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Texans rout Browns

By Elwyn Henderson

    The AFC South Division Champion Houston Texans hosted the AFC North Runner-Up Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium in Houston Saturday, January 13th in a Super Wild-Card Weekend game.  Houston came into the fray at 10-7 in the regular season and Cleveland entered at 11-6.

     Houston won the coin toss to get the big game started and deferred to begin the day.  His kick went into the end zone and following a touchback Joe Flacco brought the Browns offense on the field for their first possession of the day.

     Houston allowed one first down and then the defense came up big, forcing a punt on the second series from the Cleveland 30.  Corey Bojorquez punted the ball away down to the Houston 17 and after a fair catch CJ Stroud brought the Texans offense to the field for the first time.

     Stroud moved the offense up to the 48, but Cameron Johnston was forced to punt the ball away on a 4th and 4.  The special teams unit for Houston got the job done, with Gilmer’s Kris Boyd downing the returner at the Browns 8.

     The Texans allowed only 5 yards on 3 plays on the possession and forced a three-and-out.  The punt was shanked for only 32 yards by Bojorquez and Houston began their second possession at the Cleveland 45.

     Stroud hit Nico Collins on a 38-yard pass down on third down of the first series to the Browns 3, setting up a 1st and goal from that point.  Sadly, the offense couldn’t get the ball in the end zone and Ka’Imi Fairbairn came in to attempt a 21-yard field goal with 5:29 left in the first quarter.  The kick was good and Houston took a 3-0 lead.  The drive was 7 plays, 43 yards and took 2:54 off the first quarter clock.     

     Fairbairn’s kick after the field goal went out of the end zone and Flacco and company started at their 25 on their next possession. On the first play of the possession Flacco hit Desmond King, II on a 45-yard completion down to the Houston 30.

     Flacco got the visitors into the end zone when Kareem Hunt ran in from the 1 with 2:09 left in the quarter.  Riley Patterson, brought up from the team’s practice squad to replace an injured Dustin Hopkins for the game, hit the extra point and Cleveland took a 7-3 lead.  The drive was 6 plays, 75 yards and took 3:26.

     Patterson’s ensuing kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback and Stroud and the Texans offense hit the field again.

     Houston didn’t take long to answer, as Stroud led the team the 75 yards into the end zone for a TD in just 4 plays and 1:58.  The score came on a 16-yard TD pass from Stroud to Nico Collins with just 11 seconds left in the opening frame.  Fairbairn added the PAT and Houston took the back again, 10-7.

     Fairbairn’s kickoff resulted in another touchback and Flacco and hit charges hit the field once again.  On the first play of the possession Flacco hit Harrison Bryant on a 47-yard pass down to the Houston 27 as the first quarter came to a close.

     It didn’t take the Browns but 2:53 to respond with another TD of their own.  They took just 6 plays to move the 75 yards.  The score came on a 12-yard pass from Flacco to Kareem Hunt with 12:18 left in the first half.  Patterson added the extra point and Cleveland led 14-10.

     The Texans returned the Patterson kick after the score to their 24 and Houston went back on offense.  They took just 1 play to get into the end zone and claim the lead back.  Stroud hit Brevin Jordan on a 76-yard pass and run for a TD with exactly 12 minutes left in the half.  Fairbairn’s extra point was good and Houston’s lead was 17-14 after the 12-second drive. 

     Another touchback of Fairbairn’s kickoff resulted in Flacco and his unit starting at their 25 on their next drive.  Houston’s defense forced a three-and-out after 12 yards in losses over 3 plays, leading to a punt.  Stroud and the Texans began at their 44 after a 7-yard return.

     The offense missed an easy TD when Stroud overthrew a wide open Collins on third down of the first series, and a 49-yard punt by Johnston was fair caught at the Browns 10.

     The defense gave up one first down and then forced a punt on the second series.  The punt traveled from the Cleveland 30 to the Houston 29 with no return.

     Stroud and the offense took care of business with 1:11 left in the half when Stroud hit tight end Dalton Schultz on a 37-yard TD pass to cap an 8-play, 71-yard drive that consumed 4:33.  Fairbairn added the extra point and Houston led 24-14.

