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3 Big Takeaways: QB Joe Flacco 'super grateful' for playoff push with the Browns

Browns defense was not able to execute in necessary fashion against the Texans

Takeaways Wild Card Round 1.13

The Browns saw their postseason get cut short on Saturday, as they lost to the Texans 45-14 in the Wild Card round.

While the loss hurts, the Browns will look to use the results of this postseason in the offseason and move forward.

"We've fought through a whole ton of adversity this year, and this is just another step of it," DE Myles Garrett said. "Something that you got to use as motivation for next year. This is the most painful loss I've had in my career. Absolutely. And this is something that I'll use every day until we get back to this point next year where we're going to playoffs and we're making another run again. And got to continue to motivate the guys and inspire the guys to use this to work a little bit harder, train a little bit more, think about what you need to do to get back to this point and never have this feeling again."

So, let's look at three takeaways from the final game of the 2023 season.

Defensive struggles against the Texans

While the Browns dealt with defensive slipups on the road throughout the season, Saturday's performance against the Texans was not up to the standard in which they had played with all season. They did not look like the top defense in the league.

"We played poor," Garrett said. "And that's something that we tried to get away from, trying to start fast – especially on the road, getting our feet underneath us as soon as the ball was snapped. But I mean, they just played their game better than we played ours. Took advantage of our mistakes, and it's unfortunate that we had a bad day today."

Garrett said that their defensive issues stemmed from how Texans QB C.J. Stroud got the ball out on time, or how he was able to get to his spots. Stroud found ways to slip through to find a gap to throw the ball when he needed or came out of the pocket and made throws downfield. While there were a number of plays that the Browns applied pressure, Stroud still found ways to either make a play or get out quickly enough where the defense could not make a play.

The Browns gave up several big plays, from Stroud's 76-yard touchdown to TE Brevin Jordan, to the 37-yard touchdown pass to TE Dalton Schultz or a 38-yard pass to WR Nico Collins. Stroud finished the game completing 16-of-21 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns.

"Just didn't execute," Garrett said. "We were out of position at different levels of the defense, and we just got to go back to our fundamentals. We didn't go back to what we needed to quickly enough. We should have adjusted and got right from an individual level and being on the same page communication wise. I think that was what was lacking. It's a shame."

Joe Flacco's tenure at QB

When the Browns first signed QB Joe Flacco to the practice squad on Nov. 20, the Browns had lost QB Deshaun Watson for the season to a shoulder injury and had been through three starting quarterbacks with rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker. Flacco brought a level of experience that was needed for the final stretch of the season, and he played an integral in getting the Browns to the playoffs.

Dating back to his first game at starting quarterback in Week 13, Flacco threw for over 300 yards in four of the five games he started in the regular season. He finished the regular season with 123 completed passes for 1,616 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also led the Browns to four consecutive wins from Week 14-17 and clinched a playoff berth for first time since 2020.

Saturday was not the ending they had hoped for though. Flacco finished Saturday's game completing 34-of-46 passes for 307 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Flacco's two picks in the third quarter on back-to-back offensive drives that the Texans both returned for touchdowns. Flacco said that on the first interception he was trying to throw the ball away.

"Today, you're trying to throw the ball away, you're not trying to make a bad decision, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to live with sacks," Flacco said. "And I think on that drive, we had overcome a second-and-long from a holding, and in the back of your head, you're like, 'OK, we got over that one, let's not get back in that position.' And you almost let your guard down a little bit. And like I said, I think you have to realize that sometimes sacks aren't bad things."

As Flacco stood at the podium following the loss, he was grateful for his time in Cleveland and the chance to play football once again this season.

"I think I was so fortunate to become a part of this team," Flacco said. "It's a special group. And I know a lot of people can say that, but it really is. To be given a chance to do this with those guys, I'm super grateful for it."

RB Kareem Hunt's ability to find the end zone

While the Browns battled through offensive struggles, RB Kareem Hunt was able to find the end zone twice in the first half to put up the only points for Cleveland on Saturday. On the second offensive drive of the game, Hunt found the end zone as he ran up the middle off a solid block from G Wyatt Teller for the touchdown. Then, in the second quarter, Hunt caught an 11-yard pass from Flacco for his second touchdown of the day.

Hunt finished the day rushing for 26 yards on eight carries, with his longest run of 14 yards. He also had nine receiving yards on five receptions.

Hunt scored one rushing and one receiving touchdown, becoming the fourth player in NFL history to record at least one rushing touchdown in each of his first four postseason games. Hunt is also tied for second in Browns postseason history with five total touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.

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