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Myles Garrett calls loss ‘most painful’ of career after he, defense have no answers

HOUSTON — Myles Garrett has lost a lot of games during his seven seasons in Cleveland, including going 0-16 as a rookie. His only previous playoff appearance ended in the divisional round to Kansas City, a step short of the conference championship game.

The beatdown he and his teammates endured Saturday in a 45-14 wild card defeat to the Texans topped them all.

Texans 45, Browns 14: No. 1 defense destroyed, Joe Flacco throws pair of pick-sixes as season ends suddenly

“This is the most painful loss I’ve had in my career. Absolutely,” said Garrett, the All-Pro defensive end. “Because we’ve been through so much to get here and we had a bad day on the worst time to have a bad day. And we didn’t just come this far to come this far and we let ourselves down, by not executing like we know we should have.

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“That was offense, defense, special teams. We just came up a little bit short in each phase of the game and we know that that wasn’t ourselves. That’s what makes it most painful. And they made the plays on every mistake that we made, or at least most of them.”

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The defense made so many miscues, it was tough to keep track. This from a unit that finished the regular season allowing the fewest yards in the NFL (270.2 per game).

The Texans topped that by halftime (286), averaging 10.6 yards a play as they built a 24-14 lead. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who’s a hot head coaching candidate, got the best of veteran defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

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The Texans used misdirection to confuse the Browns and get guys running open downfield. They had plays of 76, 38, 37, 29 and 27 yards in the first half.

“Didn’t start fast, didn’t play our brand of football,” cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. said. “We picked a f—— wrong day to play like we did and we heard it.”

The defense led the league in overall yardage, passing, first downs and third-down conversions. Yet for much of the year it had issues on the road. It hoped to have solved them in a dominant win over the Stroud-less Texans on Christmas Eve but didn’t.

“We played poor and that’s something that we’ve been trying to get away from, trying to start fast and especially on the road, getting our feet underneath us as soon as the ball is snapped,” Garrett said. “They just played their game better than we played ours.

“We got beat, we got outcoached, we were undermanned and outgunned.”

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Garrett and the Browns were held without a sack, and end Za’Darius Smith was credited with the only quarterback hit, although linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah hit Stroud a couple of times just after he delivered strikes downfield. Garrett, who mostly went against Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil and helpers, was asked about his personal performance — three tackles.

“Not good enough. We didn’t win,” he said.

He credited Stroud and Houston’s plan. Stroud, the No. 2 pick out of Ohio State, became the highest draft pick to win a playoff game as a rookie.

“It was a little bit of chips and things like that, but mostly quicks and he was given enough time to get it out,” Garrett said. “He wasn’t too flustered getting to his spots, being able to slip through and find a gap for him to throw, and when he needed to escaping out the pocket and making throws down the field.

“But there were a lot of close plays where we applied pressure, but he made those plays or he got it out quick enough for us to not be able to make that play.”

As the big plays piled up in the first half, Schwartz stood with hands on hips, then arms crossed. Steam came out of his ears. He transformed the defense and helped change the culture in his first season with the team, but his unit failed in the season’s most important game.

“We just didn’t execute,” Garrett said. “We were out of position at different levels of the defense and we just got to go back to our fundamentals. We didn’t go back to what we needed to quickly enough. We should have adjusted, got right from an individual level and being on the same page communication-wise. I think that was what was lacking and it’s just a shame.”

Emerson and Denzel Ward pointed to the trouble the defense had dealing with the misdirection and bootlegs of Stroud.

“I feel like they wanted to test our eyes and make us be very disciplined,” Emerson said. “They made some great calls.”

“They played a great game and executed, and we just didn’t come ready to play today,” Ward said.

Garrett said Schwartz stayed with the game plan and their style of attack.

“He said from the beginning he’s going to ride with what got us here and he’s not going to change up,” Garrett said. “There’s not going to be any magic calls that’s going to get us out of anything or get us through anything. And I guess they were just doing things a little bit different that kept us off-balance and I think just the tempo at which they were doing it, whether it was running the ball a little bit differently than we had expected, getting the ball out on time, trying to just delay us enough upfront to get the ball to their skill players and make plays. And we have to be able to make plays all across the field, not just upfront or not just in the backend. It’s all together.”

The defense was a confident group under Schwartz, celebrating its accomplishments on and off the field. It expected to carry this team further.

“It’s always a missed opportunity when you have a roster like this and you go one-and-done in the playoffs,” end Ogbo Okoronkwo said. “This roster is so talented, so it’s just a little disappointing.”

Garrett is one of the favorites to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which will be announced Feb. 8 in Las Vegas. He plans to use the emotion of the “most painful loss” as motivation.

“This is something I’ll use every day until we get back to this point next year where we’re going to the playoffs and we’re making another run again,” he said. “And I’m going to continue to motivate the guys and inspire the guys to use this to work a little bit harder, train a little bit more, think about what you need to do to get back to this point and never have this feeling again.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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