By CJ Carlson
The Houston Texans entered the year with very minimal expectations. There were people out there that would have been happy with only a few wins, only if rookie CJ Stroud developed in a positive way. Well, they certainly got that and then some. Houston won 10 games, won the division, and just laid the hammer down on the Cleveland Browns during the Wild Card Round, winning 45-14.
The big question entering the day was whether or not Stroud could look like he did all season long, against a very talented Browns defense, in his first postseason game in the NFL. He completed 76 percent of his passes, threw multiple touchdowns, and averaged 12.7 yards per attempt in response. There’s absolutely nothing that this kid can’t do, and the Carolina Panthers fans that know they took Bryce Young over him have to be sick to their stomach.
What was more impressive was the Texans’ defense. Personally, I felt like this was the area that they were going to be beaten in the postseason. Cleveland had a great offense led by Joe Flacco, and Amari Cooper had over 200 receiving yards a few weeks ago when they met the Texans in the regular season. It didn’t feel like a game that the Texans would be able to win by scoring under 20 points. Apparently, it was. They saw rookie edge rusher Will Anderson produce better numbers than Myles Garrett, and they forced two pick-sixes to put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Houston Texans Tore Up Cleveland’s Vaunted Defense
If you’re a Browns fan, you have to be wondering what went wrong on the defensive end. Sure, Flacco and the offense didn’t play their best game, but everybody knew that their defense was their strength. We already mentioned that Garrett didn’t get anything done on the field, yet the issues extended beyond him and into the secondary. They gave up over 360 total yards of offense, and it would have been more if the Texans didn’t let the game end in the fourth quarter as opposed to running the score up. It’s shocking because Cleveland was first in yards against allowed this season and 13th in points allowed per game.
Entering the playoffs, Cleveland was the first team in league history to make it into the postseason despite leading the league in turnovers. Flacco (aside from his touchdowns) was turning the ball over an awful lot in just a few weeks. He had eight interceptions across five starts and didn’t leave a game without one. You had to imagine that it would come back to bite them at some point if their defense couldn’t hold up, and that’s what happened. The two back-to-back interceptions that were each returned pretty much killed their confidence of keeping the game close.
In Houston, there’s likely a parade going on as they look forward to next week. For Cleveland, there’s some optimism considering the injuries they suffered, but it’s a disappointing end, nevertheless.