Where else to start but with the Texans' defense? That may not have been the best defensive performance in franchise history, but it's on a very short list of candidates for that honor. The Texans simply imposed their will on the Chiefs' offense. Romeo Crennel had a brilliant game plan for Alex Smith & Co.; while the Chiefs certainly had some unforced errors, including but not limited to at least one of their three turnovers, the fact remains that the Texans held a team that hung thirty (30) points on them eight months ago to nine (9) points today. That's a helluva accomplishment, especially without the services of Brian Cushing and with J.J. Watt still working his way back into the swing of things (speaking of, if Watt's not back, he looked awfully close to being back, and that’s astounding less than two months removed from freaking back surgery).
Offensively, the Texans weren't near as fun to watch. There were some big plays, thanks to Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, both of whom eclipsed the 100 yard mark receiving. Brock Osweiler's interceptions were both fairly horrendous throws, and as others have observed, he's lucky he didn't have more than two. I always expected there to be growing pains with Osweiler as he settled in to his first regular starting gig on a new team, and I remain hopeful that's what we're witnessing, because the Texans won't beat many good teams turning the ball over like that. Lamar Miller's performance against the Chiefs won't lead any highlight packages, but he fought for tough yards and kept the offense from being one-dimensional. There's a lot to work on here, and asking it all to get fixed on a short week, on the road, against Bill Belichick may be a bridge too far. We can worry about that soon enough.
For now, we celebrate 2-0. To borrow a phrase:
"The Houston Texans are a better football team than the Kansas City Chiefs. Full stop. This was a game they won. Full stop."
Oh, this mind, and this heart, are on two different hemispheres. After watching this game, my brain is telling me that there were a lot of things the Chiefs could have done differently to win this one. Houston played off-man coverage again, and instead of Kansas City doing what they did before to pummel Houston (throw screen and quick passes), they continued to run the ball without success up the middle, tried to throw intermediate or deeper passes out of the shotgun, and threw play-action passes despite the run game's troubles. Andy Reid kept kicking field goals to keep things within one possession instead of going for it, even though he still has failed to realize that the other team gets the ball and can also score the football. So the Chiefs traded field goals like a 1950s child throwing a tennis ball against the wall to entertain himself, and Kansas City never gained any ground. The Texans also recovered all three fumbles they forced, even though fumble recoveries are luck-based, unless J.J. Watt is around.
All of those things are true. My rational brain is correct. But the Texans controlled every part of this game and really showed something. I'm so scared to say this after having this heart pummeled and bruised, but I’m going to say it. This may be a really good football team. I've been so cautious since 2013. I understood that 9-7 was the ceiling the last two years, accepted it, and was able to maneuver my emotions around that. But this team, this year, may actually be able to do something special. We are now operating in the abstractness of ceilings and further potential. I'm starting to buy in. My heart is terrified.
This defense looks to have made the leap from really good to great. These charming young men have developed and provided substantial contributions instead of nice feelings that arise when they are actually on the field. Andre Hal, Benardrick McKinney, and Jadeveon Clowney are all key cogs of the wheel instead of being complements. Rather than the pass rush being all J.J. Watt all the time, it now boasts multiple legitimate threats. Whitney Mercilus, John Simon, Clowney, and McKinney on interior blitzes are all able to provide pressure and get to the quarterback. Aside from Quintin Demps, the secondary runs five men deep who can all cover.
Because of that defense, the offense has to only do enough. Unlike previous seasons where the Texans had to win with their quarterback, they can now win because of him. Although Osweiler had some ball placement issues and the occasional bad decision, he can throw the ball deep. That's such an important and underrated part of a passing offense. Because Osweiler can throw fades to DeAndre Hopkins and drop bombs to Will Fuller, the safeties creep back, scores can come in an instant instead of taking forever, and the run game can work even without great blocking. Osweiler's ability to throw the deep ball more than makes up for his occasional glitches. With these athletes surrounding him, things should only get better.
It's only been two games. It's way too early to make declarations. But the way the AFC South is going, the Texans should walk through this division. Not only that, they should be able to do much more than be the best team in a bad division. They could be one of the best teams in the AFC. Even though this will all probably end very badly come 2017, I am so very excited for the future and what this team can and will continue to do.
