In their first playoff game since the 2020 season, Cleveland battled on both sides of the ball from the outset. The Browns conceded big plays on defense and committed two critical offensive errors, which Houston took advantage of to win 45-14 and put the Texans ahead. The Browns were held scoreless in the second half and were also unable to muster an offensive response.
The Browns will now look back on the highlights and low points of the 2023 campaign as well as how they overcame hardship due to their numerous injuries sustained in the opening week of the regular season as they enter the summer.
After back-to-back offensive possessions in the third quarter, quarterback Joe Flacco made two crucial interceptions that nearly knocked Cleveland out of the game. In the third quarter, while the Browns were driving down the field, Flacco’s ball was intercepted by CB Steven Nelson, who returned it 82 yards for a touchdown. After regaining possession of the ball, the Browns went for it on a fourth-and-2 play. The Texans led 38–14 when Flacco attempted a pass to tight end Harrison Bryant, but Christian Harris, a linebacker, intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown.
On their opening offensive play of the fourth quarter, the Texans completed the victory. The Texans led 45-14 after quarterback C.J. Stroud found running back Devin Singletary, who took the ball and sprinted into the touchdown zone for 19 yards on the third play of the fourth quarter.
But the Browns defense was inept right away, giving up three touchdowns in the first half. They allowed the Texans to lead 24–14 when they allowed a deep ball from Stroud to Collins for 37 yards and the game’s third score. The defense allowed the Texans to have big plays and scoring drives each times the Browns offense scored. After RB Kareem Hunt’s second touchdown in the first half, Houston scored on a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Flacco carried them downfield on the game’s second offensive drive when he connected on a long pass of 45 yards with tight end David Njoku. After a pass to Cooper, it eventually put the Browns in the red zone. After a strong block from Wyatt Teller, Hunt went up the middle to score a touchdown.
Considering all of the injuries the Browns have endured this season and the hardships they have suffered as a team, it’s a difficult pill to swallow. They had a great deal of confidence in their abilities as they concluded the regular season with an 11-6 record and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2020. The Browns did not play on Saturday like they have for the most of the season, particularly on the defensive end of the ball, so the loss will hurt for a while. But as they enter the offseason and get ready for the 2024 campaign, they will take this game as a teaching moment.