CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns couldn’t wait for Nick Chubb to come back from his sprained MCL, and he made it worth the wait.
With the Browns clinging precariously to a 3-0 third-quarter lead over the Texans, Chubb got in the zone and ripped off four straight runs for 35 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to make it 10-0 with 13:32 left.
After the Texans closed to within 10-7, Chubb and the other half of the two-headed monster, Kareem Hunt put the game away.
The 10-7 win Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium improved the Browns to 6-3 and kept them firmly in the playoff conversation to start the second half of the season.
The Texans slipped to 2-7.
Chubb finished with 19 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown. Hunt had 19 carries for 104 yards. Their performances marked the first time the Browns had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since Leroy Kelly (113) and Ernie Green (103) did it on Oct. 8, 1966 in a 41-10 win over Pittsburgh.
Chubb ripped off a 59-yard blast up the left sideline with 56 seconds left. He was in the clear, but went out of bounds at the 1-yard line on purpose so quarterback Baker Mayfield could take a knee twice and close out the victory without the Browns defense having to take the field again.
No way did they want to give the red hot Deshaun Watson the ball back.
“The play by Nick there at the end is the kind of person and player he is,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after the win. “… I wouldn’t have been mad at him if he scored. Our code word (for getting the first down and going down) is ‘no mas.’ Well he gained the first and more. Knowing Nick, you tell him to do something and he does it.”
On a day when it was tough sledding in high winds at FirstEnergy Stadium, runs by Chubb and Hunt were just what the Browns needed against the 32nd-ranked run defense in the NFL.
After Chubb’s TD run, Hunt ripped off some good, intermediate runs, and then also gave the Browns some breathing room with a 19-yard run on the final drive.
With 4:59 left in the game, Watson, who’s been on fire his previous five games, capped a 90-yard drive with a 16-yard TD pass to former Browns tight end Pharaoh Brown that pulled the Texans within three. The drive featured an amazing 29-yard pass to Randall Cobb while Watson was being dragged down by safety Ronnie Harrison.
Donovan Peoples-Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, but recovered and returned it a yard to the Browns’ 3. Hunt ripped off a 19-yard run to the Browns’ 33 to help preserve the victory.
The game began with a 37-minute weather delay after the skies darkened, the winds whipped up and hail and rain engulfed FirstEnergy Stadium. Both teams went to the locker room and fans took cover, but the Browns came back out and weathered the storm.
Stefanski said he thought the windy on-field conditions were worse than two weeks ago when the Browns lost at home to the Raiders.
“They were legit,” he said. “A couple of occasions the play-sheet almost flew out of my hand.”
Texans missed field goal
The Texans drove to the Browns’ 27 in the third quarter, but missed a 46-yard field goal with 3:33 left in the third quarter while trailing 3-0. The Texans felt that Andrew Sendejo should’ve been flagged for yanking down Brandin Cooks in the end zone in the drive, but the refs didn’t see it that way.
The Browns led only 3-0 at the half after Mayfield threw the ball over an open Landry’s head and into the end zone on fourth down late in the first half.
It wasted an opportunity for the Browns to go ahead 10-0 at the half. The errant pass came one play after Mayfield threw behind Hunt on third down in the red zone, and Hunt contorted his body to corral it and couldn’t hang on.
The Browns opened the scoring with a 41-yard Cody Parkey field goal after a botched play on their opening drive. On a third and 1 from the Texans’ 7, JC Tretter grounded a bad snap back to Mayfield, who recovered it at the Houston 21. But Mayfield was flagged for intentional grounding on the play when he threw the ball away on the sideline under pressure. The Browns settled for the field goal after a good drive that featured a 17-yard blast by Hunt.
Texans coach Romeo Crennel gathered his defense after the 12-play drive and chewed them out on the sidelines.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett blew up the Texans’ ensuing drive by tackling Johnson for a loss and sacking Watson for a 5-yard loss.
Garrett came up huge again on the Texans’ next drive when he dropped Watson for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal quarterback draw from the Browns’ 2 with 12:54 left in the half. The Texans’ failed drive knocked more than seven minutes off the clock.
The Browns started the first of two straight drives at their 4, but Landry made a mistake after catching an 18-yard pass to the 25. He spiked the ball and taunted former Browns safety Eric Murray, who remained stoic. The Browns punted from their 17 four plays later.
The Texans took over near midfield, and drove to the Browns 27 before they started going backwards. They moved back 5 on a false start, five on a sack by Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi, five on a delay of game.
But Crennel made a smart trick play on 4th and 13 from the 30. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn lined up for an apparent 48-yard field goal, but punted 26 yards to the Browns 4 instead.
Mayfield dug out of the hole with an 11-yard pass to Austin Hooper and then Hunt ran for 9 to the 27. Rashard Higgins caught an 18-yard yarder to the 41, but the promising drive ended with the back-to-back bad throws by Mayfield to keep it 3-0 at the half.
The Browns host the Eagles at FirstEnergy Stadium next Sunday at 1 p.m.
New Browns face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Browns-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection for adults and youth, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All NFL proceeds donated to CDC Foundation.
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