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Browns must learn to adjust without OBJ

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Odell Beckham Jr.’s second season with Cleveland ended painfully and prematurely.

The star wide receiver suffered a torn left knee ligament during Sunday’s 37-34 win at Cincinnati, a devastating personal blow or Beckham and a setback to the Browns, who are off to their best start since 1994 and eyeing a playoff spot.

Beckham got hurt when his left leg buckled while he was trying to make a tackle after Baker Mayfield’s first pass was intercepted by Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips.

An MRI taken Monday in Cleveland confirmed the diagnosis of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The team said Beckham will be placed on injured reserve, but there is no immediate word on when he’ll undergo surgery.

Typically, it takes nine months to one year to recover from a torn ACL.

On what became his final play of 2020, Beckham was chasing Phillips down the sideline when his leg got twisted awkwardly. He immediately grabbed it, was taken directly to the Browns locker room and didn’t return.

The Browns (5-2) played well without Beckham, who for all his talent hasn’t been able to make a strong connection with Mayfield since arriving in a blockbuster trade from the New York Giants before last season. The three-time Pro Bowler played most of 2019 with a core muscle injury that required offseason surgery.

After Beckham went out Sunday, Mayfield completed 21 consecutive passes and threw five TD passes — matching a franchise record — as the Browns outlasted the Bengals.

Cleveland, which hasn’t made the postseason since 2002, will have to go the rest of the way without Beckham, who turns 28 on Nov. 5. He had 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns this season and scored on a 50-yard touchdown run.

McCaffrey to return?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers coach Matt Rhule said “it’s a possibility” star running back Christian McCaffrey could return to action Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

“It’s sort of out of my hands, but I am hopeful we will have him,” Rhule said, adding that the decision is largely up to the team’s training staff.

McCaffrey was back on the practice field Monday wearing a red jersey signifying an injured player and he remains on the team’s injured reserve list for now. He did not practice, working instead with the training staff.

The 2019 All-Pro running back has missed the past five games with a high ankle sprain.

He was off to a solid start with 223 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in the first two games. He left a Week 2 loss to the Buccaneers in the fourth quarter and hasn’t practiced since.

The Panthers (3-4) are in need of a win to stay in the thick of the NFC South race, so they could certainly use McCaffrey.

While there is some conventional thinking that the team might err on the side of caution and hold him out Thursday, thus giving him another 10 days to allow him to recover, Rhule seemed to put that notion to rest, saying “if you know Christian, he wants to play. As soon as he is ready to go he will go.”

The Cowboy blues

DALLAS — Dallas receiver Amari Cooper had no answer for why the Cowboys didn’t respond when Andy Dalton ended up with a concussion after the quarterback was hit while sliding on a play that led to the ejection of Washington’s Jon Bostic.

Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t hide his disappointment in the rest of the players on offense. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence fit the theme perfectly when answering an unrelated question about whether Dallas (2-5) could turn its season around after a demoralizing 25-3 loss to Washington.

“We need more belief and more high spirits around this team, and really more fight,” Lawrence said. “That’s really, I feel like, one of our weaknesses. We need to build a stronger backbone, fight and also make sure that we brought everything possible to come out with a victory.”

It’s difficult to judge McCarthy’s first season in Dallas because the Cowboys could be on their third starting quarterback Sunday in Philadelphia. Dalton was making his second start in place of Dak Prescott, out for the year with a broken ankle.

Rookie Ben DiNucci, out of FCS James Madison but who originally signed to play at Pitt, finished Sunday’s game after Dalton left with the injury. He was drafted in the seventh round this past spring by Dallas.

Rams take care of Bears

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett caught touchdown passes from Jared Goff, and the Los Angeles Rams won a matchup of dominant defenses, beating the Chicago Bears 24-10 on Monday night.

Goff passed for 219 yards and Malcolm Brown rushed for a score for the Rams (5-2), who remained unbeaten at brand-new SoFi Stadium and reasserted themselves as NFC contenders with a rebound performance one week after a Taylor Rapp made an end-zone interception on a pass deflection by Troy Hill while the Rams held Chicago (5-2) to 182 yards in the first three quarters and built a 24-3 lead.

Eddie Jackson returned a fumble 8 yards for Chicago’s only touchdown with 7:30 to play, but Los Angeles’ defense stayed in control, yielding 279 total yards and three points. The Rams have won twice in three defense-dominated games between these longtime rivals over the past three seasons.

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