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The Film Room: Braxton Miller And The 30 Yard Touchdown That Never Was

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Braxton Miller took a wide receiver screen for 11 yards on Saturday night. Should it have been more?

NFL: Preseason-New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

A wide receiver screen that didn't cause me to grumble and curse? That’s a rarity on offense for the Texans, but on this play from the Texans' victory over the Saints last Saturday night, nearly the whole offense executed well. Braxton Miller got 11 yards out of it. However, this play could have gone for a lot more yards and maybe even a touchdown. Let's have a quick look at the tape.

First Quarter - 10:41 remaining, 2nd and 18 from the NO 30

Will Fuller and Ryan Griffin do a good enough job with their blocks. They dip their heads when going into their blocks, which isn't good (you want them to keep their heads up and not lead with their cranium when blocking). Nonetheless, they seal off their side. Fuller showed good effort with blocking at Notre Dame, and he shows again here he's not afraid of a bit of contact.

Kendall Lamm versus a defensive back isn't even fair. Lamm is really athletic for a tackle; his speed is made for getting downfield on screens like this. The three of them know they have to clear a lane inside and push their guys to the boundary. By doing that, they create a huge hole inside for Braxton Miller to cut back in. Miller has really good acceleration in there, too; he gets going in a hurry.

Xavier Su'a-Filo is getting down field quickly as well. The only man left downfield is the safety off screen, and XSF should eat that man for breakfast. He's the only person standing in the way of Braxton Miller and a 30 yard touchdown off a wide receiver screen.

Apart from Tony Bergstrom, that is.

That lane that Fuller, Griffin and Lamm did so well to clear is now filled with Bergstrom's 6’5", 315 pound frame. Miller has nowhere to go. He tries to push Bergstrom out of the way, but that slows him down and allows Nick Fairley to chase Miller down from behind. Bergstrom pauses slightly as he heads downfield, ending up right where Miller needed to be.

The Alternative Angle

I have no doubt that Braxton Miller would outrun Nick Fairley in a straight-line race. If Miller hadn’t had to slow down because of Bergstrom getting in his way, Miller would have been through that gap and broken away from the defense. With Xavier Su'a-Filo and Kendall Lamm ready to disengage and get downfield again, Miller would have had an easy path to the end zone on a 30 yard reception off a wide receiver screen. That is basically unheard of in Houston.

Even so, this is a step in the right direction for the Texans’ offense. In Braxton Miller, we finally have someone explosive enough to make these screens work, something we've been lacking for a long time. I know I'm actually looking forward to these kinds of plays now rather than lamenting the call.

It's also kind of sad to note that this was probably Tony Bergstrom's best block of the day. He didn't have a good game.

Does this offensive turnaround mean that we're finally going to see the wide receiver screen used effectively for the Texans? Anything else that you noticed on the play?

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