TEXANS 29, BROWNS 13
Texans dominate start to finish in 29-13 win over Browns
Houston dominated their ninth consecutive victory from start to finish with a 29-13 win at home against the Cleveland Browns. While the offense was good once again, it was the destruction of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield that made this game one-sided. While the Texans’ offense played well, they finished five drives with a field goal, going 1-for-2 in the red zone. Clearly this game was about Houston’s defense.
The Texans defense ended the Browns last three drives of the first half with an interception. Zac Cunningham started it off with his first interception of the year and ran the ball back 38 yards for a touchdown, giving his team a 17-0 lead. The very next pass thrown by Mayfield was picked off by Jonathan Joseph, his second of the year. That led to a 42-yard field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn, who went 5 for 5 on the day.
The Browns drove the ball into Houston territory on the next drive, but the end result was the same. This time it was Andre Hal who made a great-over-the shoulder interception on a pass in the end zone to halt Cleveland’s drive. It was his first interception of the season and a great play from someone who spent the first part of the season battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The Texans offense kept rolling like it has all through this win streak. Deshaun Watson was 22 of 31 for 224 yards and a touchdown with an additional six rushes for 31 yards (forget about his kneel down for -1-yard to end the game). The NFL’s No. 4 rushing offense had another solid game on the ground with 187 total yards. Lamar Miller continues his pace for another 1,000-yard season with 103 today giving him 876 for the year and his fourth 10-yard rushing game of the season.
DeAndre Hopkins led all receivers with seven catches for 91 yards but was once again held without a touchdown. That honor went to rookie tight end Jordan Thomas, who continues to impress. He finished with three receptions for 32-yards and the lone touchdown reception, an 11-yard grab in the first quarter.
The offense wouldn’t have been able to do what it did without the effort defensively. In addition to the three interceptions, Houston forced a fumble on what looked like a long Browns' touchdown near the end of the third quarter. Baker Mayfield threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway only to have it called back on a holding penalty. Two plays later he found Callaway again for a 71-yard pass that was surely headed for a touchdown. Rookie Justin Reid had other plans. He was able to strip the ball at the one-yard line and it was recovered by Aaron Colvin in the end zone and returned to the two-yard line.
The Browns never got close again. The Texans defense was able to knock away eight of Mayfield’s 43 passes, while forcing a lot of check down throws for short yardage. They weren’t able to get any sacks and had just one quarterback hit, but that was due to Mayfield’s ability to extend plays with his legs. The excellent coverage downfield led him to finish with 397 yards passing but only one touchdown against the three interceptions.
Houston’s dominance in this game was necessary for a team attempting to keep momentum going the right way at the end of the season. They have won an unprecedented nine in a row after starting 0-3. They are starting to run away with the division and have nothing but winnable games from here on out. They have a three-game lead in the division thanks to a loss by the Colts today and could easily finish 13-3 or 12-4. Next week the second place Colts come to Houston for a very important divisional game. Houston won the first meeting in overtime after a questionable fourth down play call in overtime by Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich gave Houston a chance to win the game with a field goal. They likely won’t get a chance like that again.