The best defense against the Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield was the Texans’ offense as the Texans won 29-13 last Sunday at NRG Stadium.
The Texans’ offense controlled the ball for 12:26 of the first quarter as they jumped to a 10-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to Jordan Thomas.
“Just a bootleg and one-on-one matchup with him. They were in kind of like a man coverage, tilted to Hop (DeAndre Hopkins). It was one-on-one with Hop and J.T. and came around and I know it was going to be a little pressure, everyone on the defensive end is going to be in my face, so kind of get some width and buy some time and let J.T. work. And he won his matchup and gave him a chance to make a play on the ball. So that’s what he did. And capitalized on it,” Watson said.
The Browns ran just five plays for five total yards in the first quarter.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Browns as they ran 13 plays for 47 total yards, and Mayfield threw three interceptions on three consecutive series. Linebacker Zack Cunningham returned the first interception 38 yards for a touchdown to put the Texans up 17-0.
“That was a great play. To me that was one of the bigger plays in the game early on. And his ability to get it into the end zone the way that he did was really a great play. He’s an excellent athlete. And that really helped us. It was 10-0 at that point and it made it 17-0. Big play in the game,” Texans’ Head Coach Bill O’Brien said.
On the Browns next possession, cornerback Johnathan Joseph intercepted a Mayfield pass at the Houston 31 yard line and returned it to the 49. Fairbairn then converted the turnover into three points with a 42-yard field goal. With the Texans up 20-0, Mayfield was intercepted by Andre Hal in the end zone with 1:44 to go in the first half. The Texans ran 10 plays in their two-minute offense with Fairbairn kicking a 48-yard field goal as time ran out in the half to make the score 23-0.
For the first half, the Texans had 262 yards of total offense to the Browns 74 yards.
“Baker’s (Mayfield) a great player. He’s going to be a really – he’s an excellent player. You can see why he’s the No. 1 draft pick. We have a lot of respect for him and in his game. But I think it’s hard to play against our defense as a rookie quarterback. I don’t think it’s easy when you don’t have a lot of experience and you’re going against the defense that’s got a very strong front and does a good job in the back-end disguising things and things like that. I thought our defense did a great job. Our players did an excellent job and Romeo (Crennel) and the staff did a great job,” O’Brien said.
With a big lead, the Texans employed a bend but don’t break defense in the second half, and the Browns improved their statistics but could only score two touchdowns. Mayfield completed 24 of 30 passes in the second half for 351 yards. The Browns had 3 yards rushing in the second half.
Meanwhile Fairbairn added two more field goals to make the final score 29-13.
Once they got on the field, the Browns offense was their worst enemy. Besides the three first half interceptions, they had a 75-yard touchdown pass nullified by a holding call and then two plays later, Mayfield hit Antonio Callaway for an apparent 75-yard touchdown pass, but Texans’ rookie safety Justin Reid caught Callaway at the one-yard line and forced a fumble that Aaron Colvin recovered in the end zone.
“It was a hell of a throw by Baker, first of all. I thought that the ball was going to be overthrown. I was going for the pick at first. I saw him catch it and at that point just put my head down and digged. You always want to show great effort, run to the ball and at that point it was just trying to make something happen. I didn’t want him to score, so just make a play on the ball, see if it would come out. Good thing for us it did,” Reid said.
For the game, Watson completed 22 of 31 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown, and he rushed seven times for 30 yards. Lamar Miller had 19 carries for 103 yards and Alfred Blue rushed 13 times for 54 yards.
The Texans top scorer was Fairbairn, who was made all five field goal attempts and added two extra points for 17 points on the game.
The win improves the Texans’ record to 9-3. The Indianapolis Colts come to NRG next Sunday with a 6-6 record. With a win, the Texans would clinch first place in the AFC South division and a playoff spot.