QB Joe Flacco’s road success in playoffs gives Browns boost as they visit Texans in AFC wild card

BEREA, Ohio — Joe Flacco knows the ins and outs, the perils and pitfalls of the road in the NFL playoffs as well as anyone.

He’s sharing his top travel tips with the Browns.

As Cleveland’s quarterback and his new-ish teammates prepare for Saturday’s AFC wild-card game in Houston, Flacco’s experience — and success — on the road in the postseason is giving the Browns (11-6) an extra boost of confidence.

Flacco has won seven road playoff games, tying him with Tom Brady for the most in league history. There don’t seem to be any secrets to his impressive mark as Flacco said it simply comes down to following the fundamentals.

“It just goes back to doing the basics the right way, not overthinking what it means to go on the road, just going and playing a good football game,” Flacco said before Wednesday’s practice. “And when the dust settles, pick your head up and see where you are.”

Flacco has been having those types of moments for weeks. After all, he’s been on an extended personal road trip for nearly two months.

The 38-year-old was out of football, pondering the next chapter in his life, when the Browns signed him in November after they lost Deshaun Watson for the remainder of the season with a fractured shoulder.

All Flacco has done since coming to Cleveland is go 4-1 as a starter, throw for 1,616 yards and 13 touchdowns and give Browns fans temporary amnesia about the franchise’s dreadful history with quarterbacks.

A win on Saturday and Super Bowl whispers will grow louder.

The Browns are making just their third postseason appearance since 1999, and there are only a few players on their roster with extensive playoff experience, led by Flacco, the Super Bowl 47 MVP with Baltimore.

This will be Flacco’s 17th postseason game — he didn’t play in his final one with the Ravens in 2019 — and 16th playoff start. He’s 10-5 overall with a 7-5 road record, which includes wins at Miami, Tennessee, New England (2), Kansas City, Denver and Pittsburgh.

He’s hoping to add Houston to his playoff road resume in his second visit in three weeks. Making just his fourth start for the Browns, Flacco threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns in Cleveland’s 36-22 win over the Texans on Dec. 24.

Flacco’s Super Bowl MVP came when he led the Ravens to the title after the 2012 season. That run included road wins in Denver against Peyton Manning and the following week in New England over Brady.

He’s pleased to share the road mark with Brady, who went 7-4 on the road in the playoffs, but made it clear that every win is special — regardless of location.

“Any time you get to be in the playoffs and win football games, there’s some part of you that takes pride in that no matter where it is,” he said. “This is what we go to work for every day — to be in this position and to play these types of games.

“We earned the right to be playing this Saturday and you should gain something from that. But once you lace him up and once you’re actually out on the field, none of that matters.”

On Monday night, Flacco was one of a handful of playoff-tested Browns players who spoke at a team meeting about what lies ahead.

“Everybody puts so much thought into what it takes to win these games and it’s doing the simple things the best you can and just playing good fundamental football,” Flacco said. “This is the time of the year where that stuff shows up.

“Obviously there’s going to be plays made and guys are going to make a name for themselves, something’s going to happen over the next five weeks that we’re going to remember forever. But it’s just about playing fundamental, physical football and playing a full 60 minutes. And no matter what’s going on at the moment being able to keep the blinders on and keep moving forward.”

NOTES: Browns K Dustin Hopkins is “unlikely” to play against the Texans as he continues to be slowed by a hamstring injury sustained last month in Houston. Coach Kevin Stefanski said Hopkins is progressing. Riley Patterson has handled kicking duties the past two weeks. ... Star DE Myles Garrett did not practice because of personal reasons. ... WR Amari Cooper (heel), CB Greg Newsome II (knee), and RB Kareem Hunt (groin) all worked to the side but are expected to play.


Browns at Texans, 4:30 p.m., NBC, Peacock, 1290, 95.7

About the Author