NFL Wild Card Saturday: Texans ride red-hot C.J. Stoud, pick 6s of Joe Flacco to blowout of Browns

C.J. Stroud makes his NFL playoff debut against the Browns. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

C.J. Stroud did not disappoint in his NFL playoff debut.

The Rookie of the Year favorite carried over his remarkable first NFL season into the postseason in leading the Houston Texans to a 45-14 win over the Cleveland Browns. He threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns — all of them in the first half — against a Browns defense that was best against the pass in the regular season.

Houston's defense, meanwhile, shut things down after halftime with two pick 6s of Joe Flacco on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach. Houston advances to next weekend's divisional round as Stroud gets his postseason career off to a 1-0 start.

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  • And that's it. Houston wins, 45-14. The Texans advance to next weekend's divisional round as C.J. Stroud gets his postseason career off to a 1-0 start.

  • Davis Mills is in at QB for Houston. We're at that point now!

    Take a bow, C.J. Stroud, who finishes his day 16-of-21 passing for 274 yards and 3 TDs.

    Not bad for a rookie playoff debut 👏

  • Browns stall out again, turnover on downs. Texas take over with 9:22 left and it's run out the clock time.

  • Devin Singletary breaks free for a 19-yard touchdown scamper! Texans are running this thing up, now a 45-14 lead.

  • Browns get to midfield but Flacco takes a big sack on 4th down by Christian Harris.

    Texans take over late in the third with a huge lead.

  • Make it two pick sixes in two possessions. This time, Christian Harris picks off Joe Flacco and returns it 36 yards for a Browns touchdown. Houston leads 38-14, and the wheels have fallen completely off for Cleveland.

  • The Browns were threatening to score, but instead dug a 17-point hole.

  • Big trouble for the Browns. Cleveland's first possession of the second half results in a Houston touchdown. Steven Nelson intercepts Joe Flacco on an errant deep ball thrown under pressure then returns it 82 yards for a Texans touchdown. 31-14, Texans midway through the third quarter. Houston is rolling.

  • In Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes is trying to stay warm while watching Browns-Texans on the big board.

  • Cleveland gets a much-needed stop to force a Houston punt. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah comes up with a tackle of Nico Collins for a one-yard loss on third down. Cleveland's defense has struggled overall, but JOK is making plays.

  • The second half is underway. Houston starts with the ball and a 24-14 lead.

  • Joe Flacco's had a strong start as well, but is getting overshadowed by Stroud. 15 of 19 for 172 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. Has been perfect against the Texans' zone.

  • It's halftime, and Houston is making a statement with a 24-14 lead. C.J. Stroud is 11 for 16 with 236 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers. The Browns allowed a league-low 164.7 passing yards per game in the regular season.

    This dude's a rookie making his postseason debut against an elite defense.

  • That's three first-half touchdowns for Stroud on 236 passing yards. Again, this Browns defense was the NFL's best in the regular season.

  • C.J. Stroud delivers again. Texans cap a 71-yard drive with a 37-yard touchdown from Stroud to Dalton Schultz on second-and-20. Texans lead, 24-14 with 1:11 remaining in the half.

  • Relevant stat here. Cleveland's elite defense is not so elite on the road.

  • We've got a break in the offensive action. Browns and Texans trade punts, and Cleveland has the ball back with 8:42 left in the half. Houston leads, 17-14 and just missed taking a 10-point lead on a third-down deep ball from C.J. Stroud to a wide open Nico Collins that misses the mark.

  • And the Texans answer. This is officially a shootout. C.J. Stroud finds tight end Brevin Jordan on a screen pass for a 76-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead. That's now four straight possessions with a touchdown. Houston is torching Cleveland's top-ranked pass defense.

  • Kareem Hunt finds the end zone. Flacco hits Hunt for an 11-yard touchdown pass to cap a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. That's three straight touchdown drives between the Browns and Texans in what's ramped up to a fast and furious first half. Cleveland leads, 14-10 early in the second quarter.

  • Houston answers with a big pass play from Flacco to Harrison Bryant to end the first quarter. Cleveland's in Houston territory again, and a shootout's threatening to break out:

  • A quick strike from Houston gets the Texans in the end zone. A four-play, 75-yard drive ends with a 15-yard touchdown from C.J. Stroud to Nico Collins. This connection has paid off all season and is off to hot start in the playoffs. 10-7, Texans with the first quarter coming to an end.

  • Cleveland capitalizes on the big pass play. Kareem Hunt dives over the goal line on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line to get the Browns on the board. 7-3, Browns late in the first.

  • Cleveland's offense comes alive. Joe Flacco hits David Njoku for a 45-yard gain to get into Texans territory. Njoku has been one of Flacco's favorite targets since Flacco took over at QB.

  • Cleveland's top-rated defense holds in the red zone. The Texans don't find the end zone after a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. They settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.

  • A big connection from C.J. Stoud to Nico Collins goes for 38 yards has the Texans inside the Cleveland 10. This duo continues to deliver.

  • Browns start their second drive at their own 8-yard line after a good job by the Texans

  • The Texans picked up a pair of first downs, but are punting after a third-down pass by C.J. Stroud falls incomplete. Scoreless tie after a single possession for each team.

  • Cleveland punts after a six-yard opening drive. Houston has the ball, and C.J. Stroud will make his NFL postseason debut.

  • Welcome to the playoffs. Houston won the coin toss and is kicking off. Browns will have the ball first.

  • Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins is out for Saturday's game. Riley Patterson has been activated from the practice squad and will kick against the Texans.

  • Texans inactives are in: