Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off the field after throwing an interception during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston humbles Browns, ends Cleveland's brief 2-game win streak 29-13

Strong second half for Mayfield not enough to overcome brutal first half

December 3, 2018

Daryl Ruiter-Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Cancel those playoff ticket orders.

Rumors of the Browns’ arrival to legitimate contention have been grossly exaggerated and it's back to the reality of just trying to take steps forward before the season expires on Dec. 30.

Yes, the Browns are better, just not playoff-ready better and the Texans showed that Sunday afternoon in Houston with a 29-13 victory that ended Cleveland's two-game win streak and extended theirs to nine in a row.

The first half was an unmitigated disaster for rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who completed just five passes and threw three interceptions – one returned 38 yards for a touchdown – as the Texans raced out to a 23-0 lead.

Houston out-gained the Browns 262-74. Deshaun Watson completed his first 11 passes. The Texans racked up 16 first downs and held the ball for 21:43 through the first 30 minutes.

Game. Set. Match.

Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward suffered a concussion and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi suffered a biceps injury forcing both from the game in the first half and they did not return.

Things went a little better in the second half, especially for Mayfield, but not enough to make the final outcome remotely interesting.

Rookie running back Nick Chubb scored his sixth touchdown in the last four games and seventh rushing TD of the season with a two-yard run to cap the opening drive of the third quarter.

Mayfield completed his first 10 passes of the second half and was 24 of 30 for 351 yards and a touchdown over the final 30 minutes, but his streak of consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes ended at five.

Mayfield had a third quarter 76-yard touchdown to Antonio Callaway wiped out because left tackle Greg Robinson was called for holding Whitney Mercilus. Two plays later Mayfield found Callaway over the middle near midfield and Callaway raced 76 yards inside the five before Texans safety Justin Reid punched the ball out.  

Mayfield raced down the field to console Callaway, which is what a good teammate and leader does.

Despite Robinson’s critical holding flag, the offensive line didn’t allow a sack for the third consecutive game. Considering they went up against arguably the best front-seven in football in J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, who entered the game with a combined 21.0 sacks and 45 quarterback hits, it is a moral victory.

After climbing within 29-13 thanks to a touchdown catch by Rashard Higgins in the back corner of the end zone, Callaway couldn’t haul in the two-point try until he was already on the wrong side of the goal line and after recovering the ensuing onside kick, Cleveland was flagged for offsides.

Executing on special teams just isn’t this team’s specialty this year and it was that kind of day for the Browns.

The defense did all it could to keep the Browns in the game by forcing the Texans to kick five field goals – 35, 42, 48, 53 and 38 yards – and they also held Houston to just 120 yards of offense in the second half.

But the hole for Mayfield and the Browns was just too deep.

While the talk of playoffs wasn’t realistic to begin with, those dreams of a December playoff run by running the table quickly evaporated.