The Cleveland Browns had a surprising season come crashing down on Saturday, when the team took a brutal 45-14 beating at the hands of the Houston Texans in an AFC Wild Card game. The Browns made critical errors throughout the game, with turnovers and missed opportunities. Those mistakes cost the team dearly. Following the loss, the Browns really have no one to blame but themselves, and there are several reasons why.


Joe Flacco says it is too early to talk about 2024 season

Joe Flacco had a discouraging game for the Browns in what may be his final NFL playoff game. Flacco threw not one, but two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The pick sixes also came on consecutive drives in the third quarter and absolutely deflated any momentum that the Browns had in this game.

Flacco finished the game 34-of-46 passing, with 307 yards, one touchdown, and the two critical interceptions. Flacco turned 39 years old recently and the grizzled veteran may not get another chance to lead a playoff team. If that's the case, the Browns-Texans contest will be a performance that doesn't truly show how much Flacco has given to the game of football. The gunslinger wasn't on an NFL roster at the start of the season, but helped the Browns considerably after the team got depleted of quarterbacks due to injuries. Flacco has said consistently this year he has no intention of retiring, and this performance probably gives him more ammunition to try and give the NFL another shot.


Kevin Stefanski, Browns

The Browns defense had a really rough game, giving up points in each quarter to the Texans. The Texans got 28 points in the second and third quarters alone. As mentioned, the team gave up 45 points overall. 14 were off of Flacco's interceptions, but the Texans still got an additional 31 points off of their offense despite those two plays. The Browns gave up a total of 356 yards of offense to Houston.

The Browns defense also gave up three passing touchdowns to C.J. Stroud, who finished the game with a 98.4 quarterback rating. Stroud had a field day on the Browns, going 16-for-21 passing for 274 yards and the three scores. It's very unusual to see a rookie have that kind of success in an NFL playoff game. Stroud became the first NFL rookie first-round draft pick to win a playoff game since Mark Sanchez did it for the New York Jets in the 2009 season, per ESPN.

It looked at times that Stroud could get whatever he wanted. Not only did he finish the game without an interception, the Browns couldn't muster a forced fumble against the Texans either. The team was unable to sack Stroud even once during the game. The Browns defense could hardly touch Stroud, and it hurt the team badly. The defense could only get one hit on Stroud throughout the game, who seemed two to three steps ahead of the Browns at all times. The rookie simply played like a veteran on Saturday, and it lifted the entire team around him.


Joe Flacco, Amari Cooper, Devin Singletary all beside each other with meteors in the background.


The Browns struggled to take advantage of their opportunities presented to them. It was a forgettable day on special teams. The team didn't have any field goal attempts in the game, and the team didn't have any kick return opportunities. The Browns had only one punt return in the game for two yards. It was clear the Browns couldn't get the field position they wanted for most of the contest.

The Browns also struggled to run the football. The team finished the game with only 56 yards rushing, and 13 of them were from quarterback Joe Flacco. The Texans defense held the Browns in check for most of the game. The Browns even managed more first downs in this battle, with 18 to Houston's 14. The Browns also won the struggle for time of possession of the ball. The team held the pigskin for more than 35 minutes, compared to Houston's 24 minutes. It didn't matter one bit.

Cleveland ended their season with a 11-7 record following the loss to the Texans. The Texans wait to find out who their next opponent will be following the completion of AFC Wild Card weekend.