Texans more physical than Browns on both lines

CLEVELAND -- It’s not tough to boil down what happened in the Cleveland Browns 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Houston beat the Browns and beat them up on the interior of both sides of the ball.

Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt disrupted much of what the Browns tried to do on offense, and the Texans offensive line was much more physical than the Browns' defense, which led to Brian Hoyer having a long day.

“We got beat soundly in all three phases,” coach Mike Pettine said. “They made a lot more plays than we did. We did have some opportunities, but came up small in the big moments.”

Offensively, the Texans offense line dominated a Browns defense that by game’s end was without Phil Taylor (injured reserve), Karlos Dansby (lost in the first half with a knee injury that will need an MRI) and Jabaal Sheard (foot).

Houston overpowered the Browns, finishing with 213 yards rushing, the most a Browns defense has given up since the Giants ran for 243 in October of 2012 and the best running game against the Browns this season.

The Texans did it without starting running back Arian Foster; they had been 1-11 without him. Alfred Blue stepped in, ran 36 times and gained 156 yards.

The reasons were elusive to find, as the Browns now face the possibility of going from celebrating being in first place in the AFC North to falling to last if Pittsburgh wins on Monday night.

Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was asked if the team got too caught up in the first-place hype.

“Possibly,” Bryant said, adding: “They came out focused and really hungry to win this game. We may have been sitting down a little bit. Kind of catching more than we were delivering.”

Others fell on the execution sword, saying the Browns simply were outplayed.

“We just didn’t play well enough to win,” said Hoyer, who was a disappointing 20-for-50.

“I don’t think we were coming off a high,” Miles Austin said. “I would say that pretty much all of us kept it in perspective. We won a game [in Cincinnati], but we didn’t win an AFC Championship. We won one game.”

Houston coach Bill O’Brien said the Texans offensive line had its best game of the season. Even without their starting back, they ran 54 times and had the ball for 18:09 of the second half.

The Browns have been able to cover for a poor run defense in some games this season, but not this one. The defense was on the field for 84 snaps as the Texans ran a lot of hurry-up offense.

Offensively the Browns could not handle Watt, who had five tackles, three for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery as well as a touchdown reception on offense.

“He’s a special player,” coach Mike Pettine said, making perhaps the understatement of the week.

Watt singlehandedly wrecked numerous plays, and the Texans fed off him.

“We made it one-dimensional,” Texans nose tackle Ryan Pickett said.

Meaning they forced the Browns to throw. Houston had six tackles for a loss on run plays, and aside from one 35-yard run by Isaiah Crowell, they had 23 carries for 23 yards. Even with Crowell’s big run, the Browns averaged 2.4 yards on 24 carries. Ben Tate had two carries for minus nine yards.

That allowed the pass rush to tee off, which gave Brian Cushing and Watt and cohorts free runs at Hoyer, who was under pressure 15 times, the second highest figure in a game this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Hoyer was 3-for-13 when under duress.

“They were physical,” Hoyer said.

Rarely has the adage "games are won and lost in the trenches" been more evident.