Texans Defense Restores Order In 45-14 Victory to Advance to the AFC Divisional Round

Style Magazine Newswire | 1/17/2024, 1:43 p.m.
Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans and defensive coordinator Matt Burke had repeatedly watched the Week 16 tape and knew …

Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans and defensive coordinator Matt Burke had repeatedly watched the Week 16 tape and knew what the Cleveland Browns offense had done to them in the 36-22 blowout game. He had a sideline view of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco hitting wide receiver Amari Cooper in stride for 53 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and they continued to play catch for the rest of the game.

Coming into Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game, Ryans looked as if he had figured out how to slow the Browns’ offense down as he used cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. to shadow Cooper to begin the game to help limit some of those explosive plays from the last matchup. His defensive schemes slowed Cleveland down and forced them to punt on consecutive offensive drives, only allowing 11 total yards on seven plays.

Yet, when the Texans defense was getting into a groove with an early 3-0 lead and defensive momentum, Flacco came out on the next drive and threw a perfect 45-yard pass to tight end David Njoku. Five plays later, Kareem Hunt scored from one yard out to give the Browns a 7-3 lead.

Houston would respond with a touchdown to regain the lead, but Flacco duplicated his prior six-play, 75-yard scoring drive, which included a 47-yard pass to Harrison Bryant on the first play and ended with an 11-yard shuffle pass to Hunt to put the Browns back on top 14-10.

Many Texans fans and media members believed the game was heading into an offensive shootout. If Houston’s defense was going to allow Cleveland’s savvy quarterback to use his veteran presence to manipulate the pocket and make explosive plays as he did in the last matchup, the Texans might come out on the losing end of their first playoff game since 2019.

But just as they have proved time and time again this season, this is not your typical Houston Texans team that may have folded in the past. They have too much pride and play with the same grit and determination that their head coach did during his NFL career.

Throughout this season, they have found ways to overcome adversity and come out on the winning end. So, it was not unusual to see the defense rally around each other after watching rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud complete a 76-yard touchdown pass, the longest offensive touchdown for the Texans in playoff history, to tight end Brevin Jordan to put Houston up 17-10.

Watching the offense do their job; it was now time for the defense to do theirs by restoring order.

They needed to make a statement, and they did for the rest of the game as they forced two punts and two back-to-back interceptions that resulted in touchdowns and forced three turnovers on downs to end the game. After giving up 14 points in the first half, the defense pitched a shutout for the rest of the game by not allowing Cleveland to score, which resulted in a 45-14 blowout win and helped Houston advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.

“Once we understood what they wanted to do and how they wanted to attack us, we just homed in on the smaller things,” said Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard to Texans Wire. “That made it more difficult to get those explosive plays. If we are making him (Flacco) hold the ball, it means we are holding up a guy or bullrushing the tackle. I think we did an amazing job of making Flacco uncomfortable, and they tapped out.”

Head coach DeMeco Ryans echoed Greenard’s statement during his postgame press conference.

“When we needed it most, our defense had their best performance of the year in the biggest game of the year,” said Ryans. “They stepped up, had an outstanding performance, and they’re the reason why we won this game, why we were able to finish in the second half.”