Texans fall to Browns, 36-22, at NRG Stadium | See highlights

Houston fell behind early and couldn’t recover, dropping to 8-7 on the season.

HOUSTON — Amari Cooper set a franchise record with 265 yards receiving and scored two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to move the Cleveland Browns closer to a playoff berth with a 36-22 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Cooper’s performance moved him atop the Browns’ record book ahead of Josh Gordon, who had 261 yards receiving against Jacksonville on Dec. 1, 2013. He has 1,250 yards receiving this season, making him the first receiver in team history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

The Browns can’t clinch a playoff spot this week, but at 10-5 they’re all but guaranteed to secure just their second postseason appearance since 2002. It’s the third time since 1999 that they’ve reached double-digit wins, doing so in 2007 and 2020.

Joe Flacco threw for 368 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his fourth start for the Browns, who built a 22-7 halftime lead and cruised to their third straight victory.

Cooper had TD catches of 75 and 7 yards and set up Cleveland’s first score with a 53-yard reception on the first play of the day.

Houston’s wild-card playoff hopes took a blow as the Texans fell to 8-7 on a day when Case Keenum threw for just 62 yards with two interceptions in his second start in place of star rookie C.J. Stroud, who remains out with a concussion. Keenum was replaced by Davis Mills late in the third quarter.

After squeaking out a 19-16 overtime win at Tennessee last week, Houston struggled from the start Sunday, and the team didn’t score on offense until the fourth quarter.

The Browns took an early lead when Jerome Ford took a direct snap and scored on a 4-yard run on the first possession. Cooper made it 14-0 when he grabbed a 75-yard reception for a TD early in the second quarter.

Dameon Pierce cut the lead to 7 when he returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Pierce, in his first action as a returner Sunday, got a couple of early blocks before simply outrunning the rest of the defense for Houston’s second kick return score of the season.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins, who attempted to chase down Pierce during the run, left after that with a hamstring injury, and the Browns didn’t attempt a PAT the rest of the game.

The Browns extended the lead on a 21-yard reception by David Njoku with about four minutes left in the first half. Backup QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 22-7.

Flacco connected with Cooper again on a 7-yard TD with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, but the 2-point conversion failed, making it 28-7.

Duron Harmon picked Keenum off soon after Cooper’s second score. Cleveland’s defense celebrated the turnover by running to the end zone and pretending to make snow angels.

The offense got in the end zone again on the next drive when Kareem Hunt scored on a 1-yard run. Cooper caught the 2-point conversion to leave the Browns up 36-7 early in the fourth.

Mills, the starter for most of the last two seasons, cut the lead to 36-15 when he finally got the Texans into the end zone on a TD pass and 2-point conversion to Nico Collins.

Houston got an onside kick and added another touchdown after that to cut the lead to 36-22 with about four minutes left.

INJURIES

Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr. missed the game after undergoing knee surgery Thursday. … Browns CB Martin Emerson Jr. injured his shin in the third quarter. … Houston S Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) and DE Jonathan Greenard (ankle) were both injured in the first half and didn’t return.

UP NEXT

Browns: Host the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Texans: Host Tennessee next Sunday.

Cleveland vs. Houston first half highlights

Cleveland got on the board first when Flacco hit Amari Cooper to set up a Jerome Ford touchdown run.

Cleveland would add another score to go up 14-0 when Flacco hit Cooper again.

Houston answered when Dameon Pierce took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for the score.

Cleveland would add another score on a Flacco to David Njoku.  With the two-point conversion, the Browns extended the lead to 22-7.

Cleveland vs. Houston second half highlights

Cleveland found the end zone again in the third quarter as Flacco and Cooper hooked up once again.

After another Cleveland touchdown, Davis Mills was in at quarterback for Houston. Mills drove Houston down the field, hitting Nico Collins for the five-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was good.  36-15 Cleveland.

    Mills then hit Beck to tighten it at 36-22.

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