Houston's offense sputters with C.J. Stroud out in 36-22 loss to Browns

HOUSTON (AP) — Case Keenum and the Houston Texans’ offense couldn’t do anything Sunday against the Cleveland Browns in their second game without star rookie C.J. Stroud.

Keenum managed just 62 yards passing and threw two interceptions before being replaced by Davis Mills late in the 36-22 loss. Stroud remains out while recovering from a concussion he sustained Dec. 10.

“We just didn’t do enough today,” Keenum said. “We got our butts kicked and that’s never fun. I hadn’t had it like that in a while.”

After squeaking out a 19-16 overtime win at Tennessee last week, Houston struggled from the start Sunday and didn’t score on offense until the fourth quarter.

“When we had positive plays, we ended up having a negative play,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “It just seemed like we couldn’t get out of our own way. And when you continue to hurt yourself, the self-inflicted penalties, negative yardage, sacks, those plays just keep you behind the chains and it’s hard to keep up versus a very good defense.”

The setback decreases the chances the Texans (8-7) will make the playoffs.

“There’s tough games, tough losses, it’s about getting back up and going back out there and picking yourself up and dusting yourself off,” Keenum said. “We still have a chance. We still have some opportunities.”

Keenum was solid last week in his first action this year and first start since the 2021 season. He threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Titans.

Things were much different on Sunday when Cleveland’s NFL-best defense hurried and harassed him constantly until he was replaced by Mills late in the third quarter.

“They didn’t do anything really different than what they’ve done before, but man, they’re a really talented defensive front and back end and linebackers,” Keenum said. “I think that’s one of the more talented defenses we’ve played. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

Mills, the team’s starter for most of the last two seasons, cut the lead to 36-15 when he finally got the Texans into the end zone on a TD pass and 2-point conversion to Nico Collins.

Houston recovered an onside kick and added a garbage-time touchdown.

The Browns were up 28-7 late in the third quarter when Duron Harmon picked off Keenum, leading to another Cleveland touchdown.

Ryans was most disappointed in his team's defensive effort.

Cleveland's Amari Cooper finished with a franchise-record 265 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Joe Flacco was 27 of 42 for 368 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his fourth game since signing with the Browns Nov. 20.

“When you don’t get pressure on the quarterback, no matter who’s out there it’s going to be a long day,” Ryans said. “Flacco had a really good day against us. We didn’t pressure him at all. He stood back in the pocket. He had all day to throw the football and we weren’t where we were supposed to be in coverage.”


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