CLEVELAND — Dear Nick Chubb,
We missed you!
And that just about sums up the Browns' 10-7 win Sunday against the Houston Texans. When Nick Chubb suffered the knee injury against the Cowboys it was immediately evident how much he was missed. The Browns split the four games with Chubb sidelined and he played a major role in the victory over the Texans lifting the Browns to a 6-3 record.
From the National Anthem it was obvious there would be nothing pretty about this football game. With 50 mph winds whipping through FirstEnergy Stadium, both teams were sent to their respective locker rooms for a weather delay that lasted 35 minutes. When the game finally began, the Browns looked like a well-oiled machine that made great use of the bye week. With a heavy mix of run plays, the Browns went 52 yards on 12 plays setting up a 41 yard field goal by Cody Parkey. And that was all the points the game would have until each team added a 4th quarter TD.
Credit Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski for not just putting together the perfect game plan, but for executing it as well. Everything about this game favored the Browns. They were coming off the bye week. The weather conditions would make throwing the ball extremely difficult. Nick Chubb was returning from a month of inactivity. And the Texans run defense came in ranked 32nd in the NFL. But to execute a run-dominated game plan on offense, the defense has to keep the opposing offense in check -- and that’s exactly what happened.
The Browns defense continued to show marked improvement allowing just the one score Sunday, now holding its last two opponents to just 23 combined points. Impressive considering the Browns allowed its first seven opponents on average 31.5 points per game. This is important because IF the Browns manage to nail down one of the AFC Wildcard spots, they will have to go on the road and two things travel well in the NFL: The run game and defense.
Stefanski would say after Sunday's win he has never been a part of game that had wind like that. Baker Mayfield threw the ball just 20 times, allowing the combo of Karem Hunt and Nick Chubb to do something no Browns running back tandem has done in 54 years. Chubb and Hunt each amassed 100 yards rushing. The last time that happened was week 5 against the Steelers of the 1966 season. Leroy Kelly and Ernie Green are the only other Browns running backs to each go over 100 yards in the Super Bowl era. I would’ve thought the Pruitts would have accomplished that once, or maybe Ernest Byner and Kevin Mack. This Browns backfield is special.
Make no mistake, this win belonged to the run game and the defense, and they’ll need to replicate that formula to try to earn a playoff berth. Even with the expanded playoff format in 2020, the Browns currently sit on the outside of the playoffs -- but a lot can change. The Browns will play both the Ravens and the Titans, two teams currently in wildcard slots. But the margin of error over the last seven games is razor thin. With games against the Giants, Jets, Eagles and Jaguars it will be imperative they take care of business in each one. Those four teams have a combined seven wins this season. It’s the other three games that will decide the Browns fate. The Ravens, Steelers and Titans have a combined 21 wins. If these are the teams the Browns hope to play with into January, they must find a way to win at least one of those three games.
IT’S BEEN A WHILE: The last time the Browns were 6-3: 2014. The last time the Browns started 4-1 at home: 2014. The last time the Browns had three games of more than 200 rushing yards: 1978.
GARRETT’S TEAR: Myles Garrett continues to torment opposing quarterbacks. With his sack of Texans QB Deshaun Watson, Garrett became the first defender to reach 10 sacks in the 2020 season. Garrett now has 40 sacks in his first 46 NFL games. He is the 5th player to accomplish that, joining greats Reggie White, Aldon Smith, Derrick Thomas and Von Miller. Garrett also becomes the first player in NFL history to reach nine sacks in the first nine games in each of his first three seasons.
STRONG AND SMART: Nick Chubb, with his game-sealing 4th quarter run, summed up exactly what kind of player he is. After breaking down the left sideline for what amounted to a game-sealing first down run, Chubb ran away from the Texans defense. But instead of running into the end zone to give the Browns a 17-7 lead, he wisely stepped out of bounds allowing the Browns to take a knee and end the game. Scoring would have given the Texans an opportunity, albeit slim, to return a kickoff for a score, recover an on-sides kick and try for a game-tying field goal. Chubb eliminated any chance of that with the most selfless play you’ll see this season. That’s exactly who Nick Chubb is. To quote Kevin Stefanski, “We are looking for smart, tough dudes, and Nick Chubb is that.”
THAT WAS FAST: Nick Chubb is already 10th on the Browns all-time rushing list. He accomplished this amazing feat in just 36 games. Myles Garrett is 4th on the Browns all-time sack list. He accomplished this in just 46 games.