Browns defeat Texans in Watson’s rusty debut


Courtesy of Eric Christian Smith/AP Photo

Deshaun Watson, a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, returns to play against his former team, the Houston Texans, following a staggering 700-day hiatus after being suspended for serial sexual assault.

Jack Martin, Staff Writer

The Cleveland Browns (4-7) faced off against the Houston Texans (1-9-1) on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Coming off of an exciting overtime win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Browns were looking to win their second game in a row for the first time this season. Though Cleveland was without star tight end David Njoku, Deshaun Watson was the starting quarterback for the team for the first time this season after having been suspended for serial sexual assault of over two dozen women.

After receiving the opening kick, the Texans’ ambitions for an early lead were snapped on the first play, as quarterback Kyle Allen immediately threw an interception to Browns safety John Johnson III. 

Following an exchange of punts from both teams, the Browns received the ball for the second time on their own thirty yard line. After a 5-yard run by Nick Chubb to set up a second-and-short situation, Watson made a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, who fumbled the ball, much to Browns fans displeasure.

The Texans took advantage of this error, as Allen and rookie running back Dameon Pierce led the team down the field. The Browns’ defense managed to hold the team to a 44-yard field goal from kicker Ka‘imi Fairbairn to give Houston a 3-0 lead with eight minutes left in the first quarter.

The Browns stormed back, as Watson marched the team down the field. He connected with running back Kareem Hunt twice for nearly 20 yards and threw a 27-yard strike to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. Looking to score, Watson targeted receiver Amari Cooper in the endzone, but the pass was intercepted by the Texans’ Jalen Pitre. The Browns gave up a safety on their next possession, giving Houston a 5-0 lead early in the second quarter.

After another series of punts, the Browns pinned the Texans on their own 16-yard line. On fourth-and-2, Houston punter Cameron Johnston punted to Peoples-Jones, who returned the ball 76 yards to score. It was the team’s first punt return touchdown since 2015. Needless to say, Browns punt-return legend Josh Cribbs was smiling somewhere. 

The second half of the game contained more excitement for Cleveland fans, as the Browns’ defense and special teams helped carry the struggling offense. On their opening drive, the Texans gave up the ball on an Allen fumble that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by cornerback Denzel Ward, giving the Browns a 14-5 lead. Following the touchdown by Ward, the teams exchanged field goals, making it a 17-8 ballgame. 

With 10 minutes left in the game, Allen threw his second interception of the game, this time being for a touchdown by Cleveland’s Tony Fields II. This was the second defensive touchdown of the game for the Browns.

Browns’ kicker Cade York went on to hit another 42-yard field goal, extending their lead to 19. Though the Texans scored once more, the Browns were victorious for the second week in a row, this time with an awkward 27-14 win over what is indisputably the worst team in football today. 

Watson struggled in his first game back from his suspension for serial sexual assault. Whether it was jitters from the hostile Houston environment or the rust of not having played in 700 days, it is safe to say that the quarterback did not look like his $230 million form. Watson completed 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and finished with an underwhelming passer rating of 53.4.

Watson was not alone because the entire offense struggled. They undisputedly got bailed out by the great performances of the defense and special teams units. Running backs Chubb and Hunt combined for only 136 yards on the ground and failed to score a touchdown for the first time in weeks. Peoples-Jones had three receptions for 44 yards, and Cooper tagged along with four for 40 yards.

The Browns will face off against one of their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, next weekend. This is a big game for the Browns, who look to keep their playoff hopes alive.