Browns quick hits: 5 thoughts following Week 13 win
The Cleveland Browns set off to Houston to go 1-0 for the week and they did just that. Here are some quick thoughts following the Week 13 win.
The optimism in Cleveland remains high after the Browns won their second game in a row after defeating the Houston Texans 27-14. This was the first time all season that they have won two straight games.
For most of the 2022 season, it was the offense leading the way, but on Sunday, it was all about the defense and special teams. The Browns are still two games under .500, but playoff hopes are still alive.
Here are five quick thoughts after the Browns defeated the Texans in Week 13.
5. Sione Takitaki continued to prove that he’s earned an extension
Before leaving the game with an injury, linebacker Sione Takitaki was putting in yet another quality game. He recorded nine total tackles, with one of them being solo. That brings his total up to 71 combined and 36 solo tackles. While those aren’t eye-popping numbers, he has played well enough to earn himself an extension in the offseason.
4. The Browns sorely missed David Njoku
David Njoku was ruled ‘out’ for Week 13 against the Texans with a knee injury. This was the Chief’s fourth missed game of the season and the Browns’ offense could have used him on Sunday afternoon.
Njoku has improved immensely as a blocker and as a pass catcher and he could have added to both of those elements against Houston. It seems like whenever Njoku is out, the offensive line gets manhandled and that was certainly the case on Sunday.
Once he returns to the lineup, it will give Deshaun Watson and the run game some added blocking and it will also give Watson another weapon to throw to as he works out the kinks.
3. Cleveland quietly controlled the running attack
The offense was stop-and-start all day on Sunday, but it was the rushing attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt that led the way offensively. As a team, Cleveland rushed for 174 yards, including 80 on 17 carries from Chubb and another 56 on nine carries from Hunt.
The Browns had six other rushers on the day, with Watson rushing seven times for 21 yards, which will likely increase as he gets more comfortable in this offense. Tight end Harrison Bryant got the call on a reverse and rushed for eight yards and a first down. Anthony Schwartz got one carry for six yards, and the Browns improved to 3-0 when he gets at least one carry. Feed Schwartz? Kidding, sort of.
Rookie Jerome Ford got some garbage time carries as he rushed three times for three yards.
2. Deshaun Watson was rusty, which was to be expected
If you thought that Deshaun Watson would make his first start in 700 (!) days and be in 2020 form, well then I’m sure there is a nice beach house in Iowa somebody would love to sell you.
What this game was, for better or worse, was a glorified preseason game. Watson played in one preseason game this summer, but not with any of the starters. The rust we saw was to be expected since he hadn’t played in over two years.
Watson completed 12-of-22 passes for 131 yards and a pick. The interception halted a stellar Browns’ drive, as the defense got Watson confused and made him pay.
For as optimistic as fans are right now, and rightfully so, the final five games of this season are more-or-less a dress rehearsal for 2023 and beyond. Watson playing in the final six games of the season is better for the franchise in the long run, whereas if he got a full-year ban, it would’ve been highly detrimental.
1. The defense and special teams led the way
In a surprise turn of this season, it was the defense and special teams that led the way for the Browns en route to a Week 13 victory.
The defense forced three turnovers and scored on two of those, while the special teams forced a fumble and got a punt return touchdown. The first score came in the second quarter when Donovan Peoples-Jones took a punt 76-yards to the house, snapping a streak of 121 games for the Browns without a punt return for a touchdown.
Then, in the third quarter, Denzel Ward recovered a Kyle Allen fumble and returned it four yards for a touchdown. This was his fifth-career fumble recovery and his second-career fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, linebacker Tony Fields II grabbed a tipped ball from Chase Winovich and returned it 16 yards to paydirt for his first career interception and touchdown.
The defense also allowed just 82 rushing yards to the Texans, the second consecutive game in which they held the opponent to under100 yards rushing.