Texans make short work of inferior team, roll to ninth straight win by beating Browns
The Texans had every reason to lay an egg against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. They were coming off an emotional Monday Night win over Tennessee, and will face Indianapolis next week in a game that could end the AFC South race.
From a betting perspective, the Browns were the classic "sandwich" game.
No one told the Texans, who had plenty to eat, forcing four turnovers and turning in a dominant performance on both sides of the ball, beating the Browns 29-13.
It was not that long ago that the Texans were 0-3, there was talk of firing Bill O'Brien and the team looked uninspired. Nine wins later, they are playing like one of the best teams in the AFC.
On Sunday, the defense intercepted Baker Mayfield three times in the first half, and forced a fumble in the second to keep the Browns out of the end zone after a long pass that looked like a sure touchdown.
Offensively, the Texans ran the ball effectively again with 187 yards on 39 carries, and Deshaun Watson was efficient throwing the football. The Texans took their foot off the gas in the second half, but after racing to a 23-0 halftime lead, it was a luxury they could afford.
There were some of the old negatives - poor clock management at the end of the first half, some big passes given up in the second half where the Texans were bailed out by a hold and the fumble, and settling for too many field goals - but they had no impact on the outcome.
The Texans have won nine in a row since that 0-3 start, which seems like a lifetime ago. Barring a colossal collapse, they will win the most games in a season of the Bill O'Brien era. They are still in the hunt for a possible first-round bye, and are playing their best football at the right time. They got some help from Jacksonville, too, which upset Indianapolis 6-0. At 9-3, the Texans now lead the AFC South by three games.
How good was Sunday's win?
Considering the situation, this might have been the Texans most impressive of the season. The Browns had won two in a row, and Mayfield had been on a tear since Hue Jackson was fired. But the Texans took the soul out of the Browns early.
There are some injury concerns moving forward - Jonathan Joseph went out early and the offensive line took some more hits - but the Texans are looking solid as the postseason looms. During this streak, they have won close games, won when one side of the ball was struggling, and beat some teams (Dallas, Denver) where the wins look better and better every week.
And on Sunday, when they could have mailed it in, they didn't. They pounded an inferior team in impressive fashion, something they struggled with earlier in the season, losing to the Giants and getting lucky to beat the Bills.
So much for that sandwich. The Texans had themselves a turnover feast on Sunday, and it came at just the right time.