     After yet another touchback, Flacco and the Browns began once again at their 25 for their final possession of the first half.  After a 9-yard loss the Browns just let the clock expire on the first half and the teams headed in to regroup for the second half with Houston leading 24-14 and set to get the second half kickoff.

     Houston was forced to punt on their first possession and when Flacco and the visitors got the ball for their first possession of the second half they moved methodically down the field and looked like they were almost certainly going to get into the end zone to close the gap, but Houston cornerback Steven Nelson had other ideas.  He picked Flacco’s pass off at the Houston 29 and went down the right sideline with a wall of blockers in front of him and didn’t stop until he had motored 71 yards into the end zone for a TD with 6:05 left in the third quarter.  Fairbairn nailed the extra point kick and the Texans were in command, leading 31-14.

     Fairbairn’s kickoff went into the end zone again and the visitors went back to work at their 25.  The Houston defense came through once again and on a 4th and 3 Christian Harris picked off Flacco and sailed 36 yards into the end zone for the second pick-6 in as many possessions with 4:06 left in the third quarter.  Fairbairn’s extra point was good and Houston led 38-14 in what was heading toward a blowout win.

     The Browns began at their 25 once again after another Fairbairn touchback, knowing they had to get into the end zone quickly if they wanted to remain in the game.

     They began moving down the field but on a 4th and 6 Christian Harris sacked Flacco for a 13-yard loss back to midfield and Houston took over on downs at midfield with 1:27 left in the third quarter.

     Stroud led the offense on another TD drive, as they moved the 50 yards in 7 plays in exactly 3 minutes.  The score came on a 19-yard run by Devin Singletary with 13:27 left in the game.  Fairbairn was true on the extra point try and the game was officially a laugher, with Houston leading 45-14.

     The Texans defense turned up the heat once again and a 4th down Flacco pass fell incomplete with 9:22 left in the game and Houston took over on downs at the Cleveland 46.  Stroud came out of the game and Davis Mills came in a quarterback to finish the game off in garbage time.

     The Browns forced a punt and they got the ball back one last time with just over 5 minutes left in the game.  Flacco led his unit down the field, but on a 4th and 5 he was dropped for a 10-yard loss at the Houston 47 with 1:52 left in the game and Houston took over on downs.

     Mills came in and took a knee in victory formation three times and the game came to a close with the Texans claiming the huge 45-14 victory.  The win moves Houston to 11-7 on the season and on to the Divisional Round next weekend against an opponent yet to be determined.

     An ecstatic Coach DeMeco Ryans addressed the media after the exciting win and immediately thanked God.

     “I’m just thankful again His graces, man.  We’re blessed.  Our team’s special, God has blessed us tremendously and we just give him all the glory, honor and praise for where we are and what this team has done.  For CJ to go have the game he had, it’s an unbelievable performance by a rookie.  It was just outstanding by everybody.  I’m so proud of our guys in that locker room.  I knew they were ready on Tuesday.  They were focused and locked in and they went on and put the work in.  Cleveland’s a really good team.  We had a really tough matchup and our guys made plays to win the game.  I’m really just thankful and grateful for everybody in the locker room.  What an outstanding performance.”

     As he has done all year long after every game when he meets with the media, Stroud once again began his press conference by thanking God.  The Mirror then asked him if he agreed that God had a hand in the way the season has gone and was blessing the team because of Ryans and himself being fine Christian men.

     “Yes, sir, for sure, yeah.  I mean we have a lot of God-fearing brothers on the team and I think definitely God is at the forefront of our minds and we play for an audience of one.  Even when everything is going crazy you can lock in and just have peace, you know.  I’m blessed to have a leader like DeMeco who’s open with his faith.  You know, it’s hard.  People hold you to a standard and that’s what we want.  We’re holding our own crosses and we’re trying to be like Christ as much as possible.  We make mistakes; we’re not perfect, you know, but we know with God we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Just really blessed to be a part of this great group of God-fearing men!” 












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