After a bunch of injuries on both sides, including to the starting quarterbacks, Cleveland survived with a 31-21 victory over the Houston Texans in their home opener to improve to 1-1 on the season.
The Browns got the ball to begin the game, and almost right away, WR Jarvis Landry had to come off the field with a knee injury after making a catch. After getting the ball to midfield, the offense sputtered after LB Christian Kirksey stuffed a run and then QB Baker Mayfield was sacked on third down. When P Jamie Gillan punted, WR Andre Roberts muffed the catch, and LB Sione Takitaki recovered at the 35 yard line.
Mayfield found TE Harrison Bryant up the left sideline for a 29-yard down to the 5 yard line. A few plays later, on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line, FB Andy Janovich got the handoff and scored to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead.
After QB Tyrod Taylor had a great first game with the Texans last week, he came out on fire against the Browns’ defense, going 6-of-6 for 84 yards, with the final pass being a 22-yard screen pass touchdown to RB Phillip Lindsay that had the Browns’ defense completely fooled.
Cleveland’s next drive saw Mayfield continue to deliver the football well. After getting past midfield, Mayfield zipped a nice pass over the middle to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, but on his third step, the safety popped him right where the football is, causing a fumble that Kirksey recovered.
The Texans got to midfield, and on 3rd-and-15, Cleveland jumped offsides, but the Texans completed a pass for 14 yards. Houston’s coach chose to decline the penalty and make it 4th-and-1, but he decided to punt it — why not accept the penalty then and go for it on 3rd-and-10? Odd. Either way, the punt went for a touchback, giving Cleveland the ball at the 20 yard line.
Mayfield was passing the ball well again, but the Texans shot through to stuff another run by the Browns for a loss of three yards. On a 3rd-and-13, Mayfield fired a pass over the middle, but WR Anthony Schwartz cut off his route, allowing the Texans to intercept it. Making matters even worse, Mayfield was hurt, clutching his shoulder, after trying to make a tackle on the interception return to midfield.
Taylor continued to pick apart the Browns’ defense with ease. On 3rd-and-9 from the 16 yard line, DE Myles Garrett and DE Jadeveon Clowney tried to rush from the same side, but Taylor just waited for them to go by and then ran up the right sideline untouched for the touchdown to give Houston a 14-7 lead with 7:06 to go in the first half.
Mayfield ran back out of the locker room to stay in for the next drive. Cleveland’s offense was sparked by big runs from Chubb of 21, 7, 5, and 10 yards to get the ball down to the 24 yard line. A couple of runs by Hunt set up a 1st-and-10 at the 11 yard line. The next play was a fullback handoff to Janovich again, but he tripped on his own lineman for a loss of a yard heading into the two-minute warning. A 7-yard completion to Njoku set up 3rd-and-4 from the 5 yard line, and then Mayfield took it himself up the middle for the touchdown to tie things up at 14-14 with 1:14 to go in the half.
The Texans saw LT Laramy Tunsil leave the field to injury on their two-minute drive, and Cleveland called three timeouts to force a 4th down with nine seconds to go. Houston punted, but Felton muffed it a couple of times before just falling on top of it to end the half.
To begin the second half, a “wtf” moment occurred when QB Davis Mills, not Taylor, was in at quarterback for the Texans. As it turns out, Taylor pulled his hamstring at the end of the first half and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. The Texans went three-and-out with Mills, allowing Cleveland to quickly get a possession on offense. Cleveland methodically moved the ball downfield, but down near the red zone, a holding call on RT Jack Conklin made it 2nd-and-19 from the 33-yard line. The Browns lined up five wide and threw a quick pass to WR/RB Demetric Felton, who made magic happen as he weaved through the defense and broke tackles en route to a 33-yard touchdown! That allowed Cleveland to re-gain the lead at 21-14 with 7:50 to go in the third quarter.
The Texans’ next drive started backed up after an illegal block in the back on the return. Then, facing a 3rd-and-10 from the 8 yard line, LB Malcolm Smith made a great diving interception on a pass by Mills, giving Cleveland the ball at the 18 yard line.
Cleveland got into a 3rd-and-3 situation, but Hunt was stuffed on the handoff to no gain. K Chase McLaughlin was brought on to try a 30-yard field goal, which he connected on to give Cleveland a 24-14 lead with 4:40 remaining in the quarter.
Mills got a key third down completion on the Texans’ next drive, but a rather unjustified unsportsmanlike penalty was called on Houston’s tight end for spinning the ball after the catch. After an incompletion and then a botched play by Houston, the Texans faced 3rd-and-13 — but Mills found RB David Johnson for a dumpoff, and he rumbled for 14 yards into Cleveland territory.
The Texans faced a 3rd-and-6 heading into the final quarter of play, and Newsome was flagged for a pass interference penalty. A couple plays later, Houston faced a 3rd-and-1 from the 6 yard line, and the give was to Ingram for a first down at the 3 yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 2 yard line, Mills found WR Brandin Cooks on the quick screen for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 24-21 with 11:32 left in the game.
Cleveland did more damage on the ground in response, finishing the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run by Chubb to go up 31-21 with 5:52 to go.
The Texans couldn’t do anything when they got the ball back and punted right away. Cleveland ran the ball on their next drive with Hunt to burn more clock before punting right back.
The Texans got in range for a 40-yard field goal before the two-minute warning, but the kicker missed it wide left. Cleveland kneeled it down from there, and now move on to the Bears in Week 3.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 19-of-21 for 213 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 5 rushes, 13 yards, 1 TD.
- RB Nick Chubb: 11 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD. 1 catch, 3 yards.
- WR Demetric Felton: 2 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD.
- S Grant Delpit: 1 sack.