NFL PREVIEW: HOUSTON TEXANS (1-0) AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-1)
SUNDAY, SEPT. 19, 2021 // 1:00 PM ET // FIRSTENERGY STADIUM // REFEREE: BRAD ROGERS
LEADER: Texans lead all-time series, 7-4
STREAKS: Texans have won 5 of past 6
LAST GAME: 11/15/20: Texans 7 at Browns 10
LAST GAME AT SITE: 11/15/20
QB TYROD TAYLOR passed for 291 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 112.1 rating & rushed for 40 yards last week in Hou. debut. Started 3 games for Cle. in 2018. Completed 17 of 24 passes (70.8 pct.) for 174 yards & TD & rushed for 49 yards in only career start vs. Cle. (12/18/16 w/ Buf.). • RB MARK INGRAM led team with 85 rush yards & had rush TD last week in Hou. debut. Has 90+ scrimmage yards in 2 of 3 career games at Cle. Leads all active RBs in rush yards (7,408) & rush TDs (63). RB DAVID JOHNSON had TD catch last week. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. AFC North with rush TD. RB PHILLIP LINDSAY rushed for TD last week in Hou. debut. Rushed for 92 yards & TD in his last game vs. Cle. (11/3/19 w/ Den.). Has 90+ rush yards & rush TD in 3 of his past 4 vs. AFC North. • WR BRANDIN COOKS had 5 catches for 132 yards in Week 1. Aims for 4th in row with 5+ catches & 125+ rec. yards. Has 14 catches (7 per game) in his past 2 games vs. Cle. WR DANNY AMENDOLA had TD catch last week in Hou. debut. WR PHARAOH BROWN had 4 catches for career-high 67 rec. yards in Week 1. • LB ZACH CUNNINGHAM had 6 tackles & PD in Week 1. Had 13 tackles in last meeting. Has 3 PD in 3 career games vs. Cle. Aims for his 6th in row vs. AFC North with 10+ tackles. LB CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY had 2 TFL & INT last week in Hou. debut. Had 30 TFL & 11.5 sacks in 6 seasons (2014-19) with Cle. CB TERRANCE MITCHELL had FF last week in Hou. debut. Had 123 tackles & 22 PD in 3 seasons (2018-20) with Cle.
QB BAKER MAYFIELD completed 21 of 28 passes (75 pct.) for 321 yards & 97.5 rating last week. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. AFC South with 2+ TD passes, 0 INTs & 115+ rating. • RB NICK CHUBB had 101 scrimmage yards (83 rush, 18 rec.) & had 2 rush TDs in Week 1. Aims for 8th in row with rush TD, longest active streak in NFL. Rushed for 126 yards & TD in last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Hou. with rush TD. Has 565 scrimmage yards (113 per game) & 4 rush TDs in 5 career games vs. AFC South. Aims for his 7th in row at home with 100+ scrimmage yards. RB KAREEM HUNT had rush TD last week. Has 248 scrimmage yards (124 per game) in 2 games vs. Hou. Aims for his 7th in row vs. AFC South with 50+ scrimmage yards. • WR JARVIS LANDRY had 5 catches for 71 yards & had 4thcareer rush TD in Week 1. Aims for 7th in row with 5+ catches. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. AFC South with TD catch. WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. had 9 catches for 109 yards in only career game vs. Hou. (9/23/18 w/ NYG). Has 725 rec. yards (103.6 per game) in 7 career games vs. AFC South. TE DAVID NJOKU had careerhigh 76 rec. yards last week. • DE MYLES GARRETT had sack last week. Has 3 sacks in 3 career games vs. Hou. Has 8 sacks in 8 career games vs. AFC South. DE JOE JACKSON had 1st-career sack in Week 1. LB ANTHONY WALKER led team with 9 tackles in Cle. debut last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 6+ tackles vs. Hou. CB DENZEL WARD had 6 tackles & PD in Week 1. Aims for his 5th in row with PD.
ON THE AIRWAVES TV: CBS (1:00 PM ET): Greg Gumbel, Adam Archuleta, AJ Ross (field reporter) SIRIUS: 137 (Hou.), 81 (Cle.) | XM: 381 (Hou.), 226 (Cle.) | SXM App: 812 (Hou.), 807 (Cle.)
- The Texans defeated the Jaguars, 37-21, to secure their first season-opening win since 2016 (defeated the Bears, 23-14). Houston did not commit a turnover in the victory, something the Texans did in just three games last season.
- In 2020, Cleveland surrendered 241 points to its opponents in the second half, fifth most in the NFL. After being up, 22-10, at halftime versus the Chiefs in Week 1, the Browns were outscored, 23-7.
- Prior to last season’s meeting, the Texans had won each of their previous five matchups against the Browns, all by double digits and while holding Cleveland to 73.8 rush yards per game. In Week 10 of 2020, Houston lost, 10-7, while allowing 231 rushing yards.
