Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13648904da) Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) flips the ball in the air after scoring a touchdown on a 76-yard punt return during the first half of an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans in Houston Browns Texans Football, Houston, United States – 04 Dec 2022
These are the five things that stood out the most from the Houston Texans’ Week 13 loss to the Browns:
Pep Hamilton needs to be fired: Today. Right, this second. I have no idea why he would call a quarterback sneak on second-and-10 FROM HIS OWN TWO YARD LINE. How is that a feasible play call? In what world does that make sense? Result? Fumble, defensive score. This was as idiotic a decision as any that could ever be made. It is basically a give-up call on second down. There is no excuse. If that is the kind of play he found acceptable in that spot, he should be completely relieved of his duties. Right this very second. No need to stick around for the postgame meeting. Pack your stuff and get to steppin’!
The Texans’ defense showed up: They were not as successful against the run today as they had been in recent weeks, but they also went up against one of the best run games in the league. They did hold their own overall, however. For three quarters, they didn’t allow a single point to Deshaun Watson and the Browns. They fought hard in pass coverage. They made Watson move his feet in the pocket, and it made his rust show. Jalen Pitre had a big interception in the end zone to stop a drive. They also forced a fumble for a turnover. They fought hard, had some big plays, and avoided penalties. The defense allowed only two fourth-quarter field goals in this game. They deserved better.
The Texans’ offensive line was better: Kyle Allen was not under siege like he was a week ago. He was still pressured, but not knocked around or running for his life. Dameon Pierce still has to break too many tackles to get yards, but he had a chance to do so because he could actually get to the line of scrimmage before having to break tackles this week. There were a few penalties, particularly on Tytus Howard, but only one that killed a drive. There were no “look out” blocks (where the O-line whiffs and yells LOOK OUT) this week, and that alone was a major step forward from recent weeks. Allen was not sacked, was only hit twice, and the Browns only recorded two tackles for loss all game.
This game was close because Deshaun Watson was very rusty: Watson misfired to open receivers multiple times, threw a few grounders, and failed to identify open receivers down the field to target. Cleveland ran the ball pretty well, but the passing game sputtered because Watson looked exactly like someone who had not played in two years. He still displayed an ability to escape trouble, but the Texans’ former savior was highly inconsistent with his accuracy all game. Cleveland’s offense did not score a touchdown. Watson finished 12-for-22 for 131 yards and an interception.
One play to ruin them all: The Texans special teams had a terrific game sans one single play. They covered very well, downed balls inside the 10 multiple times, including once at the Browns 1, and made good tackles. Cam Johnston had big punts when necessary and put the right touch on them in shorter fields. It was one failed punt coverage that included three missed tackles that led to a 76-yard punt return by Donovan Peoples-Jones for a touchdown that ruined all the good work they had done. It was Cleveland’s first score of the game. Des King would fumble on a punt return with under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but the game was long decided by then.
BONUS: Despite a sparsely attended game, Texans fans in attendance booed Deshaun Watson every single play. Good job by the fans.