Texans vs. Browns Quick Hits – November 15, 2020

I’ll be trying to do one of these after each game and will likely say some smart and some dumb things, let’s see how it goes! Browns win a windy game in Cleveland, 10-7 over the Houston Texans to extend to 6-3 on the season.

Nice To See The Run Game Again

Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller being active was a huge deal for the Browns and their offense. Without Teller and Chubb, many were asking if the Browns offense would be the same. Hubbard getting placed on the COVID-19 list forced the issue even further and thankfully Teller’s House of Pancakes was open once again.

Though you wouldn’t believe it from the broadcast (more on that below), Chubb had a pretty solid game on the ground, including a few critical first downs. He finished the day with 126 yards (only 67 before the final run of the game), and one touchdown. Hunt scampered for 104 yards on 19 rushes, both averaging over 5.5 YPC. This was the damage we expected the Browns to inflict against a Texans defense giving up over 200 yards on average, and it was nice to see them come through.

Smart Football Wins Games

There were a few instances of this today and it feels good to know the coaching staff is doing their job. Sounds weird to say, but after years of questionable coaching, I finally feel good about the man in charge. Sure, using timeouts to end the first half when there’s not really much chance for you to get the ball back was a little weird, but I digress. No turnovers, no dumb plays (Landry’s taunting and potentially Mack Wilson’s penalty excluded), made for a smart, complimentary day of football.

In the second half, the Browns got the Texans to burn a timeout early on a 4th & 4. In many cases this season on a 4th down the Browns will try to get the other team to jump on 4th and less than 5. 73-year-old Romeo Crennel sensed this was coming and didn’t trust his team, so he called a timeout to remind them. When the teams came back on the field, the Browns had their punting unit. Any time you can get a team to burn a timeout, you gain a slight advantage. Solid work by Stefanski and his staff in the mental game today.

On the final drive, the Browns started on the 3-yard line with just shy of five minutes left on the clock. Previous Browns teams lose this game. This Browns team was slow and methodical and used up the rest of the clock. Even before Nick Chubb’s 59-yard run, they had burned through 4 minutes of clock and with no timeouts, the Texans were going to have a tough time coming back. Again, previous Browns teams blow this game. Speaking of that 59-yard run, a few weeks back Todd Gurley blew a Falcons lead by scoring instead of going down at the end of the game. Keeping your team on the same page seems easy, but isn’t always. It takes a solid leader and I think the Browns have found that in Stefanski.

Cleveland’s Weather Is Bad

This shouldn’t come as a shock, but the weather once again played as the third team on the field today. Several times in post-game press conferences players and Kevin Stefanski mentioned the weather was way worse than the Raiders game. Along with the initial 30-minute weather delay from some lightning, hail, and wind, the gusts throughout the game made things rough in the air for both kickers and quarterbacks. An old school running attack proved to be successful for the Browns and the later it gets in the year, the more the run game matters, but it also doesn’t give you much chance to analyze Baker’s progress.

We’ll have more later this week on the NFL’s weather-related policies (because we were curious), but the weather will continue to be a factor throughout the year with 20 of 30 NFL stadiums sitting wide open with no top.

At the end of the first half, the Browns and Texans solidified the record for the lowest combined score in the first half across all of the NFL this season. Fun times.

The Defense Continues to Rely on Big Plays

Against the Raiders, the Browns defense showed that their 5th ranked run defense was directly tied to being the 30th ranked passing defense. From that week and the bye week, the Browns shifted to 11th run defense and 24th pass defense.

Another week with no turnovers, but the defense came up with some big third-down stops. There were two times where they had Deshaun Watson on third down and he managed to sneak out for the first or throw a lucky pass for a long first.

Relying on big plays is a bit scary, but when you’ve got a defense loaded up with 1-year free agents it’s to be expected.

Not Surprising Why Dick Stockton and Matt Millen Aren’t Regulars

They poked fun at how long they’ve been doing this all game and it definitely showed. Longing for rules of games past and not understanding what a running back tandem looks like, Stockton and Millen regularly had folks on Twitter, as well as myself, shouting at the television. McNeil’s tweet here sums it up nicely.

Millen also seemed confused about the fact that Cleveland has two solid running backs and continue to tout Kareem Hunt over Nick Chubb, saying Hunt had better eyes, acceleration, and tackle-breaking ability. He even said at one point “Hunt would have had a few more yards on that” after an 18-yard pickup by Nick Chubb where he was then tackled by three defenders.

Stockton and Millen have been out of the booth as a consistent duo since the 90s and the rust was definitely showing. I won’t even bother going through all of the misnamed folks, including J.C. Watt.

Questionable Calls

I put this as the last point because it really was something that stood out throughout the day, but in my opinion, can never be an excuse for losing a game. The unnecessary roughness call on Mack Wilson while Ronnie Harrison was form tackling (a couple of feet off the ground) was a bit interesting, though I’m sure there’s some sort of rule about touching a player when he is mid-air being tackled. The result of the play would have brought up a rough down and distance but instead, it gave the Texans an automatic first down and Watson capitalized shortly after.

Landry reeled in a crucial catch on 3rd & 7 and promptly got slapped with a taunting call after spiking the ball and potentially jawing at the cornerback covering him. I’m generally in the Nick Chubb camp of, “flip the ball to the ref and head back to the sideline,” but taunting is usually reserved for throwing the ball at an opponent, head-butting, etc. Should he have done it? No. Should it have been flagged? I’m leaning no on this one.

Early in the first half the Browns were driving and faced a 3rd & 1. A slippery snap from J.C. Tretter kicked the ball back behind Baker by a few yards. Mayfield scooped it, chucked it, and after some deliberating was hit with an intentional grounding call. Baker and Stefanski both unloaded after the flag, citing Landry being in the vicinity, but the referees held true that because it didn’t get back to the line of scrimmage it didn’t matter. The Browns settled for a field goal, putting the first 3 points on the board.

There was also a false start on the Texans where the entire play happened and then they blew the whistles. Doesn’t matter which team this happens to, this is how players get hurt. Some stop playing and stand to get lit up if the whistles aren’t blown.

Again, not something where you say “refs blew it big time,” but each of those ended up being big in terms of the flow of the game.

Some Quick Game Stats

  • Browns held the Texans to less than 250 yards of offense and only 90 yards on the ground
  • The Texans were 7 of 14 on 3rd down, an area where the Browns defense has been weak this season
  • Browns and Texans combined for the lowest first-half score of the season in the NFL
  • The two head coaches had the largest gap in age of any game in history: Stefanski (38) and Crennel (73)
  • Browns had 5 drives of 3 minutes and 55 seconds or more

 

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