My dad told me a long time ago that "close only counts in two situations and football isn't one of them." He probably had this matchup in mind when he schooled me many years ago. The 10-7 defeat was sort of a microcosm of this difficult 2020 season. The team fought to the final gun, had chances but couldn't make the one or two plays it needed to make to win the game. Here are my Harris Hits from the wild afternoon in Cleveland.
I'm going to start with the National Anthem. No, I'm not getting political or anything like that, but I have never been on a football field when weather like THAT arrived on the scene. Right as the National Anthem started, it began to rain like a Houston gullywasher. Then, a few moments later, I started to HEAR the rain and I knew that had to be hail. Then, throw in the 50+ mph wind and it was quite possibly the wildest moment I've had in a football game ever. The game was then delayed as lightning struck behind me a couple of times. I was in Galveston when Hurricane Diana (I believe) struck the coast in October and the wind was stronger in the Stadium than it was for that hurricane. Now, that hurricane didn't strike us directly, but this storm hit us right in the face. Just completely wild.
During breaks of our broadcast, Marc, Andre, Robert and I talked about how there was no way, in this weather, that either team was going to score 17 points. Could the Texans put up 17 points? The offense was averaging over 28 ppg in the last four games since Romeo Crennel took over as interim head coach but no one was sniffing 28 on this day. Yes, the weather had that much of an impact. That all said, Texans had opportunities to score right at 17 or 20 to win that game. Missed field goal in the third quarter. Fourth and goal where Deshaun Watson was stuffed by Browns star Myles Garrett. Touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Texans offense had good field position for the most part in this matchup. It just didn't click again in plus territory for some reason on Sunday.
The defense won't look at the stat sheet and feel great about the 200+ yards the Browns rushed for in this matchup. However, Chubb's first 13 carries went for 33 yards. Hunt struggled to get going in this one as well. Unfortunately, Chubb finished with 154 yards and I'll point out how that happened in a bit. But, the defensive front really played well until the damn broke after the 3rd and 18 completion that stoked the Browns offensive fire.
That 3rd and 18, let's talk about that one. That play was the damn breaker. The Texans had truly bottled up the two backs, for the most part, and Baker Mayfield hadn't really hurt the Texans. Get the stop, catch the punt and take it down and score to win this thing. Somehow, though, Rashard "Hollywood" Higgins found himself on the Texans sideline beyond the marker. Mayfield fit the ball over safety Michael Thomas and in front of a corner on that side. It was a brilliant throw but the catch was not clean and I could see from my spot in the Moat, he juggled the throw and didn't have control. Now, what I couldn't see was his feet. But, what told me that he didn't catch it was Mayfield running up to the line to get a play run before the Texans could ask for a review
I still haven't seen the catch, but I wasn't, and still won't, until I see it, to be fully convinced that he had control AND got his two feet in bounds. The officials thought he caught it, so gotta live with it. (UPDATE: I saw the play on the bus ride home and he did juggle the ball but he gathered it in with both feet in bounds. It still raises my ire that a receiver could find room 20 yards from the line of scrimmage that open that Mayfield could make that throw). But, that one play opened the floodgates. Chubb took a hammer to the Texans defense and plowed away at the Texans edges until he took a zone cut up run nearly untouched into the end zone for the backbreaking touchdown.
One major reason why Chubb and Hunt went to work was the inconsistent play out on the edges of the Texans defense. Both backs picked up significant gains on cutup runs when an edge player was upfield when he wasn't supposed to be. There were also times when the edge players just got pinned inside and the running backs could hit the edge fairly quickly and cleanly. There was one run blitz early in the game when two Texans went upfield to the same spot and Chubb blasted through for nine yards and a first down run.
I've seen Deshaun Watson make some jaw dropping plays and I've been right there on the sideline to see every single one. That said, the throw he somehow completed to Randall Cobb on the Texans only touchdown drive was indescribable. Browns safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. had him by the legs and Laremy Tunsil and Myles Garrett were tangled up in front of Deshaun. So, it wasn't seemingly possible for Deshaun to even get the throw off, much less complete it. But, he did for a HUGE 30 yard gain.
He also had a Buffalo Playoff game-like escape in the third quarter and Browns defensive back Kevin Johnson (former Houston Texan) was on the field for both of them. Watson got hit by Johnson and another Brown, but he broke free of the clutches and sped ahead for a first down run. Man, now that I think about it, that might have been a better play than the completion to Cobb in the fourth quarter.
It certainly wasn't perfect for the Texans middle linebackers, but Zach Cunningham and Tyrell Adams stepped up and made some quality stops on Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns really couldn't get rolling on the ground in the first three quarters of the game. Cunningham's tackling was sharp, for the most part, and he stoned or stood up Chubb and/or Hunt throughout the game a couple of times in the run game. Cunningham ended the game with 13 tackles, but I know he wasn't satisfied that the Browns ran for so much in the late 3rd quarter/4th quarter.
I loved seeing veteran defensive tackle Corey Liuget get a sack. I had my eyes focused on him as he ran into the game. He threw a great pass rush move on guard Wyatt Teller and got to Mayfield for the only sack of the game.
I don't know that I have too much more to say about this one, so I'll cut it there. See ya next week when the Texans take on the Patriots at NRG Stadium.
Check out photos from the Houston Texans week 10 game against the Cleveland Browns.