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Browns can't overcome rocky 1st half in loss to Texans

HOUSTON — Hot starts powered the Browns to back-to-back wins.

An ice cold one Sunday put a quick end to any hopes of Cleveland extending its streak.

One week after they posted their best first half in a generation, the Browns had their worst of the season against the Texans, who took full advantage en route to their ninth straight win. Cleveland was outscored 23-0 in the first half and ultimately fell, 29-13, at NRG Stadium.

The Browns looked much better in the second half, but it was too little, too late, as they fell to 4-7-1 on the season. Houston, which leads the AFC South, moved to 9-3.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield, fresh off winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, had his worst half as a pro, as he completed just five passes for 46 yards and three interceptions in the game's first 30 minutes. The first pick was snagged by Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to stretch Houston's lead to 17 midway through the second quarter. Mayfield came out hot to start the second half and maintained it to finish 29-of 43 for 397 yards and a touchdown.

Nick Chubb punched in the Browns' first touchdown of the game early in the third quarter and finished with 72 yards of offense. Rashard Higgins caught his third touchdown of the year with 2:58 to play in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Lamar Miller provided a one-two punch that kept Cleveland's defense on the field for long stretches of time. Watson was efficient, regularly finding his favorite target, All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and a variety of other pass-catchers while Miller led a Texans ground game that finished with 188 yards.

Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn made five field goals, including a 53-yarder, as the Browns defense allowed just one touchdown -- a Jordan Thomas 11-yard catch near the end of the first quarter.

Player of the Game: Watson was the conductor of a methodical, patient Houston offense. He completed his first 11 passes and kept the chains moving with a number of third-down conversions. He finished 22-of-31 for 224 yards and a touchdown.

Best from the Browns: Wide receiver Jarvis Landry had his biggest game since Week 7, catching six passes for 103 yards. It's his third 100-yard game of the season.

Key Moment: Looking to mount a comeback in the third quarter, the Browns had two big plays wiped out by mistakes. A 76-yard touchdown pass by Mayfield to Antonio Callaway was wiped out by a holding call on left tackle Greg Robinson. Two plays later, Mayfield and Callaway hooked up again for a 71-yard pass, but Callaway was stripped at the 1-yard line, and Houston recovered.

Stat of the Game: Houston ran 45 offensive plays in its dominant first half. Cleveland had just 18, three of which ended in turnovers.

Who's Next?: The Browns return to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

The Cleveland Browns play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

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