- Tyrod Taylor racked up 291 passing yards in the win over Jacksonville, his most in a game since a career-high 329 yards against Miami on Christmas Eve 2016. Prior to last week’s win, Taylor had gone just 2-8 in his career when passing for at least 250 yards.
- Nick Chubb has rushed for a TD in seven consecutive games dating back to last season, tied with Jim Brown for the second-longest streak in Browns history. Only Leroy Kelly has had a longer string of games, scoring on the ground in nine straight during 1968.
- Vernon Hargreaves III allowed 839 receiving yards last season when targeted as the primary defender, third most in the NFL. He allowed 54 yards and a touchdown when being targeted in Week 1, though he successfully defended five of seven passes including an interception.
CLEVELAND (AP) Brash and even a little belligerent, Baker Mayfield waltzed into the NFL thinking he had things figured out. He quickly learned he had a lot to learn.
Tyrod Taylor taught him.
When Cleveland fans fill FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday for the first time in nearly two years, they’ll see several familiar faces on Houston’s roster, one of them Taylor, who was briefly the Browns’ starter when Mayfield was a rookie in 2018.
Taylor only started three games, but Mayfield said the 32-year-old veteran had a major impact on his career.
“I think people took Tyrod for granted,” said Mayfield. “He’s an extremely good leader. His work ethic alone, just his routine and being the same guy every day for every single person in the building is a tremendous way of showing his leadership.
“Obviously great athlete and he’s a great quarterback.”
Taylor is coming off a strong debut in a win over Jacksonville for the Texans (1-0), who elevated him into the starting job this summer in the midst of Deshaun Watson’s legal entanglements and his trade request.
Desperate to solve their quarterback issue three years ago, the Browns (0-1), who are coming off a Week 1 loss in Kansas City, traded a third-round pick to Buffalo for Taylor. The previous season he had helped the Bills end their long playoff drought.
Cleveland then chose Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, but he was not given a chance to beat out Taylor in training camp.
Things changed, though, in Week 3 when Mayfield replaced a concussed Taylor during a nationally televised Thursday night game against the New York Jets and rallied the Browns to their first win in 20 games.
Taylor’s era in Cleveland may have been brief, but he helped shape Mayfield into the QB he is today.
“Everything that he taught me, leading by example and doing different things, not that we lead the same way, but there’s always different ways to learn,” Mayfield said. “I’m very thankful to have stepped in a QB room with Drew Stanton and Tyrod, that I was able to learn from those guys. It’s something I’m obviously very grateful for.”
Taylor said he hasn’t closely followed Mayfield’s career, but he was impressed by the young QB’s quick rise in their one season together.
“Just to see his growth throughout that year was definitely impressive and to see him endure some of the stuff that came up throughout that year, with coach changes and different schemes,” Taylor said. “But he’d done a great job of handling it, and he’s done a great job for the team since then.
“I know they’re looking forward for him to have a big year this year.”
The Texans’ red-white-and-blue uniforms are tinged with orange.
Houston has eight former Browns on its 53-man roster. And while Taylor said he’s looking forward to being back in Cleveland and seeing friends, he’s not returning with revenge in mind.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about our team here and us working hard throughout this week and us executing on Sunday. It’s never about me or my feelings when it comes to going to play against previous teams.”
Browns center Joel Bitonio plans to catch up with Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey, who was in his 2014 draft class with Cleveland and spent six seasons with the club.
“We spent a lot of time here together,” Bitonio said. “Nothing really happens during the game, but after the game it’ll be good to say ‘Hey’ to those guys.”
One of Houston’s primary problems last season was an inability to force turnovers. The Texans were last in the league with just nine.
First-year defensive coordinator Lovie Smith is fixing things. Houston had three interceptions last week against the Jaguars, matching their total for 2020.
“We have put an emphasis on it as a part of what we have to do to have success defensively,” Smith said. “So that part is good and as a coach you start looking at what other opportunities that you had. We haven’t played our best game, so we’ll need to be able to do that in order for takeaways to come.
Odell Beckham’s Jr.’s return is on hold.
Cleveland’s star receiver was ruled out early in the week, further delaying his comeback from knee surgery last year. Beckham seemed to be a go in the opener against the Chiefs, but after pregame warmups he told the Browns he wasn’t confident he could play as much as they needed.
“The most important thing is that he’s continuing to get healthy and when he’s comfortable enough he’ll be out there,” said Browns receiver Jarvis Landry.
TURN IT UP
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has never heard Cleveland’s crowd at maximum volume.
On Sunday, it will be at full roar – or in this case, full bark.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only 12,000 fans were allowed inside the Browns’ lakefront stadium in 2020. Those crowds were loud, but nothing like what Stefanski, who is in his second season, or the Texans will experience.
“I’m excited, man,” said Browns running back Nick Chubb. “It’s been almost two years. I know the Dawg Pound will be out and we’ll be rocking in FirstEnergy.”