The score indicates a game that is somehow closer than it really was. The Houston Texans dominated the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in a 33-17 route to move the Browns to 0-6. Reliant Stadium. The Texans, playing without their best player in J.J. Watt, dominated both sides of the ball and made this one feel all too typical for Browns faithful. There will once again be the questions we hear each week: What happened to the quarterback play? Who is responsible for the constant errors in covering the opposing tight end? Where will Jabrill Peppers find success on an NFL field? There are far more questions than answers at this point.
Houston jumped out early on the first drive with a 40-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn. The Browns followed it up with a field goal of their own, a 41-yard effort from Zane Gonzalez. After the Gonzalez field goal tied the game at 3-3, things went downhill for the Browns, and fast. Will Fuller caught a lost Jabrill Peppers in a busted cover 2 look for a 39-yard pass late in the first quarter to make it 10-3 Texans. Peppers again looked lost in coverage, and we are all left wondering where he will fit in an NFL defensive scheme.
The following possession only made matters worse. Kevin Hogan threw a flat route to Duke Johnson that sailed well over his head, and right into the patiently waiting Johnathan Joseph’s arms and the Texans veteran cornerback ran it back 82 yards for a touchdown. The next possession didn’t turn out much better for Hogan, who struggled mightily in his first start of 2017. He tried finding Johnson right up the right sideline, but was intercepted again, this time by Dylan Cole. Hogan would go on to throw one more interception in the first half, again to Joseph, to cap his poor performance. Hogan finished 20-for-37 for 140 yards with ome touchdown and three interceptions.
The remainder of the first half saw the Texans score one more time, on a one-yard flip pass to former Buckeye Braxton Miller, just to add insult to injury to Browns fans. DeShaun Watson, who the Browns infamously passed on in the 2017 draft, finished the game 17-for-29 for 225 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He was never asked to do anything far too strenuous, and only made one mistake all game: An errant fourth-quarter pass that was intercepted by Jason McCourty who returned it for the Browns first Iand only) touchdown of the day.
The second half was about as boring as we all thought it would be, as the Texans played it appropriately safe and let the clock do its work. The Browns were again unable to muster much offense, and never really threatened Houston with anything serious. The lone bright spot was a three-yard touchdown from Hogan to Seth DeValve.
Browns fans are again left wondering when the franchise will win its first game of the season – a theme of the past few seasons. Hue Jackson’s inability to inspire has left many wondering if he is the right choice long term, and the front office continually letting quarterbacks slip away isn’t helping. The situation isn’t going to fix itself, but the hope is something changes as the Browns continue to trek through 2017. Cleveland welcomes the Tennessee Titans to First Energy Stadium next Sunday.
Player of the Game: Myles Garrett
The first-overall selection continues to show he is as good as advertised. His snap counts took a jump this week, and his numbers showed the talent. He had five tackles, including two for loss and one sack. Garrett is the real deal.