Browns Trounced by Texans – From Elated to Deflated


If there’s one thing the Cleveland Browns still need to learn, it’s how to handle success.

For the second time this season, they dropped a game in ugly fashion following a big division win, this time falling to the Houston Texans, 23-7.

For most of the Browns’ wins this year, the term “team win” was used. This was a team loss. The Browns defense was gashed for 214 yards, including 156 on 36 carries by Texans backup Alfred Blue. Houston did not miss Arian Foster at all, despite his injury causing many to think the Browns would have a much easier game. Meanwhile, the Browns’ defense did nothing to force Ryan Mallet into making mistakes, intercepting him once and recording zero sacks.

As if the Browns’ failure to take advantage of injuries and inexperience defensively wasn’t enough to cause heartburn, the offense was downright terrible. Houston DE J.J. Watt certainly made his presence felt with a strip sack and several tackles for a loss, but the Browns did nothing to overcome his success. Brian Hoyer seemed determined to hit a home run ball all day, and to be blunt, all of his long attempts far downfield were awful, putting the Browns into frequent 3rd and long situations.

It’s pretty simple for the Browns on offense: they’re built to run the ball, use the run game to set up play action, and take advantage of the big play opportunities that come with it. We’ve seen them have effective play action even with the run game struggling, but they got good enough QB play to make it work, and that didn’t happen today.

Good team play means the defense making stops and getting takeaways, giving the offense enough opportunities to score. A 7+ minute time of possession differential in Houston’s favor tells you all you need to know about that.

More quick observations:

-To the delight of most fans and analysts, Isaiah Crowell got the start at RB for the Browns, and ran for a respectable 61 yards and 14 carries. However, over half of those came on one carry, leaving him with an average of only 2 yards per crack for all of his other carries. To put icing on the cake, he coughed up a fumble deep in Houston territory, killing a drive that could have given the Browns the lead in the second quarter. I thought Crowell would have been done for the day after that, but he surprisingly saw extensive action afterward, possibly because he was the only offensive player generating consistent positive yardage.

-Is Ben Tate in the doghouse or injured? Both, maybe? I tweeted during last week’s game that he looked like he was lacking in his cutback ability, and frankly, he’s looked a step slower than the back we saw earlier in the season. He had only 2 carries today…for total of -9 yards. One would think the motivation of facing his former team would have given him a little extra motivation but apparently the coaching staff didn’t see it that way, possibly due to his comments earlier this week about his lack of carries.

-The injuries continue to pile up for the Browns defensively, as Karlos Dansby, Billy Winn, and Jabal Sheard all left with injuries. Most troubling is Dansby, who’s injury could reportedly be serious and will need an MRI tomorrow. This could present serious issues down the stretch for a defense still finding its way.

– I was wrong on my prediction that the Browns would bring someone in to tryout for punt return duties. Following yet another fumble today, this time by Marlon Moore on a kick return, the insistence by the team that they can solve this issue internally is getting old. (Note: I know Moore‘s fumble was overturned, but does that really make a difference? He was mere inches away from turning the ball over).

While we harp on the problems with the return game, frankly, the entire special teams unit has been the team’s Achilles’ heel almost all year. Chris Tabor may be looking for a new job in a couple of months.

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  • The worst part of this game wasn’t how the Browns played, however. It was the fact that they lost to a conference opponent also looking for a playoff spot. Winning the division will be a tough enough task, so the importance of beating other contenders can’t be overstated. Cincinnati’s win over New Orleans today also doesn’t help and has made the Browns’ stay at the top of the division a short one. Coupled with victories by Kansas City, San Diego and Miami this week, the road to the playoffs just got a lot harder for Cleveland.

    But all is far from lost. at 6-4, the Browns are still well in the thick of things. Josh Gordon‘s return next week will give the offense a huge boost, and despite repeated letdown games the Browns have also shown an ability to bounce back from them. Overcoming injuries is the key. It won’t be an easy task but it’s a problem that every team faces, and at the end of the season it’s not reflected in the standings. If the team sticks together, maintains confidence, plays disciplined ball and learns from mistakes there’s no reason to think that they can’t continue a push to the post-season.