchdown drives of 78, 84 and 81 yards. His 24-yard hookup with Quincy Enunwa brought the Jets within 20-14. Fitzpatrick hit Enunwa again for a 57-yard gain on New York’s next possession, one that ended with Forte bulling over from 4 yards out on fourth-and-goal.
Forte’s second touchdown, a bullish 2-yard blast, ended a 13-play, 81-yard march that gave the Jets firm control.
The Browns quickly crumbled.
McCown threw interceptions on consecutive possessions and when New York linebacker Lorenzo Maudlin plucked a deflected McCown pass off the turf, most of the fans at First Energy Stadium bailed to get home and keep tabs of the Cleveland Indians, who could clinch the city’s second championship in four months with a win over Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night.
The success of the Indians and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers will have to do for now. On a day the Browns honored the 1986 team that reached the AFC championship game, the glory days seemed farther away than ever.
Jets: face AFC East rival Miami for the first time this season when they hit the road to face the Dolphins. New York has won four of the last five meetings
Browns: host the Dallas Cowboys. Cleveland hasn’t beaten the Cowboys at home since 1988.