KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Deshaun Watson led Cleveland on back-to-back touchdown drives, capping one with a toss to tight end David Njoku, before the Kansas City Chiefs' backups overcame two pick-6s from their quarterbacks and rallied for a 33-32 victory over the Browns on Saturday in the exhibition finale for both teams.
Browns kicker Cade York, whose job could be on the line after a tough preseason, gave them the lead with a 40-yard field goal with 4:23 to go. But the Chiefs quickly drove the other way, and Harrison Butker hit from 44 yards to regain the lead.
York had another chance with less than a minute left, but his 43-yard attempt was partially blocked and never had a chance.
Watson played sparingly in the Browns' first three preseason games, so coach Kevin Stefanski gave him the entire first quarter against Kansas City (2-1). There were plenty of miscues, including a pair of fumbled handoffs, but the $230 million quarterback also provided some highlights once he settled into the game.
Watson, who was disappointing in six starts after serving an 11-game suspension last season, was 5 of 10 for 92 yards on Saturday. But after his first two drives ended with a lost fumble and a three-and-out, the next two made the end zone, including an eight-play, 80-yard drive that Watson highlighted with a 53-yard toss to Amari Cooper on a broken play.
Juan Thornhill picked off Chiefs backup Shane Buechele and returned it 34 yards for a score against his former team, then Caleb Biggers added a 27-yard interception return off Blaine Gabbert as Cleveland (1-2-1) built a 29-16 lead by halftime.
Both teams rested many of their stars — Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce did not play for Kansas City, and Myles Garrett sat out for Cleveland — leaving a collection of backups to decide the outcome.
Despite the precautions, the game proved costly for Cleveland on the injury front.
Jakeem Grant Sr., who had returned after tearing his Achilles tendon last summer, was carted off with a knee injury on the opening kickoff. Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott hurt his hip, linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk his knee and fellow linebacker Tony Fields II was evaluated for a concussion but cleared to return to the game.
Buechele, who has been in a tight competition with Gabbert for the Chiefs' backup QB job, was just 8 of 17 for 89 yards with two picks and a touchdown.
Gabbert fared marginally better, going 10 of 18 for 169 yards with two TD passes and an interception.
Justyn Ross and Ihmir Smith-Marsette had touchdown catches for Kansas City. La'Mical Perine was another other bright spot, potentially locking up a backup job by running for 32 yards while catching three passes for 44 yards and a score.
Browns: Garrett did not suit up for any of the Browns' preseason games. RB Nick Chubb, who had a career-best 1,525 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns last season, and All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio also sat our Saturday.
Chiefs: Mahomes was 12 of 17 for 120 yards with a TD pass during his preseason work. Other starters joining the league MVP and Kelce on the sideline included linebacker Nick Bolton, who had 180 tackles in a breakout season a year ago.
Browns: RT Jack Conklin (concussion) did not play despite returning to practice this week. RB Jerome Ford (hamstring), SS Grant Delpit (arm) and WRs Marquise Goodwin (illness) and Anthony Schwartz (hamstring) also did not play.
Chiefs: LB Leo Chenal left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, and WR Kadarius Toney (knee) and CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee) did not play. RB Isiah Pacheco (shoulder) made his preseason debut, running once for no gain.
Browns: Open the season against AFC North rival Cincinnati on Sept. 10.
Chiefs: Play the Lions on Sept. 7 in the NFL's regular-season opener.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Dave Skretta, The Associated Press