In a game that the Texans absolutely needed to win to maintain any
delusion hope of a playoff berth, Ryan Mallett performed admirably in his first NFL start against the Cleveland Browns. After three full seasons behind Tom Brady in New England, the former Arkansas Razorback went 20/30 for 211 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
That's a 1241% increase in passing yardage for Mallett, who entered the game with 17 yards total in his career. “It feels good," said Mallett. "It made the four years worth it. I couldn’t ask for a better start to my career."
Mallett's first official touchdown pass will make for a nice bit of trivia in a few years. On the team's second drive, J.J. Watt checked in as an eligible receiver with Houston on Cleveland's 2-yard-line. Watt motioned to the outside as a wide receiver... and then Mallett actually threw at him... and he actually caught it. It sounds just as unbelievable to him as it does to fans. “I never would have thought my first career touchdown pass would be to a defensive lineman," said Mallett. "He’s a pretty good player.”
Watt's left foot and knee landed in bounds after making the catch over his shoulder against tight coverage. It was Watt's second offensive touchdown, giving him four total on the year. Watt's enjoying the work on offense quite a bit. "I’m very fortunate that the coaching staff and our players have trust in me in a situation like that," said Watt. "It feels great. I was telling the offensive linemen that there’s nothing better than to score a touchdown and the whole offense runs over to congratulate you. Such a cool feeling that I really, really enjoyed today."
Rookie Alfred Blue had his coming out party against the Browns, with a Foster-eque workload of 36 carries and 156 yards. Jonathan Grimes pitched in 13 carries and 54 yards of his own. With Arian Foster out with a groin injury, Houston's offensive line dominated Cleveland's defense all day, giving the running attack plenty of room to work. “It was fun out there," said Blue. "I was running the ball behind my offensive line and they were making some great blocks. The receivers were making blocks. It was really like playing in the backyard.”
The line also kept Mallett's jersey fairly clean, giving up no sacks and only two QB hits. The only major foible was an errant snap by center Chris Myers that was recovered by Alfred Blue. The ball flew well over Mallett's 6'6" frame.
Mallett's second-ever touchdown came with less than 30 seconds left in first half. Mallett targeted Garrett Graham three straight times, ending the drive with a 20-yard touchdown. It was Graham's first score of the season.
With the return of Brian Cushing and Jadeveon Clowney, the defense effectively handled the Brian Hoyer and the Browns. Former Texan Ben Tate watched most of the action from the sideline, but ended the day with two carries and -9 yards. Isaiah Crowell handled most of the load but was held to 61 yards on 14 carries.
Hoyer was inaccurate under pressure, throwing the ball 50 times, but only completing 20 for 330 yards. Watt and Akeem Dent (who was acquired from Atlanta in exchange for T.J. Yates) each sacked Hoyer once. Cushing added two massive QB hits of his own.
Cleveland's lone touchdown came after Watt was penalized for roughing Spencer Lanning on a punt. The penalty negated the change of possession and gave Hoyer some temporary momentum, hitting Andrew Hawkins for a 32-yard score. It was Watt's second personal foul on Lanning, the first of which did not lead to points.
Bill O'Brien is happy for the win, but happier for the players. “We’ve got a good bunch of guys who practice hard and really have taken to coaching well," said O'Brien. "We coach them hard. We’ve got some good veterans we really want to win and to see the smiles on their faces."
The Texans are now 5-5 and still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Discuss and enjoy the victory, BRBers! Catch the highlights here on NFL.com.
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