Browns 10, Texans 7

5 observations from the Browns' 10-7 win over the Texans

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The good news? The Texans defense played one of its better games. The bad? The offense played its worst. The result was an ugly, bad weather 10-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Texans fall to 2-7 on the season and there is absolutely zero left to play for in 2020. Five observations from the loss:

1) Deshaun Watson has to be the best quarterback on the field for the Texans to win games. That was barely the case in this one. Baker Mayfield was not good, but Watson missed throws and did not make many plays in key situations. While he didn't turn the ball over, he also did nothing until late in the fourth quarter to get his team points. Watson's two sacks were clearly on him, and he had under 90 yards passing heading into the fourth quarter. The wind was clearly a factor, but great players overcome that. On Sunday, Watson did not.

2) Hey, at least they ran the ball better. Duke Johnson gave the Texans better play at running back than David Johnson did all year. It still wasn't great, but at least he made some plays and had 54 yards on 14 carries. Still not good enough, but at least he was not a complete zero like his predecessor. This has to be a major off-season priority for the team; finding two serviceable running backs. But Duke's performance just underscored how awful David has been.

3) The defense did its part. The Browns were going to get yards on the ground against the Texans because everyone does. They piled up 213 yards on 41 carries and as usual, the defense wore down in the second half and could not stop the run to give the offense one last chance. But holding the Browns to 10 points should have been enough to win the game. J.J. Watt had a solid game, and the secondary had its best performance of the season. It probably helped that Mayfield was inaccurate for most of the contest, but the defense did not give up big plays until Nick Chubb's clinching burst at the end. It should have been enough.

4) Zach Cunningham has become a bright spot. After signing his big deal, Cunningham started off the year in horrible fashion, with bad mistakes, being out of position and stupid penalties. He had a lot of tackles, but many were empty, down-the-field types and he was not being a playmaker. But the last two weeks, he has looked like the player they are paying him to be. He is stuffing plays, flying all over the field and not making mistakes. It's interesting he has played better since Tyrell Adams replaced the injured Bernardrick McKinney. The Texans have very few players on defense that will be part of their rebuilding process. They need Cunningham to be one, and he is starting to look like he can.

5) Romeo Crennel's coaching was a lot like that guy before him. Going for it on fourth down inside the five early in the game proved to be costly when a chippy field goal would have tied the game. Then choosing a field goal on fourth and two late in the game (and of course it was a miss) showed inconsistency in his decision making. Your kicker should be able to make that, but the wind being such a factor, it was 50-50 at best. And for the Texans, it was the wrong side of the coin. And in the first instance on fourth down, the whole world knew the QB draw was coming. They needed a better play call. He also burned two timeouts in the second half that were desperately needed late.

The bottom line: In the end, the Texans and Browns aren't that much different. The Browns are a phony 6-3, the Texans are a well-deserved 2-7, but theses teams are pretty close. Watson should have been the difference for Houston, but in the end, he and the offense did not do enough.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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