Propelled by three non-offensive touchdowns, the Cleveland Browns overcame a rusty effort from Deshaun Watson in his anticipated return to defeat the Houston Texans 27-14 on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Watson was making his first start in 700 days after sitting out the 2021 season prior to serving an 11-game suspension he received after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women.
Following his offseason trade from Houston to Cleveland, he delivered an erratic showing, completing 12 of 22 attempts for 131 yards plus a red-zone interception. The Browns (5-7) recorded their first points on offense with 9:36 remaining in the game when Cade York capped an 11-play, 42-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal that gave Cleveland a 17-8 lead.
Prior to the York field goal, the Browns constructed their lead on Donovan Peoples-Jones' 76-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:41 left in the first half and a 4-yard fumble return for a score by Denzel Ward at the 10:10 mark of the third quarter. And almost immediately following the York kick, Tony Fields II returned an interception of Texans quarterback Kyle Allen 16 yards for a touchdown on a pass deflected by Chase Winovich.
The Texans (1-10-1) suffered their seventh consecutive loss as a byproduct of critical errors and offensive ineptitude. Allen produced a third turnover in addition to the fumble returned by Ward and Fields' pick-6, with his deflected pass on the first play of scrimmage picked off by John Johnson III.
Houston amassed 162 total yards in the first half, with 73 coming on a drive that stalled at the Cleveland 1-yard line. The Texans punted to conclude five first-half possessions.
However, Houston secured a 5-0 lead with Ka'imi Fairbairn booting a 44-yard field goal with 8:02 left in the first quarter and Roy Lopez tackled Nick Chubb in the end zone for a safety at the 11:53 left in the second.
The Texans stalled in the red zone after Desmond King II recovered a fumble by Browns receiver Anthony Schwartz at the Cleveland 38-yard line. Houston sputtered again despite four snaps from inside the Cleveland 5, a drive initiated when rookie safety Jalen Pitre picked off Watson in the end zone and returned that interception 29 yards to the Houston 26.
The Texans finished 1 for 4 in the red zone and 1 for 12 on third downs. Allen tossed a 6-yard scoring pass to Nico Collins with 1:57 left to play.
--Field Level Media