By TOM WITHERS
The Associated Press
Sunday, November 25, 2007; 4:24 PM
CLEVELAND -- No drama, controversy or overtime needed. The Cleveland Browns finally won normally.
Derek Anderson threw two touchdown passes, Jamal Lewis rushed for 134 yards and a TD and Kellen Winslow had 10 catches as the Browns, whose season has been filled with one thriller after another, improved their playoff profile with a 27-17 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
With their fifth straight victory at home and fifth in six games overall, the Browns (7-4) stayed within striking distance of first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North and among the wild-card contenders.
And for the first time in four weeks, they didn't have to sweat out the final seconds.
The Browns' three previous games had all been decided by three points, two in OT. Last week, they needed an unforgettable, 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation by Phil Dawson to slip past Baltimore.
But when Lewis barreled from the 1-yard line with 5:48 left, the Browns led 27-10 and were far enough ahead that a late touchdown by the Texans did nothing more than make the score look more respectable.
The Texans (5-6) weren't able to do much against Cleveland's league-worst defense, which was missing two injured starters.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub finished 22-of-36 for 256 yards and two TDs. But he was picked off twice and had several other passes batted down by the Browns' suspect secondary, which lost rookie starting cornerback Eric Wright to a knee injury last week.
Dawson, who bounced one through off the left upright and crossbar last week against the Ravens, kicked field goals of 25 and 27 yards. With 759 points, he moved past Hall of Famer Jim Brown on Cleveland's career scoring list.
Not wanting to get too far ahead of themselves, the Browns, who wore throwback uniforms from the 1950s against the Texans, implemented a no-talking-about-the-playoffs policy in their locker room last week.
It might be time to lift the ban.
Showing nice balance, Cleveland's offense ran smoothly behind Anderson, who went 24-of-35 for 253 yards. He threw a 19-yard TD pass to Braylon Edwards and a 7-yarder to Winslow in the first half.
And when Anderson couldn't do it in the air, he handed the ball to Lewis, who had his first 100-yard game since getting 216 in Week 2 against Baltimore.
The Browns' much-maligned defense finally made some plays, too, blanking the Texans for the first 27 minutes of the second half before Schaub hit Owen Daniels for a 6-yard TD with 3:12 remaining.
With the Texans' secondary taking away his deep options, Anderson was content to dink and dunk his way down field in the first half. He threw underneath Houston's coverage on an 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive capped by a 7-yard TD pass to Winslow to give the Browns a 14-10 lead with 16 seconds remaining before halftime.
Edwards made it possible with a 9-yard reception on 4th-and-2, grabbing a pass from Anderson and withstanding a monstrous hit from linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who ended up getting flattened by Cleveland's wide receiver.
After Houston's defense stopped the Browns on a fourth-and-1 at the Texans 39, Schaub connected with wide receiver Kevin Walter for a 17-yard TD pass to make it 7-0 in the first quarter. Walter was all alone on the right side after cornerback Leigh Bodden slipped and fell.
The Browns responded in the second quarter when Anderson threaded his scoring pass through three defenders to Edwards, who has 11 TDs this season _ two shy of the club record set by Gary Collins in 1963.