CLEVELAND - Even though no one wanted to talk about it, the Browns (6-4) had a pivotal game with the Texans (5-5) as far as the playoff race was concerned. The Browns entered the game one game ahead of the Texans and tied with Tennessee in the Wild Card race.
On Sunday afternoon, the Browns took the lead.
With a 27-17 win over the Texans, the Browns improved to 7-4, while Tennessee dropped to 6-5 and the Texans fell to 5-6 along with the Bills (5-6) and Chiefs (5-6). Denver entered their 4:15 game at 5-5.
And don't look now, but the Browns are just a half game behind the 7-3 Steelers, who play the Dolphins Monday Night.
"That was a very competitive team that was in here," Romeo Crennel said. "But we made plays when we needed to and were able to finish the game off."
After trailing early, 10-7, the Browns took the lead at 14-10 and never looked back as they scored 20 straight points and rolled to the win.
After the Browns went for it on fourth-and-one from the Texans' 39 and were stopped on a Lawrence Vickers run for no gain, the Texans drove 61 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 2:23 to play in the first quarter. Tight end Kevin Walter broke away and Matt Schaub hit him for a 17-yard touchdown. Leigh Bodden fell down on the play and Walter was wide open in the corner of the end zone. It took the Texans just six plays and 2:37 to move for the touchdown.
After stopping the Browns, the Texans started moving toward another score when D'Qwell Jackson was able to intercept a deflected pass off the hands of tight end Joel Dreessen and stop the drive at the Browns' 30. The Browns were able to move 70 yards for the tying touchdown in just six plays and 2:37.
A big play on the drive was a short pass from Derek Anderson to Joe Jurevicius on third-and-one for 25 yards to the Texans' 36. Jamal Lewis had a 17-yard run to the 19 two plays later. On the following play after Lewis' run, Anderson hit Braylon Edwards on a nice slant for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:55 to play in the first half to tie the score at 7-7.
The Texans answered the Browns score with a 37-yard drive, capped by a Kris Brown 41-yard field goal with 7:09 to play in the first half to give the Texans a 10-7 lead.
The Texans' Fred Bennett intercepted Anderson and Bennett returned the ball 33 yards to the Browns' 34. The Texans' were unable to convert a first down, but were able to get to the 28 where Brown missed a 46-yard field goal wide right with 3:53 left to play in the first half.
After the missed field goal, the Browns started at their own 36 and moved 64 yards for the go ahead touchdown with 16 seconds to play in the first half to make the score 14-10.
The Browns had a couple of big plays on the drive, including converting a fourth down. On third-and-15, Anderson hit Winslow for 12 yards and the Browns elected to go for it on fourth-and-three, rather than try a near 50 yard field goal attempt.
On fourth down, Anderson hit Edwards on a slant for the first down and a gain of nine yards to the 23. A 12-yard pass to Jason Wright took the ball to the 11 and the Browns used their final timeout with 28 seconds to play. After a short pass to Wright took the ball to the seven with 21 seconds to play, Anderson hit Winslow for the touchdown with 16 seconds to play. The Browns took the lead at 14-10 heading into halftime. Winslow had six catches for 42 yards in the first half, including the touchdown.
On the Browns' second possession of the half, the Browns drove to the Texans' eight before stalling and settling for a 25-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to give the Browns a 17-10 lead with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
Jamal Lewis bore the bulk of the load on the drive as he carried the ball several times on the drive. On third-and-five from the eight, Anderson's throw to Jurevicius in the endzone was incomplete. Dawson then kicked the field goal.
After the Browns extended their lead to 17-10, the defense was able to create a turnover to thwart the Texans' from a scoring opportunity.
Schaub threw the ball deep intended for former Browns receiver Andre Davis. Daven Holly was with him step for step and it looked as though Davis pushed Holly, but Holly was flagged for a 26-yard pass interference penalty that took the ball to the Browns' 47.
After picking up eight yards, Houston was faced with third-and-two, Schaub hit Daniels for 17 yards, but he fumbled as he was hit by Kamerion Wimbley from behind and Leigh Bodden recovered at the Browns' 22. Texans' coach Gary Kubiak challenged the call and the ruling was upheld.
Leading 17-10 with 11:32 to play, the Browns took over at the Texans' 34 after forcing the Texans to punt from their end zone and an eight-yard return by Joshua Cribbs. The Browns settled for a 27-yard field goal by Dawson to make it 20-10 with 8:32 to play. The big play was on second down as Anderson hit Winslow for 21 yards to the 13. After two short running plays, a pass intended for Steve Heiden fell incomplete and Dawson hit the field goal.
