On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the Cleveland Browns traveled to Houston and took on the Texans. The Browns were 9-5 and coming off a big home win against the Chicago Bears. The game had AFC playoff implications for Houston with an 8-6 record and in contention for the AFC South Division Championship. When it is this late in the season injuries are an issue for every NFL team.
Houston was without their star rookie quarterback CJ Stroud; he was still in concussion protocol. They were also without their star rookie wide receiver Tank Dell; he fractured his fibula earlier in the season. The injury list was long for both teams going into this game. And because of these injuries, the game became a battle of two thirty-something quarterbacks.
Former Browns quarterback Case Keenum started for Houston. This was his second consecutive start of the season. And 38-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco started his fourth consecutive game for the Browns. Even though the defense has struggled on the road. Keenum still had to face the league’s top-ranked defense the Browns. It certainly wasn’t easy for him. Because Houston has been a surprise upstart team this season, they are not considered an easy win either.
But the Browns dominated the Texans winning 36-22. Houston’s 22 points came from a kickoff return for a touchdown and two touchdowns against defensive backups in the fourth quarter when the Browns starting defense was in the game against the Houston offense. Houston wasn’t just shut out; they didn’t even run an offensive play in Browns territory. Although DE Myles Garrett didn’t get a sack, the defense had three quarterback sacks and two interceptions.
The Browns offense showed up for the game as well.
Joe Flacco shined going 27-42 for 368 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He finished with a 96.1 quarterback rating. Browns receiver Amari Cooper set a new team receiving yardage record with 265 receiving yards on 11 catches and two touchdowns. The offense was forced to try converting fourth downs due to a hamstring injury to kicker Dustin Hopkins. The Browns did convert four of six fourth downs and they did convert two of three two-point conversion attempts as well. So, missing the kicker was not as disastrous as it could have been. This 36-22 Browns win sets up a win and clinches a playoff spot situation Thursday night.
The Browns’ next game is Thursday night at home against the New York Jets. It looks like the Jets quarterback will be Trevor Siemian. It is simple. If the Browns win, they clinch a spot in the AFC Playoffs. A third-string quarterback against the Browns defense in Cleveland in a prime-time game. It should be a great night for Browns fans, regardless of the kicker situation.