CJ Stroud threw three touchdown passes to become the youngest quarterback to win a playoff game and Joe Flacco’s magic was snuffed out in the first round on Saturday as the Houston Texans defeated the Cleveland Browns 45-14.
At 22 years and 102 days old, he dethroned Michael Vick, who was 22 years and 192 days old in 2002 when his Atlanta Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers.
Already up 24-14 at halftime, the Texans added 21 unanswered points in the second half to cruise to an easy victory.
Flacco, who took over as the Browns’ starting quarterback in early December, may have helped the Browns reach the playoffs by leading them to four straight wins late in the season, but he couldn’t repeat his prowess on Saturday.
The 38-year-old passed for 307 yards and a touchdown, but was guilty of two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns on consecutive drives early in the second half, stunning the Browns to make the score 38-14.
The first profitable interception was made by Steven Nelson and returned 82 yards, the second was by Christian Harris for a 36-yard touchdown.
The Texans are the first team to reach the end zone twice on interception returns since the Seattle Seahawks on January 5, 2008.
Stroud finished the game with 274 yards and did not throw any interceptions. His touchdown passes were joined by Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan and Dalton Schultz.
His three touchdown passes in a playoff game tie a record for a rookie quarterback.
Collins was the Texans’ most prolific receiver with 96 yards on six receptions. Jordan had just one catch: a 76-yard touchdown that put the Texans in final control 17-14 in the second quarter.
Devin Singletary ran for 66 yards and scored a touchdown.
Kareem Hunt scored a rushing touchdown and another receiving touchdown for the Browns, who were in the playoffs for the second time since 2003.
Flacco, who turns 39 in three days, moved from the comfort of his living room to command the Browns’ offensive unit at the end of the regular season, maintaining a 4-1 record. He helped the Browns advance to the playoffs for the third time since 1999.
Playing in his 19th career playoff game, but his first in nine years, Flacco was unable to continue his magical journey under the playoff spotlight.
Deshaun Watson was the Texans’ starting quarterback during their last playoff run, but played just six games this season for the Browns before suffering a season-ending injury.