Ryan Mallett-led Texans overwhelm listless Browns

Ryan Mallett displayed poise in his first NFL start, throwing a pair of scores and lifting the Texans to 5-5 with Houston's 23-7 road win over the Cleveland Browns, who fall to 6-4 on the year. Here's what we learned:

  1. The Texans promoted Ryan Mallett to spark their sinking season. So far, so good. Tom Brady's former backup looked comfortable running Bill O'Brien scheme, using his big arm to complete 20 of 30 passes for 211 yards with twotouchdowns and one pick. Despite a handful of off-kilter lobs, Mallett did a better job than Ryan Fitzpatrick of pushing the ball downfield while keeping Cleveland on its heels with a rash of quick passes out of the no-huddle. It's just one start, but the Texans are an easier watch with Mallett at the wheel.
  1. Mallett's first NFL touchdown pass went to -- you guessed it -- J.J. Watt. The defensive terror flipped sides to haul in a 2-yard, over-the-shoulder strike from the quarterback to draw first blood for Houston. The score marked Watt's fourth touchdown of the year, the most in a season by any defensive lineman since 1948. On defense, Watt caused a Brian Hoyer fumble, notched a sack and recovered a second fumble. Watt also drew flags on back-to-back drives for hitting Browns punter Spencer Lanning. The second penalty led to a Cleveland touchdown, the lone black eye on Watt's otherwise dominant afternoon.
  1. Outside of that lone Browns score, Cleveland's offense spent the afternoon in a coma. Hoyer struggled with poor decisions, missed open targets and aimed too many throws at ghosts. He was intercepted after Miles Austin lost a fourth-quarter pass, but we counted another three throws that should have been picked. Finishing three-of-15 on third downs, the Browns lacked rhythm from the first whistle and couldn't get out of their own way. This looked nothing like the mistake-free team that wiped out the Bengals10 days ago.
  1. The Texans didn't miss Arian Foster one bit against a terrible Browns run defense that allowed an outrageous 214 yards. Rookie Alfred Blue was sensational, churning out a career-high 156 yards off 36 carries against a Cleveland front seven that lost linebacker Karlos Dansbyto a knee injury and desperately misses run-stopper Phil Taylor.
  1. Browns rookie runner Isaiah Crowell earned the start, but his 61 yards off 14 totes weren't enough to rescue a squad that squandered a chance to move to 7-3 for the first time since 1989. Instead, they're 6-4 and staring up at the Bengals (6-3-1) again in the AFC North. Josh Gordon's return can't come soon enough.

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