Browns Romp To 10th Victory In Houston

Browns romp to 10th victory in Houston

You must have an active subscription to read this story.

Click Here to subscribe Now!

Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.


Instant takeaways from Browns 36-22 win over Houston Texans …

1. Easy peazy: Joe Flacco could’ve thrown all day. Amari Cooper could’ve caught all day. Wait, that’s what they did. Against a decimated Houston defense, Flacco and Cooper teamed up for 11 receptions on 14 targets for 265 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-22 rout of the Texans. (It wasn't that close.) That’s a personal yardage record for Cooper and broke Josh Gordon’s franchise record of 261 yards. He also caught a 2-point conversion, but that doesn’t count on his stats (see Myles Garrett sack v. Bears). Kevin Stefanski mercifully pulled his offensive playmakers with 10:37 to play, at which time Cooper was nine yards shy of Gordon’s record. But Stefanski reinserted them after two Houston TDs in the fourth quarter. The win improved the Browns to 10-5, all but mathematically clinching an AFC playoff berth and staying strong with the No. 5 seed. There was one element of concern, however. Kicker Dustin Hopkins injured a hamstring chasing kick returner Dameon Pierce on a 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter. Hopkins did not return. The Texans fell to 8-7.

2. Flacco Fever: Flacco finished the game with 27 completions in 42 attempts for 368 yards and three touchdowns. He had two inconsequential interceptions in the final 2 minutes of the first half when the Browns couldn’t attempt a field goal with Hopkins unavailable. It was Flacco’s third win in a row, which earned him an additional $75,000 in incentives. He became the first Browns quarterback to start four games in a row this season.

3. Nuts: Pierce’s kickoff return stood as the Texans’ only points until Davis Mills connected with Nico Collins from 5 yards out with 6:08 to play. Mills threw to Collins for the 2-point conversion, spoiling a be-asterisked defensive shutout. Bubba Ventrone’s special teams took it on the chin again by losing Houston’s onside kick. Mills put up another touchdown in garbage time against the Browns’ second-team defense. NRG Stadium had about 10,000 fans in the seats by that time. The Browns recovered the second subsequent onside kick. Those two TDs, however, resulted in Stefanski reinserting his offensive starters. Mills replaced Houston starter Case Keenum with 12:24 to play. Keenum, 35, didn’t baffle the Browns’ defense with his variety of screwballs, change-ups and knuckleballs. The ex-Brown was 11 of 17 on the day for 62 yards and two interceptions.

4. Grinding out the hard way: Passing the ball was so easy, the Browns didn’t even bother to run much on a 19-play scoring drive in the third quarter. They handed off four times (netting only six yards). They also had a direct snap out of the Wildcat to Kareem Hunt and a Flacco quarterback sneak. So, 13 pass plays, the last resulting in a 7-yard touchdown on a slant to – who else? – Cooper.

5. Hat trick denied: Although Myles Garrett had two tackles-for-loss, he was “held” without a sack for the fifth game in a row. Za’Darius Smith picked up the slack with two sacks. A third was denied by a Browns defensive penalty. Smith also was credited with two tackles-for-loss, four quarterback hits and one pass deflection.

6. Home runs galore: During the week, Houston coach DeMeco Ryans perfectly handicapped the Browns’ offensive gameplan when he said, “They want to hang their hats on creating those chunk plays.” Sure enough, Flacco hit the Texans on the first play of the game with a 53-yard chunk play to Cooper. It was underthrown or else would have gone for a 59-yard TD. Later, Flacco connected with Cooper for a 75-yard TD. In the first half alone, Cooper had 173 yards on four catches. Flacco also zinged a 21-yard TD to David Njoku.

7. When INTs don’t matter: Flacco was intercepted twice in the final 1:37 of the half. He underthrew Marquise Goodwin deep down the left sideline and was picked by DeAndre Houston-Carson. Then on the last play of the half – and without Hopkins to kick a short field goal – Flacco forced one to Cooper and the ball was intercepted by Derek Stingley.

8. No tears for you: Given the Browns’ injury situation, the Texans won’t get any sympathy for theirs. They were further decimated on defense after kickoff when they lost top pass rusher Jonathan Greenard (ankle) and safety Jimmie Ward (quad) early in the game. They didn’t return. With rookie rusher Will Anderson already out for the game, Flacco had time to bomb away.

9. This must stop: One of the reasons the Browns’ defense has suffered in road games is because of their penalties. Once again, they were sloppy. They committed five defensive penalties in the first half.

10. Feliz Navidad: The Texans Mariachi performed throughout the game. It marked the second time this season the Browns were serenaded by a mariarchi band at a road game, the first coming in SoFi Stadium. That would be a franchise record for the Browns.

11. Pre-game notes: No surprises on Browns’ inactive list – Safety Juan Thornhill, linebacker Anthony Walker, cornerback Khalef Hailassie, linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk, defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo, center Luke Wypler and defensive end Isaiah McGuire. With Walker and Kunaszyk out, Browns activated linebacker Charlie Thomas from practice squad. Also, Tanner McAlister to serve as fourth safety. Notable inactives for Texans were three key starters – quarterback C.J. Stroud, defensive end Will Anderson and linebacker Blake Cashman.