This season Jadeveon Clowney had evaporated into backfields, used blockers as bowling balls to toss into their own teammates, and has devoured anyone who tried to block him head up. This dreaded demon has been incredible this season. But his greatness was something you had to uncover. You had to sift through film to fully understand how much of an impact he made play after play. He wasn't plopping numbers into box scores. He wasn't making impact plays that changed switched the course of football destiny.
Then yesterday happened. Clowney made two plays that changed that changed everything. The first was a quarterback hit that forced an interception, one of three turnovers Andrew Luck had. Here, Clowney is matched up one v. one against Anthony Castonzo. The Colts' left tackle does a great job, squaring, punching and suffocating Clowney's chest. The problem for Luck, and a problem that he faced all day, was that nobody was open down field.
Luck made a right. He stepped up left with Whitney Mercilus coming from the outside. As he rolled up into the pocket and heaved his arm back to throw, Clowney, never giving up on the play, came back from behind and hit Luck during his motion. Instead of being able to deliver a pass with any sort of accuracy or strength, the ball fluttered. Meekly. Landing right into Andre Hal's arms.
The Texans started their next drive at the Colts' 18 yard line. They kicked a field goal to make it 16-3.
The other play. The really big one. The most important and monumental play of Clowney's entire career came at Houston's three yard line. On third and three, with the score 16-10, Indy was looking to take the lead, or make a tie a field goal away. For whatever reason, the Colts made a call for each offensive lineman to slide over one gap to the right. This left Frank Gore picking up the blitzing linebacker and Dwayne Allen sealing the edge one on one against Clowney.
Allen rarely pass blocks. Usually in this situation, he's running a drag route in the end zone. This was what the protection called for at this moment. Clowney, in a four point stance, beats Allen off the line of scrimmage and gets his head on his outside shoulder. Allen doesn't move his feet quick enough to stay in front or readjust. Clowney just runs past him. With the ball back, Clowney massacres Luck from behind, LOOK OUT, and brings his arm down on Luck's shoulder like a scythe when he makes contact. Allen tries to pick the ball up. He doesn't. There it skitters, belonging to no one, free and chaotic. Whitney Mercilus dives on it. The Colts get zero points.
In these one possession games, it takes one, two, or three plays to go certain ways to decide the winner. In this game, Clowney was that decider. He was the judge and executioner. He made the hit that forced an interception, creating great field position that led to three points. He saved at least three, maybe even seven, points by running a red light and t-boning Luck at a busy intersection. Clowney was the one who made those deciding plays.
It's about damn time.
The Texans legit surprised me with this win. I figured the defense would hang tough, but like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck would eventually bust out enough to get by. What an incredible job by this defense without J.J. Watt, Kevin Johnson, and Johnathan Joseph. Clowney made a game-changing play and continues to look like he's on his way to dominance - even when playing an entirely new position this year.
The Great Sadness that is this Texans' offense continues to struggle. DeAndre Hopkins and Brock Osweiler can't get on the same page. At least earlier in the year, Osweiler was targeting Hop like crazy; now even that has all but evaporated as our struggling QB prefers his tight ends.
This defense truly does have grit. One can only wonder what it would be like with a helping of Watt to add to the fun.
Houston should take care of business against the clueless, hapless, hopeless Jaguars this week, setting up a big Christmas Eve matchup against the Bengals. That Bengals game already feels a bit like the Chargers game, where it feels like most of the fan base will be expecting a win.
So we shall see. The Titans certainly aren't going to make this easy. Hopefully the Texans will take care of business enough that the final game of the season will not matter.
I Imagine This Is What Prison Is Like.
Not something you see every day. pic.twitter.com/BWq7xsnpUT— Luke B (@LBBP26) December 11, 2016
Offensive Play Calling: Atrocious
Brock's Progress: Mediocre
Passing Game Chemistry: AWOL
Sweeping the Colts: GLORIOUS!!!
Sweeping the Colts for the first time ever is huge and good progress.
Aside from that, not many positives offensively, apart from the running game doing some good things.
We saw the lack of cornerbacks on the roster come back to haunt us. Robert Nelson had a great pass breakup early on but three pass interference calls? Come on, man. Why he was left one on one on T.Y. Hilton for the TD, I'll never know.
