Texans’ top defensive effort squandered in loss to Browns: ‘Not good enough’

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 04: Roy Lopez #91 of the Houston Texans celebrates after a safety by the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at NRG Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) (Logan Riely, 2022 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Roy Lopez celebrated raucously in the end zone, thoroughly enjoying the moment. The Texans’ defensive tackle swarmed Cleveland Browns star running back Nick Chubb for a safety, bringing him to the ground after defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Christian Harris’ penetration slowed Chubb down and allowed Lopez to finish the play.

It was one of several outstanding plays delivered by a resurgent defense Sunday that didn’t yield a single touchdown, forced a fumble, intercepted rusty Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and limited Chubb to 80 rushing yards.

It wasn’t enough, though, as the Texans lost 27-14 at NRG Stadium because the offense and special teams didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Despite the defensive success, it was another disappointing day as the 1-10-1 Texans lost their seventh game in a row.

“People kept saying our defense did do good, but that’s not good enough,” Lopez said. “It comes down to all three phases. We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to keep our heads up. We didn’t get the job done. We didn’t win. It comes down to wins and losses. You say we did good, but we didn’t do good enough.”

Watson completed just 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards with one interception for a career-low 53.4 passer rating.

“I think we showed up, we played fast,” said cornerback Steven Nelson, who had another strong game Sunday. “We came out with energy. I can say it was one of our better performances.”

Watson was picked off in the end zone by rookie safety Jalen Pitre, who intercepted his third pass of the season.

“I saw high hash, play-action, I had a crosser coming across my face and just break when the ball was coming,” Pitre said. “It felt really good. Interceptions in this league are hard to come by. A lot of great quarterbacks. I was blessed to get one.”

The Texans were officially eliminated from playoff contention, the first team to earn that distinction. Not that they were expected to make the playoffs or have a winning record.

The Texans had two turnovers, including a forced fumble by Tavierre Thomas recovered by Desmond King, but the offense only turned those opportunities into three points.

“One statistic that tells the story of a game is the turnover ratio,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “Whenever you talk about non-offensive touchdowns, you give up three, that’s going to be tough to win. I think the defense played well throughout.

“Whenever you can keep an NFL offense out of the end zone, that’s big, especially with the amount of firepower we thought they had. We haven’t taken the ball away. Those two takeaways we were able to get helped a lot, but their defense outplayed our defense today.”

The Texans entered Sunday as the NFL’s last-ranked run defense but did a solid job of bottling up Chubb. He rushed for 4.7 yards per carry. but didn’t make many big plays.

The safety was a textbook run stop.

“It was a gap-sound defense,” Lopez said. “Maliek penetrated and blew the play up. He had nowhere to go. You run out of gaps as a running back and you’re searching and looking. It happened to fall in my hands. Credit to the other guys. I did my job.”

Until the Texans play well in all three phases, the loss is likely to continue.

“I feel like it will turn,” Thomas said. “Until everybody does that, it’s going to be the same thing over and over. We’ve got to play complementary football.”


Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com


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