After the field goal, rookie Brandon McDonald had his first career interception against Schaub and the Browns had the ball on the Texans' 30. Anderson hit Winslow to take the ball inside the five. Lewis carried the ball in from the one to make it 27-10 with 5:48 to play. Lewis finished the day with 124 yards on 25 carries, including the touchdown.
Houston answered the Browns score with a touchdown of their own as Schaub hit Daniels with a six-yard touchdown to make it 27-17 with 3:12 to play. The Texans went 80 yards in just 2:36.
The Texans tried an onside kick but the Browns recovered and Lewis and the Browns ran out the clock.
Home field Advantage: The Browns are now 5-1 at home with two games to play. The Browns have now won five in a row at home since 1994. They host the Bills and the 49ers to close out the regular season.
Not Bad D: The Browns much maligned defense held the Texans in check for much of the game. The final 80 yard drive in mop up time accounted for about a fourth of their offense. The Browns held the Texans to just 77 yards rushing and created three turnovers.
Jamal's 32nd: RB Jamal Lewis rushed for his 32nd career 100-yard game as he finished with 134 yards on 29 carries. He also caught two passes for 13 yards. He has eight rushing touchdowns which is the most since a Browns running back had eight in 1991 when Kevin Mack accomplished the feat.
Andy's Day: QB Derek Anderson finished 24-of-35 for 253 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His QB rating was 96.5.
McDonald's Day: Rookie CB Brandon McDonald had just made a nice tackle on the kickoff and he had broken up several passes, including a deep ball while he was guarding WR Andre Johnson. He made his first career interception and had a tackle.
K2 Game: TE Kellen Winslow caught six passes for 42 yards in the first half, including a seven-yard touchdown. He finished with 10 receptions for 107 yards.
Joe's First: QB Derek Anderson was sacked in the third quarter for the first time by DE Mario Williams. It was the first sack that rookie LT Joe Thomas allowed this season. Williams was the first pick in the 2006 draft.
D'Qwell's Return: LB D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a deflected pass from QB Matt Schaub at the Browns' 30. It was Jackson's first career interception. He returned to starting at linebacker after missing several weeks with an ankle injury. The Browns turned the interception into their first touchdown. Jackson had eight tackles in the first half and finished with 12.
Hard Hands: LB Willie McGinest dropped a would-be interception to start the second half, but rookie CB Brandon McDonald made a nice play on third down to prevent any damage.
Dink-n-Dunk: TE Darnell Dinkins had another penalty on a return to negate yardage by KR Joshua Cribbs. Dinkins was called for unnecessary roughness after Cribbs returned the ball near the 40. Dinkins was called for holding on Cribbs' punt return against the Steelers that cost the Browns a chance to attempt a closer field goal which would've tied the game.
Injury Update: DL Simon Fraser injured his knee and did not return. The Browns entered the game with just five active defensive linemen. Shaun Smith returned and started at NT with Robaire Smith and Orpheus Roye at the ends. Fraser and Louis Leonard were the only active backups with Ethan Kelley out with a knee injury. RB Jason Wright injured his neck and did not return.
For Starters: The Texans took the opening kickoff and drove to the Browns' 35. The Texans were faced with fourth-and-three and QB Matt Schaub threw an incomplete pass down field over the head of TE Owen Daniels. LB Leon Williams was covering on the play. However, the Browns were unable to move the ball after taking over on downs and punted after a three-and-out.
Gambler2: The Browns went for it on fourth-and-one and FB Lawrence Vickers was stopped for no gain at the Texans' 39.
Former Texan Peek: LB Antwan Peek played against his former team after coming to the Browns as an unrestricted free agent. Peek finished with one tackle, which was a sack.
Former Browns: Former Browns second-round draft choice Andre Davis returned with the Texans . He had three receptions for 51 yards. Also, former Browns RB Adimchindobi Echemandu returned with the Texans.
Big Hit Brodney: S Brodney Pool knocked the ball out of the hands of TE Owen Daniels inside the five yard line to force the Texans to kick a field goal.
Inactives: Inactive for the Browns were: DB Eric Wright, DB Ricardo Colclough, RB Jerome Harrison, OL Isaac Sowells, OL Greg Eslinger, DL Ethan Kelley and WR Travis Wilson. Ken Dorsey is the third QB. Shaun Smith started at NT for Kelley and Daven Holly started at LCB for Wright. For the Texans: CB Jamar Fletcher, RB Ahman Green, RB Darius Walker, DE Shantee Orr, OL Kasey Studdar, OL Jordan Black, OL Brandon Frye and TE Jeb Putzier. Ron Dayne stated in place of Green at RB. The Texans waived their third QB Craig Nall earlier in the week.
Heaton in the House: Patricia Heaton, star of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond' and ‘Back to You' did the coin flip. Heaton is the daughter of former Cleveland Plain Dealer Browns beat writer, Chuck Heaton.