The Cleveland Browns twice passed on opportunities to select former Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he made them pay for their decisions with a three-touchdown performance at NRG Stadium Sunday.
A first-round pick of the Houston Texans (3-3) after the Browns (0-6) traded their No. 12 overall selection to Houston, Watson completed 17 of his 28 attempts for 225 yards and three touchdowns against a second-half interception on the way to a 33-17 victory over Cleveland.
Watson spread the ball out to eight different players, and became the first rookie quarterback with three or more touchdown passes in three consecutive games in the Super Bowl era.
With the setback in Houston, the Browns have suffered through 16 consecutive road losses, a franchise record for futility away from home.
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Watson threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Will Fuller and gave the Texans a 10-3 lead over the Browns with 41 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Facing a second-and-two from Cleveland’s 39-yard line, Watson used an inside draw play-action fake to freeze the Browns’ defense, and found Fuller running open down the right side of the field. Fuller hauled in the pass at the four-yard line and motored his way into the end zone for the touchdown.
With the Browns in zone coverage, cornerback Jamar Taylor gave Fuller a clear running lane, and he ran uncovered for nearly 30 yards before hauling in the pass behind the coverage from deep safety Jabrill Peppers.
On the ensuing drive, the Texans’ defense got in on the scoring on an interception return for a touchdown that gave them a 16-3 lead over the Browns with 11:08 to play in the first half.
Browns quarterback Kevin Hogan had moved the offense down to Houston’s 22-yard line, but on second-and-15 from just outside the red zone, he sailed a throw over the head of running back Duke Johnson and into the arms of Texans defensive back Johnathan Joseph.
After securing his 13th interception with the Texans, which matched a franchise career record, Joseph raced untouched down the sideline for the touchdown.
Once Joseph crossed the 50-yard line, he slowed his pace to a jog, and with blockers in tow, walked across the goal line for the touchdown.
Then, former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback/wide receiver Braxton Miller caught a one-yard touchdown pass and gave the Texans a 24-3 lead over the Browns with 3:04 to play in the second quarter. On second-and-goal, Miller caught a short pass from Watson and front-flipped his way into the end zone.
Following the initial score, the Texans attempted a kick, but a penalty on the Browns gave them a second shot at the conversion. With a second chance at the conversion, Watson threaded the needle to tight end Ryan Griffin for the two-point score.
After turning one of three first-half interceptions into a score, the Texans followed a safety of Hogan with Watson’s third touchdown pass and a 33-3 lead over Cleveland in front of the home fans.
Despite the Browns sending out six defensive backs on third-and-goal from Cleveland’s three-yard line, Watson took the shotgun snap, waited patiently for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to break free in the middle of the end zone and delivered the touchdown pass.
The throw to Hopkins was Watson’s 16th touchdown pass over his first five starts, which matches 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Warner for the most scoring passes over the first five starts in NFL history.
Earlier in the drive, Watson and the Texans faced a third-and-14 from Cleveland’s 45-yard line, but the rookie calmly flared a screen pass to Fuller on the left side of the field. Then, Fuller sprinted through the Browns’ three layers of defense before being brought down after a 23-yard gain.
Two plays later, Watson threw a 13-yard pass to Griffin.