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4 Downs: Texans have antidote for Flacco Fever, end Browns’ season

The Houston Texans have ended the season of the Cleveland Browns. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could not keep up with C.J. Stroud, quarterback Joe Flacco came back to earth, and the Browns are heading home.

By a miserable score of 45-14, the Browns could not overcome a poor defensive showing in the first half, combined with two back-breaking turnovers to start the second half. The magic ran out on what was a season that included an 11-win run despite injury after injury. The Browns were relentless and resilient.

But in the end that was not enough as Stroud and the Texans did not have to sweat much in this Wild Card win. There are always elements of the game to isolate and point out, however, and that is just what we do here.

For the last time this season, here is your 4 Downs for this loss to the Texans as the Browns’ fun, improbable season has come to an end.

1st Down: Jim Schwartz has no answers for C.J. Stroud, Bobby Slowik

Browns Joe Flacco Jim Schwartz Texans
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A 22-year-old rookie and a first-year play-caller took the NFL’s best defense and put them in a blender.

The Offensive Rookie of the Year proved he belongs on the biggest stage against the biggest players. There is nothing like dropping a cool 274 yards and three touchdowns in your first career playoff start, it’s ice-cold to do it against defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his unit.

The Browns had no answer defensively.

The tackling on a long catch-and-run from Brevin Jordan was just the beginning. The inability to bottle running back Devin Singletary was mind-numbing. But Stroud’s ability to combat all of the talk about how he played against man coverage and while under pressure was extremely impressive.

And back-breaking.

The kid is going to be around for a long, long time.

2nd Down: A costly Joe Flacco turnover in prime position killed all hope

Browns Joe Flacco Jim Schwartz Texans
Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Down just ten points, the defense got the needed stop coming out of the half, and the offense driving. The Browns where were they needed to be as they came out to start the second half.

Flacco had been playing well!

And then Joe Flacco threw a game-altering pick-6. And then he did it again the very next drive. DeMeco Ryans and the Texans had the antidote to Flacco fever. By the time the Browns got the ball back for a third time, Flacco had dug a hole too deep for them to climb out of.

Flacco finished the game, likely his last game as a Brown, with 307 yards passing for one touchdown and two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns.

The time Flacco spent in Cleveland will be cherished. What he did as the starter will not be forgotten, but there is no quarterback controversy in Cleveland moving forward.

3rd Down: Back up the BRINKS truck for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

Browns Joe Flacco Jim Schwartz Texans
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

One of the lone bright spots in this game continued to be the stellar play of Pro Bowl alternate linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Whistle-to-whistle, Owusu-Koramoah was flying around the football and had table reservations behind the line of scrimmage. He finished the game with nine total tackles and a massive four of them came for a loss. The league’s leader in tackles for loss entering the day, the linebacker did more of the same.

One thing is for sure about this Cleveland defense: they have loads of talent in place, and gobs of it is young talent. Owusu-Koramoah may be the most promising young player on that side of the ball.

And as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, it has become clear that Owusu-Koramoah will earn a contract extension to hang around in Cleveland.

4th Down: David Bell shows signs of being a piece of the future

Browns Joe Flacco Jim Schwartz Texans
Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

He has always been a good blocker on the boundary. But he was not paid to block. He was not selected in the third round to block.

And while David Bell had a quiet, disappointing season, he showed over the past two games who he could be in the future for the Browns. He stepped up in Week 18 as the Browns rested their starters, racking up 68 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. He then finished this game with eight catches for 54 yards, coming through on third downs throughout the night.

Bell will not be a lock to make the roster next year, and nor should he be. But there is a glimmer of hope that he can be the slot safety valve over the middle the Browns hoped he would be when they drafted him.

Extra Point: Where do the Browns go from here?

Browns Joe Flacco Jim Schwartz Texans
Browns Joe Flacco Jim Schwartz Texans

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire