For 9 minutes and 22 seconds of football time, the Texans looked exactly like you’d hope against a bad football team.
But the rest of the game? Outside of Will Fuller’s 67 yard punt return touchdown? The Texans looked exactly like we’ve come to expect: underwhelming.
Yeah, the Texans may have already clinched the AFC South. The Titans, Jaguars, and Colts are all 1-3. Woo hoo. Unfortunately, we all know that performances like this won’t get Ws against the majority of the NFL’s other 28. So a hearty thank you to Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, quarterback Marcus Mariota, and every other mediocre at best piece of the league’s most boring franchise.
William Fuller: Fifth Of His Name
The NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award is going to one of these two players: Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, or Texans wide receiver Will Fuller. Fuller made some brilliant catches Sunday, including a tough catch in traffic on third down (the first drive of the game) and a ridiculous 20 yard one handed catch before getting clobbered by two Titan defenders. He also did incredible things with his feet, turning a screen in traffic into a 28 yard catch and run thanks to a couple of dodged tackles. And obviously, this:
The Titans did a good job in neutralizing DeAndre Hopkins. That would have killed the Texans offense last year, and now may no longer be a problem. Credit to the Texans draft for selecting him instead of Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson (I wanted him, whoops), because those two have struggled.
GOOD SPECIAL Special Teams
You just saw the punt return touchdown above. Nick Novak hit a career long 53 yard field goal and a 45 yarder (though he missed a 48 yard attempt). Shane Lechler was money, and had a beautiful 58 yard punt to put the Titans in an impossible position for the last play of the game. And, the Texans blocked a punt! Unfortunately, the referees pooped themselves and blew the play dead – instead of throwing a flag – because they thought the Texans had 12 men on the field. They didn’t. I asked Bill O’Brien about it after the game:
“I don’t know. I don’t really know. I think that, I don’t know. Sorry. I’d love to give you a better answer than ‘I don’t know.’”
Ditto. Big bounce back after the 2 fumbled kickoffs last week. They even got a guy fired!
The First Three Drives
I don’t care if it came against the Titans. The first three drives of the game – where Osweiler was 13-16 for 180 yards and 2 TDs – were proof to me that Osweiler has “something”. I have no idea how much of that “something” he has, or sh*t, what that “something” even is. But I’m still going to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, LOOK AT THIS THROW TO RYAN GRIFFIN.
It wasn’t just that. On those drives, Osweiler DIDN’T force the ball into coverage. He threw the ball away. And he avoided getting killed. I was impressed that he “turtled” on a play where Brian Orakpo jumped the snap. He had a clear kill shot, but Osweiler sensed it . . . avoiding injury and a fumble. It was a smart play.
Once the pressure started getting to him, things changed. He started forcing it to DeAndre Hopkins, which has typically gone poorly this season. Braxton Miller being injured is a problem here. If he was healthy, Osweiler could theoretically check it down to him instead of forcing it downfield into coverage. Unfortunately, “if” is a huge word despite the 3 letters.
Better On The Ground
Lamar Miller hasn’t looked confident as the Texans running back. But he seems to be trending in the right direction. It’s probably not a great sign that it took throwing extra linemen on the field. But on the first few drives of the game he looked explosive, and was a factor in the passing game. Most importantly? He had just 19 carries. I’m a big believer that the Texans should THROW to set up the run, and maybe this is the first step.
First off, don’t do meth.
Second off, it’s a shame that watching the Texans tight ends do good things makes you question if you’ve just done some.
PS – I have no idea if Meth creates tight end hallucinations. All I know is that it may lead to death via ATM in a domestic dispute.
C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin combined for 7 catches, 102 yards, and a TD. Most of Griffin’s work came on that gorgeous Osweiler pass (45 yards). But how about C.J.? He caught that touchdown pass in the red zone, and got the Texans a first down on each of his other 3 catches (he finished with 4 catches for 48 yards and a TD). On top of that, he shook off a gruesome looking injury in the second quarter and returned to the field. He didn’t get any targets, but the production and toughness finally made him look like worthy of being drafted back in 2014.
Bill O’Brien said that it didn’t matter who calls the plays for the Texans going forward. Ok, fine. But the amount of responsibilities on O’Brien’s plate has to matter, right?
