Your Houston Texans have been on a 7-2 tear through the back-nine of the 2015 NFL regular season, and they seem to be peaking at just the right time for their upcoming wildcard game against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CST).
A big improvement through this season has been in the way the Texans have been protecting the quarterback and ball carrier. The following play, from the most recent game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, was one of my favorite examples of providing maximum protection to move the ball downfield for big gains.
With 13:33 left to play in the fourth quarter, the Texans had one of their longest plays of the game to seal the dominant victory over the Jags. This is a well-designed screen that included a fake hand-off to Akeem Hunt, immediately followed by a fake hand-off to Keith Mumphery, followed by a screen pass to Hunt for a net 27-yard gain to the Jaguars 46-yard line.
1. Protection is indicated in "yellow" and action in "blue" or "red" in the images below.
2. The dialog will reference the image placed above it.
Above, we see Brian Hoyer fake the hand-off to Hunt, and you can see Mumphery (red) starting to come across on an end-around. Look at the protection the offensive line is providing at this point. They have the discipline not to hint early of a screen and hold their blocks until the play unfolds. This makes the defense bite on the fake run, and they start to see the threat of an end-around develop. Watch how left defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (#93) reacts to Mumphery in the next image.
In this shot above, Hoyer just completed a very athletic spin-move in a fake hand-off to Mumphery, and #93 has completely disengaged to pursue the wide receiver flying by. The other defensive tackle and both safeties also fully buy into the threat provided by Mumphery and give full pursuit (red arrows). Meanwhile, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones and Xavier Su'a-Filo have all started heading to the flat to set up the screen protection. The execution and timing of this play is simply amazing.
Hoyer gets the ball to Hunt just as Su'a-Filo and Jones engage their targets, and Brooks is lining up to blast his guy. The defenders who got caught chasing an empty-handed Mumphery have reversed course to pursue Hunt from behind, but they are stone-walled by Chris Clark, Derek Newton and C.J. Fiedorowicz.
In the above image, we see DeAndre Hopkins (in the lower right corner) providing downfield protection while Su'a-Filo shoves his man wide to the outside, Jones finishes his guy off on the far left, and Brooks has his target locked for a big hit to spring Hunt for massive yardage.
Here we go! Hopkins drives his man toward the center of the field, Brooks pancakes his man, and Hunt is off to the races down the sideline.
Akeem Hunt is eventually driven out of bounds by one of the last defenders downfield after notching 27 yards for your Houston Texans. The entire play was a thing of beauty, well designed and perfectly executed! The key to it all was maximum and timely protection throughout the play.
The Texans will need to run the ball effectively against the Kansas City Chiefs this Saturday. Creative screen-plays like this can help to loosen up that stifling Chiefs defense.
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