CLEVELAND — Give Bill O'Brien credit. He didn't saddle Ryan Mallett with training wheels in his first career NFL start.
Instead, the Houston Texans coach let The Arm loose.
Mallett's long-fawned-over throwing arm finally got showed off in an actual NFL game. And it's something of a sight. The Texans are suddenly stretching the field, challenging defenses with the threat of big play on any play.
It starts with Mallett trying to hit Andre Johnson on a long pass on the second offensive play of the game. The pass goes incomplete. Johnson can only trap the ball. But the shots don't stop on this Sunday.
A lesser-armed quarterback might not even try that pass. It's what crippling interceptions are made of. But Mallett whistles it there.
On Houston's second possession, Mallett zings a beautiful deep ball to DeAndre Hopkins in-between Browns defensive backs Buster Skrine and Jim Leonhard. Hopkins doesn't have to make the type of spectacular adjustment he often had to make on a Ryan Fitzpatrick deep pass. Instead, he just jumps up and catches it.
Forty one yards! On a third-and-nine from Houston's own 12-yard line.
Cleveland coach Mike Pettine suddenly has something to think about.
Mallett clearly relishes his chance to go for it. He tries to hit Hopkins on another deep ball in the end zone at end of the first quarter (it's intercepted thanks to a great play from Browns cornerback Joe Haden). But Mallett's arm strength — and the value of it — might be most apparent on a two-minute drive at the end of the first half.
Mallett rifles the ball down the middle to tight end Garrett Graham on back-to-back plays, including a 20-yard strike into the end zone with 28 seconds left in the half. That gives Houston a 14-7 halftime lead and Mallett two touchdown passes in his first half as an NFL starter.
A lesser-armed quarterback might not even try that down the middle pass. It's the type of thing crippling interceptions are made of. But Mallett whistles it there.
The former Tom Brady backup — the guy who waited and waited for a chance, throwing four passes total in his first three NFL seasons — finishes the half 10 for 16 for 133 yards. Turns out, The Arm might be able to play a little.