The Browns earned their 10th win of the season on Sunday with a 36-22 win over the Texans. They improved their road record to 3-4 and continue to be in the hunt for the playoffs.
Let's recognize three players who contributed with clutch performances.
QB Joe Flacco
Flacco once again earned a game ball from HC Kevin Stefanski following the win for his elite performance on Sunday. For the third consecutive game, Flacco has thrown for over 300 passing yards.
On Sunday, he completed 27 of 42 passes for 368 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He Flacco joined Josh McCown (2015) as the only Browns player to throw for 300 yards in three consecutive games, as well as the only Brown to throw for 350 yards in consecutive games.
Flacco has the most touchdown passes by a Brown in their first four starts at 10, as well as the most passing yards with 1,307.
Flacco showed the strength of his arm from the first play of the game when he threw a deep ball to WR Amari Cooper for a 53-yard reception and set up a touchdown for the Browns on the first drive. Flacco later connected with Cooper for a 75-yard touchdown pass, as well as a deep pass to TE David Njoku as he ran in for the touchdown.
"It looked like a video game," DE Myles Garrett said. "Those guys looked like they were straight out of Madden. They were clicking all three levels."
DE Za'Darius Smith
While the Browns defense excelled through most of the game, DE Za'Darius Smith led the way for the Browns. Smith finished the game with two sacks, two tackles – including two tackles for loss – four quarterback hurries and one pass defended.
Smith's first sack came with 9:44 left in the second quarter, and he dropped QB Case Keenum for a loss of 14 yards on third down. However, there was a defensive penalty called on the play that was enforced.
But four plays later, Smith sacked Keenum once again for a loss of 13 yards on third-and-8. The sack forced a three-and-out, as the Texans had to punt on fourth down. Then, in the third quarter, Smith found Keenum and sacked him for a loss of 10 yards on the first-and-10 play.
"He's been waiting on these," Garrett said. "He's been real close and he's still playing at a dominant level beating his man. When you continue to rush like him, treat the game with respect, and come into work every day, those things are going to come to you. So, it's just falling into place for him."
WR Amari Cooper
The accolades surmounted for Cooper throughout the game, as he set multiple Browns' records from the opening drive to the fourth quarter.
On the Browns' first play of the game as he caught a 53-yard pass from Flacco, Cooper surpassed 1,000 receiving yards on the season. He became the first Browns player to have back-to-back 1,000-yards receiving seasons.
But his success didn't stop there. Cooper caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Flacco in the second quarter, and a 7-yard pass from Flacco in the third quarter for a touchdown.
After many of the starters were pulled in the fourth quarter, Cooper was itching to go back into the game. He felt like there was more he could do. And he got his chance. On a fourth-and-7 with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter, Flacco found Cooper for a pass, which he caught for the first down for 13 yards. It was also the reception that set the most receiving yards in a single game by a Brown. Cooper finished the game with 265 receiving yards, which not only is a career high, but also set a Browns single-game record and the most by any NFL player this season.
"He was pretty special. He's a good one," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "I'm happy for Amari because he's a consummate pro. I mean, he's one of the best that I've ever been around. What he knows about this game, the way he sees this game, he's like a savant out there. And combine that with the route-running ability, he's one of this team's leaders. These guys love Amari and to see him come through is awesome."