Game management hasn’t always been his forte. And it reared its ugly head in the 4th quarter on a third down play, where Jaelen Strong was tackled close to a first down at the Tennessee 42. O’Brien didn’t challenge the spot, and instead rushed up to the line for an ugly fullback dive to Jay Prosch. It was stuffed.
To O’Brien’s credit, he held himself accountable when Mike Meltser asked him about it after the game.
“I screwed that up,” said O’Brien. “That’s my fault. I should have challenged that. I rushed to the line of scrimmage cause that was my plan to do that . . . and it didn’t work out.”
I don’t have a checklist with all of O’Brien’s responsibilities. All I know is that over-extending yourself is typically going to take away from something you do. Maybe it takes away from clock management. Or perhaps coming up with counter-adjustments. Here’s hoping it won’t be a problem going forward.
The Run D
It wasn’t a problem because the Titans DON’T have a balanced offense. They can’t throw because Marcus Mariota is . . . well . . . kind of terrible. But Tennessee was averaging 3.9 yards per carry, and looked like they were getting a solid push against the Texans front 7.
There are very few TRULY balanced offenses in the NFL. But if the Texans play a team that can keep them a little more honest and prevent them from loading up against the run, they might be in trouble.
I am NEVER Blame The Ref guy. But holy sh*t, they were bad Sunday.
Are any of these guys good at their jobs anymore? They have no idea how to explain what a catch is. They told Bill O’Brien that he’d get a spot of ball review after a 3 yard Ryan Griffin reception to set up a 4th and 1 in the last minute of the first half. That never happened, and the Texans were caught off guard and called for delay of game. Luckily, a defensive pass interference on the ever terrible Perrish Cox gave the Texans new life and a chance for Nick Novak to nail a 45 yard field goal before halftime. And the blown whistle discussed earlier on the cancelled blocked punt? Inexcusable. It could have changed the final outcome.
The Offensive Line
It’s a real problem. Every time I looked up, I felt like Osweiler had someone in his face. And when he does – like all quarterbacks – he makes bad decisions. For Osweiler, the big problem is that he forces it to DeAndre Hopkins. That’s not ALWAYS a bad thing. But when you underthrow him by 5 yards or throw it a little high, interceptions are going to happen.
Back to the offensive line. I don’t study tape of linemen. I’ll leave that to the guys who are actually paid to do that. All I know is that in pass protection and in the running game, it has generally looked bad. They’re getting pushed back, and had to overload the line of scrimmage to get successful runs.
I’m not sure it’s ever going to get better. We have to realize that Duane Brown is not going to fix it, because he probably isn’t the All Pro player he was back in 2012.
The Offense After The First 3 Drives
Once the Texans tried to curb stomp the Titans with that failed flea flicker, EVERYTHING hit the wall. I can quite pin my finger on what changed, but that’s definitely where it changed.
There’s a lot of talent in the NFL. You might have a lot of success in the first quarter of a game, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll last an entire game. Especially when you’ve got a grizzled defensive coordinator with a lengthy resume like Dick Lebeau on the other sideline.
I still have to go back and rewatch the game. But whatever Lebeau did to adjust clearly worked. It looked like there was a lot of Cover 2 man towards the end of the game, and that’s been something that has killed Osweiler thus far.
. . . Is not a good pro quarterback. Blame Mike Mularkey and his offense that never throws the ball downfield if you want. After all, it belongs in a museum. But you can also blame Mariota, who routinely overthrew open receivers and DIDN’T use his feet to make plays. Like Bortles, he isn’t very good. He’s regressing under Mularkey, and it’s a shame.
By the way, who told you that the AFC South was going to be just as terrible as always?
A win is a win. Anything can happen on any given Sunday. Teams have good days. Teams have bad days. Blah Blah Blah. More clichés.
You can tell yourself whatever you want, but the Texans’ win over the Chiefs looks a lot less meaningful after Kansas City was massacred by the Steelers last night. To me? It shows the huge gap between the conference elite (New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver) and the teams fighting to get to the big boy table (Houston, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Oakland). You know I’m right.
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesdays 9-11 PM, Wednesdays 8-11 PM, and Fridays 8-11 PM on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57 and the Spoiler Alert Podcast – available weekly on iTunes and SportsRadio610.com. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.