Texans make short work of inferior team, roll to ninth straight win by beating Browns

The Texans defense came to play. Tim Warner/Getty Images

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.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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