The Cleveland Browns kept their playoff hopes alive in Week 13, picking up a victory over the lowly Houston Texans. It was far from a perfect game, as Deshaun Watson looked rusty running the offense in his debut after being suspended for the first 11 games of the season. However, the defense was on point as they were the most recent unit to crush the Texans.
Cleveland won the game 27-14 without scoring an offensive touchdown. Donovan Peoples-Jones got the Browns on the board with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown after Cleveland fell behind 5-0. That was the first of three touchdowns that the Browns’ special teams and the defense scored.
Denzel Ward had a four-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give the team a 14-5 lead. After alternating field goals by Ka’Imi Fairbairn and Cade York, Tony Fields had a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown to give the Browns a 24-8 lead.
If the Browns are going to push for a playoff spot, they need their defense to continue playing at the high level they have shown the last two weeks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Texans. With games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, the two teams ahead of the Browns in the AFC North, on the docket, it is make-or-break time for Cleveland.
Unfortunately, they will have to do it without a key piece of their defense. Linebacker Sione Takitaki was injured during Sunday’s game against Houston and the diagnosis is not a positive one. It has been determined that he tore his ACL and he will miss the remainder of the season. Making matters worse for Takitaki is that he is getting ready to hit free agency and this will assuredly impact his market as his 2023 season will be in doubt.
This is a big loss for the Browns’ defense as Takitaki played the most snaps this season of any linebacker on the roster. Not only was he a big part of the defensive game plan, but Takitaki also plays an integral role on special teams, playing the third most snaps on the team there.
With him sidelined, Deion Jones, who was acquired from the Atlanta Falcons earlier this season in a trade, could see his playing time increase. Takitaki is the third linebacker to suffer a season-ending injury as Jacob Phillips had a pectoral injury and Anthony Walker had a quad injury.
During the season, Takitaki appeared in 12 games, making eight starts. He had 71 tackles, which was second on the team with one forced fumble, one sack, four tackles for loss and one quarterback hit.