Clowney came up when we were in our darkest hour. We had some good pressure on Luck. Benardrick McKinney was unusually quiet, but we created some turnovers and held Luck in check enough that Nick Novak could kick us to victory.
Was it a great win to watch? No. But any win over the Colts is a great win for gloating purposes, and that's exactly what I'll do.
When You Accidentally Call Your Teacher Mom.
''Aww, crap I left the heating on!'' pic.twitter.com/HSefYLMftQ— Luke B (@LBBP26) December 11, 2016
The Colts once masterfully engineered the "Suck for Luck" campaign. Some of those architectural designs resurfaced today, especially for their last offensive play of the game. The Texans gutted out a tough match. Houston's offense punched through five field goals, with four of them in the red zone. That's really unacceptable when the defense won the turnover battle and kept Luck under duress most of the game. They really need better execution in the red zone.
This win represents the first time ever sweeping the Colts in franchise history, and it may be the height of the season. We'll enjoy that for now.
Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead.
After failing to convert a 4&1, an existential crisis consumes Andrew Luck. pic.twitter.com/zPGIWkq6aH— Luke B (@LBBP26) December 11, 2016
This game, more than any other, is a fantastic testimony to our defense and especially one Romeo A. Crennel.
Let me start with Robert Nelson. Did he struggle at times? Well, clearly. Did he ball at times? Definitely.
That our defense continues to churn in spite of the injuries is amazing. No, it's not statistically elite, and it struggles at times, but my goodness, does it put in the work. It's a blue collar defense that treats every freaking snap like the end of the world, and it's glorious.
This was a truly hard-earned win by the Texans' defense, and goodness gracious, they deserved it. Here's my vote for Romeo Crennel as Coach of the Year.
P.S.: Notre Dame? BOB is still available.
When I originally said that Bill O'Brien was unveiling his all field goal offense several weeks ago, I was kidding. I fully expected the Texans to do more than score field goals and expect to win games.
But damned if that's not what's happened here. By my count we had four trips inside the red zone and three of those we came out with field goals; and that's on top of the two field goals at the Colts' 33 and 22 yard lines. Five field goals for what's supposed to be a renovated offense with a hand-picked quarterback and an offensive genius calling plays. This is not acceptable.
I'm happy they won, and genuinely surprised they won, but this offense is not viable in either the long term or the short term. We made a big stride toward clinching the AFC South yet again, but we are no closer to getting to that ultimate goal: winning a Super Bowl.
Not enough can be said about the defense that kept this team in the game. They performed admirably in the course of victory, especially Jadeveon Clowney who might have saved the Texans' season with one play.
The defense is really good and the offense is really not. It's not a recipe for success. The center cannot and ultimately will not hold.
Also, the Texans swept the Colts for the first time in ever, and that'll put a smile on my face for a good couple of weeks.
This was the Colts "our season is on the line" playcall pic.twitter.com/rppS6BreOq— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 11, 2016
I'm not going to be picky. The Houston Texans desperately needed to beat the Colts yesterday, and they had to do it in Indianapolois, a place where they've only won once in fifteen years. They had to do it with a true skeleton crew at cornerback. They had to do it with an offense that has spent virtually the entire season scuffling, undone by predictable playcalling and bad quarterback play. Winning yesterday was a tall task, even against a Colts squad that won't be confused with a contender anytime soon.
Yet the Texans did it. They did it after failing in the red zone over and over again, maddeningly settling for field goals inside the Colts' ten yard line. But they did it. They did it chiefly because of a defense that somehow manages to find new contributors each week. There really are not enough superlatives to describe the job that Romeo Crennel has done this year.
I don't harbor any illusions of a playoff run for the 2016 Houston Texans. If the Texans are fortunate enough to win the division--and that's no sure thing, with the Titans also at 7-6--it seems likely that whichever AFC West team finishes in second place will end Houston's season at NRG Stadium on the first weekend of January. But anything can potentially happen when the playoffs start, and the two most likely candidates to be Houston's opponent in the wild card round are the Chiefs (who the Texans beat earlier this season) and the Raiders (who the Texans narrowly lost to). Regardless, I'd much rather lament another early playoff exit than missing the postseason entirely, particularly after this team started 6-3.
If the Texans beat the Jaguars and Bengals over the next two weeks, the regular season finale in Nashville is meaningless. The only reason I can type that sentence is because the Texans beat the Colts in Indianapolis yesterday.
I'll take it.
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