By Terrance Turner
Dec. 4, 2022
Today the Cleveland Browns came to NRG Stadium to play the Houston Texans. The game is important largely for one reason: Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is returning from an 11-game suspension. This is his first game back, and he’s playing against his old team.
Watson was traded by the Texans in March, per his request. The move came after two dozen lawsuits were filed against Watson by women claiming that he acted inappropriately with them during massages. 25 women filed civil suits against Watson. Overlapping with those suits were 10 criminal complaints; two of them were filed by women who weren’t suing Watson civilly.
Watson has settled virtually all of the suits. Harris County declined to bring charges against him. And the Browns rewarded Watson with a 230 million contract, only to lose him for nearly three months after he was suspended. Now he’s back.
Today, Texans fans booed Watson as he took the field.
Things went haywire from the very beginning. Texans quarterback Kyle Allen threw to Teagan Quitoriano, who dived to make the catch. But as he hit the ground, the ball popped out, bounced off the ground and landed in the hands of Browns safety John Johnson.
But the Browns couldn’t capitalize on that. Watson’s first two passes were incomplete, and eventually Cleveland had to punt. Allen’s last two passes of the Texans drive were also incomplete, and Houston had to punt.
Deshaun Watson passed to the right to Anthony Schwartz for 12 yards to the Cleveland 47. He was tackled by Tavierre Thomas. FUMBLE, recovered by Houston (Desmond King II) and returned for 15 yards. Tackled by Donovan Peoples-Jones and Joel Bitonio.
Houston overcame two penalties (a false start on Tytus Howard, another a face mask on Brevins) on their ensuing drive. The Texans scored first courtesy of a field goal. They scored again later at Cleveland’s expense. Deshaun Watson’s pass intended for Amari Cooper was intercepted by Jalen Pitre. The Texans got possession and embarked on a lengthy drive that took them to the end of the first quarter.
The Texans powered all the way to first and goal at the three yard line. They got to the one-yard line on 3rd and goal. But instead of kicking a field goal on 4th and goal, the Texans decided to go for it – and turned the ball over on downs
.The Browns took possession at their own one yard line. They advanced one yard, then got backed up all the way into their own end zone, thanks to a false start penalty. Watson handed the ball off to a receiver. But the Texans defense tackled him immediately, scoring a safety. The Texans took a 5-0 lead.
Later, a Houston punt return produced Cleveland’s first points of the game. Donovan Peoples-Jones caught and returned the ball 76 yards for a touchdown.
The Browns led 7-5 at halftime.
The second half brought new woes for both teams. A penalty for illegal formation on the Texans offense backed them up. On the next play, both teams collided in a massive pile up near the end zone. On 2nd and 10, the ball popped out. It got picked up by Denzel Ward, who ran right into the end zone for a touchdown. Browns took a 14-5 lead.
With nine minutes left in the third quarter, penalties began to pile up. On 2nd and 8th, flags flew everywhere. There were multiple fouls on the play. The ref said Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was flagged for jumping offsides. “That penalty’s declined. Illegal formation: offense, number 12. That penalty’s disregarded by rule. Personal foul: roughing the passer. Defense, number 99. That 15-yard penalty will be enforced from the end of the spot. automatic first down.”
With 7:36 left, another flag. “Personal foul, unnecessary roughnes. Defense, number 69. 15 yard penalty. Automatic first down.” (Chase Winovich was called for the flag.)Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed another field goal to make it 14-8 with 5:08 left in the third. That score held at the end of the third quarter.
Browns added a field goal in the fourth quarter. Then, on the Texans’ drive, Allen’s pass got tipped by Winovich and caught by Tony Fields. It’s his first career interception, and he returned it to the end zone for the touchdown. Browns led 24-8.
Kicker Cade York officially put the game out of reach with a 42-yard field goal. Cleveland expanded it’s lead. It was 27-8 with 4:03 left. The Texans scored with two minutes to go after a TD catch by Nico Collins. But it was too late. The Browns won, 27-14.