Browns are not quite there … yet


(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

“Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) is ipended by Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) in a game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Houston.” Photo from Associated Press, (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Heading into the Dec. 2 game against the Texans, the Cleveland Browns had all the momentum to make some noise against a Houston team that has won eight games in a row.

Since the firing of former head coach Hue Jackson, the Browns held a 2–1 record coming into the game against the Texans. Most impressively, led by a career-high four passing touchdown performance by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Browns had snapped their 25-game skid on the road with a 35–20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 25. The most ironic part? Jackson had joined the Bengals as their “defensive coordinator” just two weeks after his termination by the Browns.

Yet despite a whole city riding the momentum wave of two-straight Browns wins, their wave would not hit the shore, as they dropped a 29–13 loss in Houston.

At the end of the first half, the Browns were down 23–0 after Mayfield threw for 46 yards and three interceptions — the first time he has thrown for three interceptions in the first half of a game since his freshman season at Texas Tech in 2015.

Although Mayfield and the Browns were down by three possessions at the break, Mayfield ended the game with a career-high 397 passing yards, adding a touchdown.

The Browns nearly strung together a threatening comeback in the third quarter, until two costly errors tore the team apart. On the second play of the Browns’ drive at the 5:26 mark of the third quarter, Mayfield hit rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway in stride for a 76-yard touchdown score. However, the play was called back after a holding penalty was called on left tackle Desmond Harrison.

Two plays later, Mayfield found Callaway for a 71-yard pass, but Callaway fumbled the ball at the two-yard line — the ball was recovered by Houston, meaning Texans’ ball.

If Harrison had not surrendered a holding call and Callaway had not fumbled the football, the Browns would only have been down 26–14, with all the momentum to upset one of the hottest teams in football.

Instead, the Browns lost to the Texans for the second consecutive season. The Browns came into the game “in the hunt” for the second wildcard spot in the playoffs, but erased that opportunity with their Week 13 loss in Houston.

The Browns have shown impressive strides this season, compared to years past, but Cleveland’s football team is not quite there yet. The Browns are closer than they have ever been to making some noise in the 2019 season, but the Dawg Pound may have to wait until then to see something special.