For the Houston Texans, the recipe for a playoff win was simple: No mistakes from C.J. Stroud, lock down the explosive Cleveland Browns receivers and make plays.
The Texans did that and more Saturday night and topped the Browns 45-14.
The upstart rookie quarterback threw three touchdown passes, the defense came up with two pick sixes of Joe Flacco and Devin Singletary put the game away with a touchdown run in the third quarter.
Stroud also set a record for most passing yards thrown by a rookie in the first half of a playoff game with 236.
He finished 16-for-21 passing for 274 yards and touchdowns to Nico Collins, Dalton Schultz and Brevin Jordan.
Houston had a 24-14 lead when it busted the game open on Cleveland’s first drive of the third quarter. The defense got to Flacco and made him throw a duck. Steven Nelson took advantage and returned the interception 82 yards for a touchdown.
It was nearly an identical next drive for Flacco. He threw an interception to Christian Harris, who returned the ball 36 yards for a touchdown. Those defensive plays gave Houston an insurmountable lead.
Devin Singletary added one more score in the fourth quarter, a 19-yard run. He finished with 66 yards on the ground. Collins had six catches for 96 yards.
Flacco was sacked four times. He managed to throw a touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt. David Njoku had seven catches for 93 yards.
Houston picked up its first playoff win since the 2019 season, when Deshaun Watson bested the Josh Allen-led Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card playoff game. The Texans hadn’t been to the playoffs since then.
The Texans won the division after going 10-7 during the regular season.
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