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Ugly Texans beat uglier Browns, 14-6

HOUSTON (Dec. 31, 2006) -- The Texans had to deal with two losses just before the team's game. Fortunately for them, they didn't let those lead to a much bigger one.

Houston lost both Ron Dayne and Jeb Putzier to injuries in pregame warmups, but shook off the shock from that to beat Cleveland 14-6 for its second straight win.

Dayne aggravated the ankle he injured against the Colts and Putzier, a tight end, fractured his foot before the game.

"I've been doing this a long time and I ain't never seen what I saw in warmups," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak. "We lost two very important pieces of our puzzle and I think that showed in the first half. I think the guys were stunned at what happened. Thank God the defense and special teams just really took on an extra load."

Houston was outgained 306 to 177 yards, but got the win thanks to several costly errors by the Browns (4-12).

The victory gives the Texans (6-10) back-to-back wins for the first time since 2004 and marks the first time Houston has won a season finale. It also triples its win total from last year's dismal season.

Rookie Chris Taylor scored his first career touchdown on a 5-yard run in the third quarter that gave the Texans a 7-3 lead. The undrafted free agent, who was signed from the practice squad earlier this month, finished with 99 yards.

"I've been hungry," Taylor said. "It's been kind of frustrating, but I finally got the reward I was waiting for."

Cleveland's Charlie Frye returned after missing the last three games with a wrist injury, but had a fumble returned for a touchdown and also threw an interception. Frye was 25 of 34 for 187 yards.

In the third quarter, Houston's Anthony Maddox stripped the ball from Frye and recovered the fumble. The 295-pound defensive tackle then got up and barreled 47 yards before pushing Frye out of the way for the touchdown that stretched Houston's lead to 14-3. Maddox also started the season on the practice squad.

Browns coach Romeo Crennel challenged the call, arguing Maddox was down, but it was upheld. The news sent Frye stalking around the sideline yelling.

"I ran out of gas at about the 30-yard line," Maddox said. "I was just thinking: 'Where can I find some energy?' I thought someone wanted to tackle me, but no one wanted to tackle me."

David Carr was 9 of 15 for 86 yards and threw an interception near the end zone in the first half. His failure to move the offense most of the day could hurt his chances of returning as the Texans decide his fate this offseason.

"I know it feels better going on a little bit of a winning streak here at the end," Carr said. "Last year was terrible. We didn't have something to build on. We can get better at a lot of things. Last year was just like a dead end."

Cleveland drove deep into Houston territory three times in the first half, but didn't score after those possessions ended with an interception, a fumble and a missed field goal. The Browns were 0 of 2 on red zone trips.

"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot when we got in the red zone," Frye said. "A fumble, an interception, penalties. That was just bigtime. It seems like every time we make plays like that, there's always a holding call or something that goes bad. But that's just the way this season's gone."

The Browns had 19 first downs to just 11 by Houston and controlled the ball for more than 38 minutes. Kellen Winslow had 11 receptions for 93 yards and Braylon Edwards added four catches for 46 yards.

They led 3-0 at halftime after Phil Dawson 's 43-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. Dawson added a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Houston's C.C. Brown had an interception and a fumble recovery in the first half, but the Texans weren't able to convert either into points.

The Texans got strong play from both of their top draft picks. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans made 10 tackles and top choice Mario Williams harassed Frye into an intentional grounding late in the game.

Ryans finished the season with 156 tackles, the most of any rookie in the last 20 years. Chris Spielman had 153 in 1988 for Detroit and Miami's Zach Thomas had 154 in 1996.

Cleveland's loss, its fourth straight, could also raise more questions about Crennel's future with the team.

"We came down and tried to end the season on a positive note and we were not able to do that," Crennel said. "I think you could look at the game as a microcosm of the season. We got in scoring position, had turnovers, couldn't put points on the board."

Notes: Houston's Andre Johnson finished the season with a career-high 1,147 yards receiving. ... Winslow's 89 catches ties a Browns record for receptions in a season. Ozzie Newsome reached the mark in both 1983 and 1984. ... Sunday was the first time in 32 games the Texans did not allow a touchdown.

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