I Heart Will Fuller
A win is a win, and in a few weeks nobody will remember the mistakes Brock made...unless he keeps making them. The defense carried the day, and water is wet. Again, a win is a win. It's critical for the Texans to put this in the hopper and to prep for the road trip against the Patriots.
Battle Red Coat:
That game wasn't good for my heart. I couldn't help but be nervous right up until Nuk came down with the onside kick. Even then, I thought the Texans would find some way to lose.
Having gone back and re-watched the game, aside from the picks, I didn't have much of an issue with Brock today. He didn't have a great game, but he wasn't terrible either. Just average. That Fuller long catch would have been a TD if Fuller catches that right. He's too quick to be caught there. The interception in the end zone wasn't actually a bad decision. It was just badly thrown. I'm not sure what happened on the other one, whether Hopkins cut back later than he expected or what. Either way, it gifted Peters another pick. That pass to Hopkins (the one that wasn't a TD, except it was) was a beauty. Pressure right on Osweiler, takes a hit and floats it perfectly for Nuk to come down with it (except he didn't, but he did). Coupled with the Fuller bomb, Nuk's first TD, and some other strikes to those two, Osweiler had some really nice plays.
Brock’s stat sheet says 19-33 and 268 yards. Take out a drop or two (Braxton Miller had one in the first half, and it depends how harsh you're being on Jonathan Grimes), the strange bit at the end of the half where he threw some passes out of bounds, and his stats aren't too bad. Call it 21-30, with a perfectly reasonable completion rate. The two drives in the fourth quarter that ended in field goals were actually really good, but Houston just couldn't get it into the end zone. Especially that third down conversion to Grimes; that was great recognition and well planned, as they knew the Chiefs struggled identifying running backs split out wide. Overall, I don't think it was as bad as it felt on first viewing. There was some flashes of some good stuff in there.
The running game was poor today, getting only two first downs and just 2.9 yards per carry. I think a lot of that has to do with blocking and holding penalties negating some good plays we had.
But that defense. That damn defense. The cornerbacks came up big time today. A.J. Bouye covering Travis Kelce was exceptional. K-Jo, K-Jax and J-Jo all had some key pass breakups. Whitney Mercilus forced turnovers and created pressure. John Simon was around the ball all day and pressured Alex Smith. Jadeveon Clowney has a pass breakup and ran Smith out of the pocket. Watt did Watt things. Vince Wilfork was stout. Benardrick McKinney was a boss. I can't name anyone on defense that played badly. No touchdowns in six quarters and counting. Long may that continue.
When we look back on this season, I think it'll be interesting to see where on the spectrum of ''Good or Bad Brock'' this will register.
If the Bears performance was the median to be expected from Brock this season, this week's game is what I'm hoping the bad will look like. Osweiler can make every throw in the book. The question he doesn't seem to be asking himself right now is, "Should he make that throw?". There were a few instances of dangerous passes or throws towards covered receivers. Brock’s placement seemed off, and it lead to Marcus Peters' second interception. His default setting during that first quarter seemed to be. ''Kitten it, I'm going deep'."
A win is a win, though. The defense was outstanding, DeAndre Hopkins is still one of the best receivers in the game. Will Fuller is still pretty cool.
Onward to Jacoby Brissett and Darth Bill.
Beating Both Pullers on Counter is a Totally Normal Thing to Do:
— Rott (@Rottweiller2000) September 18, 2016
When trying to recall the details of this game in a few months-or years-there are two things that will stick out in my mind.
First, this game was ugly. Like ugly with a capital UGH! Turnovers galore, missed assignments, a truckload of penalties, bad officiating, poor clock management. Just about every negative way to describe a game fits this one.
Second, instead of a glorious battle of two AFC powerhouses, we had a slobber knocker between wounded lions. J.J. Watt and Tamba Hali both played hurt. Justin Houston and Brian Cushing were both out. Each team's offensive line was riddled with injuries. It was a fight to the death between armies of walking wounded.
Above all that, the thing that will jump out most is the Texans won. Almost as importantly, the Chiefs lost.
Boy howdy, that was an ugly game. That game was the equivalent of me being in a kiddie pool filled with Vaseline, eating a sausage on a stick, and wearing only a stained pair of whitey-tighties and the head from the panda suit ugly. But it was a win, and that's a nice monkey off the Texans' back.
