By Matt Hammond

What to do against a front-seven like this.

J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Vince Wilfork, Benardrick McKinney — even John Simon.

Have fun, NFL offensive coordinators.

The first game of the 2016 was a big one for the Houston Texans pass rush. In their 23-10 win over the Chicago Bears today at NRG Stadium, they totaled five sacks of quarterback Jay Cutler, and hit him 13 times. Mercilus, who is coming off a career year in 2015, led the way with two, while Clowney, Simon and cornerback A.J. Bouye each had one.

Cutler didn’t seem to have any answers for what happened up front.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I was talking in (the locker room) — this defense is, you don’t see defenses like this week in, week out, where they’re just gonna get home with four or five, and they’re gonna play (only) a couple of coverages. It’s not that hard, but the guys that they have are really really good at it.”

Normally, they’d be even better.

But with still Watt on the mend — he underwent microdiscectomy back surgery about a month ago, and also had a procedure this offseason to repair five torn core muscles — No. 99 wasn’t his usual, disruptive self.

Still, his supporting cast carried their own weight, and then some.

It showed up most on third downs, where the Bears converted a mere 4 of 13 attempts. Four of their five sacks came on third down, including when Mercilus smoked Cutler early in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble.

“They were dialing a lot of stuff up,” said two-time Pro Bowl tackle Kyle Long. “Credit to Houston, they do a great job with their games and stunts. They obviously have a lot of guys who pose problems on straight rushes, but you add into that that they can run some games and twists, and that they have a lot of guys who are interchangeable inside and outside. It becomes an issue.”

Cutler had only 216 yards on 16 of 29 passing with one touchdown and one interception, for a 76.2 QB rating. Spanning back to Week 14 of last season, by safety Andre Hal, 14 of the last 20 quarterbacks to face the Texans have had a QB rating under 80, which is well below league average.

Up next: Alex Smith, in a rematch of that 30-0 AFC Wild Card loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Matt Hammond hosts Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610, and fill ins during the week. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter @MattHammondShow

  1. Roshan Bhatt says:

    may want to fact check that score.

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