The Browns have a legitimate chance at making a post-season appearance this year. They have shown they cannot defeat the really good teams, but can best the less-talented clubs. And they should beat the teams they should beat.
The Houston Texans came into this game as an enigma. They are a talented offense with a very good quarterback in Deshaun Watson who had tossed 17 TDs against only 5 INTs and is very good with his legs.
But the Texans defense is horrid. Ranked 31st in run defense, this played right into Cleveland’s philosophy of run-first and take names later. Right guard Wyatt Teller was back who was having an incredible year before he became injured. Running back Nick Chubb was also activated along with TE Austin Hooper.
Which cannot come at a more opportune time as Cleveland’s last game against the Las Vegas Raiders showed a completely dismal performance by the offense. It took three quarters, but the Browns finally got traction with the rushing game behind a good effort by the offensive line and stellar running behind Kareem Hunt and Chubb in the 10-7 victory.
So, how did the Browns do? Who played really good, and who didn’t?
RB Kareem Hunt - In the first half, despite Chubb’s return, it was Hunt who provided the most fireworks and ran like a man on a mission. Several rushing attempts proved almost impossible to bring him down. In the second quarter, he darted for a first down and broke three tackles. His backfield blocking skills are sterling as well and was called on more than once to leave the slot and move back into position for the probable blitz pickup. 19 carries for 104 yards. Hunt has his best games when he timeshares with Chubb.
Rightside offensive line - The return of Teller marks the return of the running attack. His run blocking along with RT Jack Conklin provided numerous holes which gained good yardage and kept the sticks moving. Center J.C. Tretter had his hands full from NT Brandon Dunn, but was able to connect on several key blocks to spring either Hunt or Chubb. Teller is an excellent pulling guard and did allow the game’s only sack.
DE Myles Garrett - Texans’ RT Tytus Howard had no answer for the speedier defensive end nor did LT Laremy Tunsil when Garrett would flip sides. It was Tunsil Garrett beat in the first quarter for the sack along with DT Larry Ogunjobi. It is always odd that teams pass on field goals and instead go for it on fourth down. Garrett nailed Deshaun on a planned run to the rightside for a loss. Six total tackles and a very busy day.
SS Ronnie Harrison - What an excellent tackler. Harrison was all over the field and kept his man from gaining added yardage all game. With 8:04 left in the third quarter still holding a slim 3-0 lead, it was Harrison who kept a wide open Brandin Cooks from gaining extra yardage and instead a short four-yard completion when it appeared Cooks would not only make the first down, but end up with a huge gain. An almost sack in the fourth quarter.
RB Nick Chubb - Great players make great plays. On the game-sealing run, Chubb appeared about to go out-of-bounds with nominal space. Instead, he shifted gears and tore a hole down the left sideline for an apparent touchdown, his second of the game. But instead, he ran out-of-bounds at the one yard line, essentially ending the game. Finished the game with 126 yards - 59 on that one play. Did not have a good first half, but found a good rhythm in the second stanza.
DC Joe Woods - The strategy was to contain Watson, which the Browns’ defense did very well. All Houston could muster on offense were short passes with the hope that the receiver could gain extra yardage. Woods used his linebackers well with tight coverage and less concern for the running game. The Texans gained a mere 96 total yards in the first half. Watson was pressured often behind Garrett, with Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson handling the running game nicely. For the contest, Houston only netted 243 total yards including a mere 163 passing yards - the usual weak spot of his defense.
Punt coverage teams - Punter Jamie Gillan punted four times and only two were returned. With those two, Houston returner Will Fuller gained 13 yards while the other return man, DeAndre Carter, found just nine yards. Tae Davis, Stephen Carlson, Tavierre Thomas and Elijah Lee were on it. Nice work.
CB Denzel Ward - While his tackling skills were good, he had two pass receptions that were almost fatal. Ward played soft coverage in the first half and several short passes were completed in front of him. This occurred several times when he failed to close the snap distance. In the fourth quarter with 6:33 remaining and clinging to their 10-0 lead, facing a third-and-six, Watson was almost sacked by Harrison who had control of the quarterback’s right ankle and then heaved an off-balance desperation pass in the direction of WR Randall Cobb. Ward was in perfect position to pick the pass off, but instead fell down to which Cobb grabs the 25-yard reception to keep the drive going. The very next play the Texans score a touchdown.
KR Donovan Peoples-Jones - After Houston scored their touchdown, the kickoff by Ka’imi Fairbairm was successfully kicked short to where it would have to be fielded. Peoples-Jones not only could not handle the erratic ball, but was tackled at the two-yard line. The ball ended up close to the sideline. All Peoples-Jones had to do was stretch his leg out-of-bounds and then touch the ball. The Texans would have been penalized and Cleveland would have started on the 40-yard line instead of inside their own five (see above video as an example). Somebody please explain this odd ruling to DPJ.
Milk Bones – your Grandma’s cookies, followed with some Castor Oil
LB Mack Wilson - After a quiet first half, all we saw in the second half was number 51. He was an animal and is a sure tackler. Had a silly personal foul call on the Cobb completion that allowed Houston to get deep into Cleveland territory and eventually score their only touchdown.
WR Rashard Higgins - The most significant pass completions were all to Higgins. All three catches were for first downs. Still needs to improve his downfield blocking. Chubb was caught for a three-yard loss in the third quarter from Higgins not staying connected to his defender Vernon Hargreaves. The very next play, QB Baker Mayfield scrambled out of the pocket and found Higgins who tip-toed the catch for a 21-yard gain on the touchdown drive.
QB Baker Mayfield - While he found Higgins on key downs, Mayfield tossed several balls behind his intended receivers. The fourth-and-four pass was way over Jarvis Landry’s head. In the fourth quarter and needing to run some game clock off, on a key third-and-four at midfield he short-armed a pass to Chubb which would have kept the drive going. After the ensuing punt, Houston scored their touchdown. 132 passing yards with zero TD passes, but also zero interceptions.
DT Larry Ogunjobi and LB B.J. Goodson - The Texans could not run up the middle all game because these two defenders made plays. Goodson led all tacklers with seven while Ogunjobi had a half-sack and almost one more.
Do you think the offense should continue to platoon Chubb and Hunt as primary runners in games?
This poll is closed
Seems to be working
No - only one should be the primary runner