Offensively, Brock Osweiler and the entire line struggled today. Jeff Allen and Greg Mancz were especially troublesome. DeAndre Hopkins, much like he's done the past couple years with other quarterbacks, bailed out Osweiler repeatedly with a tremendous display of hand strength.
Defensively, Alex Smith was performing his best Brian Hoyer impression thanks in large part to the Texans. I said it during the game thread, but Bernardrick McKinney might be our second-best defensive player right now. McKinney led the team in tackles, collected a sack, and was covering wide receivers well when he dropped back. He's huge and active. He hustles. He's intelligent and stacks and sheds.
In addition to McKinney, the scheme this year has put the players in much more advantageous match-ups, which has led to more success. A.J. Bouye also deserves a call out for his play against Travis Kelce.
With a win over the Chiefs and now likely facing the biological entity "Jacoby Brissett" on Thursday, the Texans look like a legit thirteen (13) win team. There are some clear issues with this team, especially on offense and special teams, but this team will make the playoffs.
I had the Texans losing this game, and I do think the Chiefs are legit, so I'm not going to be as down on Brock Osweiler's performance as others are. Considering he's two games into an offense that he had to learn from scratch in the offseason, and that he's down a handful of O-Line starters in one way or another, I'm cutting him some slack. What I am seeing from Brock are bad decisions as far as putting the ball into multiple defenders, but he's also being more aggressive than I expected. There were, I thought, also some strange play-calling snafus in that game that I think were more on the coaches than anything Brock did at the line. I just don't envision ANY scenario where Brock's ceiling in this offense has been reached already, and I feel like a lot of people are reacting as though that ceiling has been reached. Osweiler is going to get better, and Will Fuller is going to continue to know the offense with more detail--which will make the entire unit better.
The defense strangely is becoming an afterthought because they've just played at such a high level dating back to a large portion of last season. As is human nature, we are focusing a bit on both the negatives and the shiny new thing; both areas just happen to be on the offense.
With it looking like a lock that the Texans will face a rookie QB in Foxborough Thursday night, plus a home game against Tennessee after, it's all right there for the Texans to maximize the first quarter of this schedule before some of these brutal road games start taking hold.
Recovering Fumbles is Totally a Lucky Thing, Unless You Are J.J. Watt:
J. J. Watt now with 13 career Fum recov, most in the NFL since 2011. pic.twitter.com/Lni7vf1hGp
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 18, 2016
I hate Jeff Allen. If I have learned nothing else about today's game, I have learned that all of the Texans' problems, all of life's problems, all of the problems of the universe as we know it today all somehow involve Jeff Allen.
I blame Jeff Allen for Brock Osweiler targeting covered receivers and throwing really questionable passes. I blame Jeff Allen for the Texans being unable to score touchdowns in the red zone like we're back in 2010 again. I blame Jeff Allen for Tyler Ervin taking notes from the Keshawn Martin/Keith Mumphery/Steve-Kittening-Slaton School of Kick/Punt Returning, and I blame Jeff Allen for BFD's hairline. I'm not saying they're actually his fault, mind you. I'm just saying I blame him.
I hate Jeff Allen on an atomic level.
Despite all this, and my disdain for Jeff Allen, there are great things that Jeff Allen hasn't ruined yet. J.J. Watt is just about back to his old self. The defense held the Chiefs without a touchdown, which is not an easy thing to do in this league (unless you're playing the Los Angeles Rams). Will Fuller is fun and terrifying to watch all at once, which I blame entirely on Jeff Allen.
I hate Jeff Allen on a subatomic level.
All that being said, it was an ugly game (yet not even the ugliest game I watched on Sunday), but the result was the one I was hoping for because kitten the Chiefs.
I hate Jeff Allen on a galactic level, and he will atone.
Tim stole my line. I have nothing more to add.
In a weird twist, I am going to be the optimistic one.
I think the throws Osweiler had forced upon him by the play design were difficult. He does have some placement issues, but he and Fuller have created an offense that can actually create yards in a single-high safety world. They do it inefficiently, but they do it. It's a kittening quantum leap from the last two years of quarterback play.
My biggest issue was the red zone play-calling. I am curious if Houston just doesn't trust the offensive line at this point in power situations, or if it's about the two teams they've played so far. But this is a LOT of shotgun spread for an offense that doesn't have a player who wins in space. It's basically asking Osweiler to win on pure accuracy, which isn't exactly his best attribute.
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