They are gone. They aren’t coming back. You have to learn to not think about them, no matter how casually they come slithering inside your head. You have to learn to not let them sit in the residue of memories that once occurred, to not go back and place your feet in an earth that already has your impressions.
The Texans’ biggest strength, their front seven, is decimated without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Other players have to step up. Mike Vrabel has to do a better job. More importantly, the Texans’ offense is going to have to make up for the defense. 30 point games need to be the norm now. Deshaun Watson has to stay spectacular. Bill O’Brien has to continue to be an artist and use pure self expression to soak the most out of Watson and his skill players like the light of a spring day.
Luckily, Houston got a chance to live without Watt and Mercilus against the worst team in the NFL. It was a nice Fisher-Price game. The training wheels were on. Kids-R-Us may be bankrupt, but the skeletons laying in the flesh of strip malls still remain. Houston’s offense took it to Cleveland and once again proved that Watson and this offense can light up bad defenses like a witch in a Puritan town.
Moving forward, Houston will have to do this against better defenses. They still have to play Seattle, Los Angeles (Rams), Arizona, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh. In these games, the Texans are going to depend on their offense. Hopefully these future difficult endeavors end the same as the easier ones have with more time, practice, and development.
Expectations, they are a motherkitten.
When we entered the season, we were expecting to see a comatose offense led by Tom Savage while hoping the defense, which we expected to be elite, could keep us in games. Now?
This is an incomplete list of injuries on the defensive side of the ball this season: JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Kevin Johnson, Dylan Cole, Ray Childress, Lamar Lathon, Robert Brazile, Elvin Hayes, Mike Reinfeldt, and Kenny Houston. Some of these guys weren't even playing, and they were still injured, which is how bad it's been. The result is the defense is not elite, and it's not going to be elite any time soon thanks to all the injuries.
Offensively, the expectation was that we might incorporate that new-fangled thing called a "forward pass" into the game plan. Now? Deshaun Watson is a one-man force, able to over come a questionable offensive line to wiggle the team down the field. His willingness to stretch the field vertically has been a tremendous boon to the team's success as well.
Basically, our defense has become a styrofoam wall, and our offense has gone from a 1973 VW Beetle you have to push to start to a Tesla.
Point being: just where in the kitten do we go from here? The Texans are 3-3 heading into the bye, but we are a night and days difference of a team at the season opening snap. Looking at the next 10 games:
@Seahawks: L - Still a tough game (3-4)
Colts: W (4-4)
@Rams: L - Maybe the toughest game that's not the Seahawks and Jaguars on the schedule (4-5)
Cardinals: W (5-5)
@Ravens: W (6-5)
@Titans: W (7-5)
49ers: W (8-5)
@Jaguars: L (8-6)
Steelers: W (9-6)
@Colts: W (10-6)
When I did my pre-season projection, I had us going 7-9. Even with the defense banged up, Deshaun Watson and the massively different offensive game plan makes a three win difference for me. 10-6 gets us to the playoffs, and with the way Deshaun Watson is playing, we will be a dangerous team.
While the Browns did struggle, it doesn't take away from the fact that the Texans’ offense now scores 30 points every game and it isn’t a big deal.
The transformation has been remarkable, to the point where I'm astonished at how much my perception of the team has changed within these first six weeks. The rest of the season has me optimistic about the long-term future of the franchise. These first six weeks have offered us nothing but interesting and exciting questions to ask about how the rest of the season will look. Questions like:
-How much of the offense’s success is sustainable?
-How good can Deshaun Watson be?
-How much better can the Texans’ receiving corps get?
-Can Will Fuller catch more than one deep ball a game?
Heck, even the defensive side of the ball could be interesting. Could any of the young defensive linemen step up and emerge in the wake of Watt and Mercilus' injuries? Who knows, but I'm really interested to find out.
After years of trying, the Texans are now officially carbon copies of the Patriots—incredible offense, marginal at best defense. It won't be every week that the defense gets to feast on a quarterback like Kevin Hogan, however, so this team will probably only go as far as Deshaun Watson's arm can take them. Luckily for Houston, Watson seems to be setting new rookie passing records every single week, so relying on him to shoulder the load doesn't seem like that bad of an idea.
The next time we see the Texans, they’ll be up in the noisy confines of CenturyLink Field after the Week Seven bye. Watson has handled big stages and rowdy fans before, but Seattle is a whole new breed of "loud." If he can once again stay poised under immense pressure, Houston will have a chance to win the game. And you know what? If they can beat the Seahawks in Seattle, they can beat anyone, anywhere.
If you'll forgive the “Doctor Who” pun, and even if you don't forgive it I'm still using it anyway, the Texans have flat out reversed the polarity of this team. Up is down, cheese is mustard, and weakness is strength and strength weakness.
Our offense hums along like a finely tuned machine. Thanks to the abject cruelty of fate, our defense is an injury away from being the stuff of Frank Bush's nightmares. I don't know that a win against the Brownsiest Browns team we've seen really changes the fortunes of the Texans appreciably, because just looking at the Texans’ record, I'm standing by my preseason prediction for their record this year.
But that's besides the point. The defense is busted up and I don't think the guys on the roster can develop enough to make up the shortfall of Mercilus and certainly not Watt. That too, is besides the point.
The offense is playing as well as I've ever seen a Texans’ offense run. This might even be as good as the 2012 team, offensively speaking. Our defense will rebuild, if not this year, than next year, and we'll have the most complete team we've had in the Bill O'Brien era.
I am extremely optimistic about the future of the team. Just less so for this year.
In the meantime, we get a second bye week and the battle resumes after that. So let us take the win and be happy for a couple of weeks.
I'd really like to find the people responsible for creating the whole "Deshaun Watson lacks NFL arm strength" narrative last spring. I'd listen to whatever predictions they make and bet hard money on the exact opposite cause those were some off-the-chain wrong predictions.
This right here is music for a Texans fan’s soul:
*Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three touchdown passes in the Texans’ 33-17 win over Cleveland. Watson has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games and is the first rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
*Watson has 12 passing touchdowns in the past three games, the most in league annals by a rookie in any three-game span.
*This season, Watson has 15 passing touchdowns, the most ever by a rookie in his team’s first six games of a season.
The offensive explosion by the Texans has been completely unexpected and entirely welcome. It just stinks that’s it's arrived at the same time that J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus went down for the count. Destroying the Cleveland Browns is a little like beating up on the challenged kid at school - sure, it's a win, but hardly a win that took much effort. The real test is beating the Seahawks and then making it to the postseason and taking out either Kansas City or New England.
It's simply incredible what Deshaun Watson has done to fix this offense. As a side effect, he is also single-handedly saving Bill O'Brien's reputation. I don't think the QB was the "only" problem the last three seasons, but clearly it was the biggest issue holding back this team. I have to credit the success to the Texans, and O'Brien specifically, for adjusting the scheme with components similar to Clemson's to help Watson be more comfortable and perform more naturally as he adapts to the NFL defenses. I'm sure we'll continue to see new wrinkles each week as the playbook continues to open up for a rookie who is rocketing into the record books. Forget the Offensive Rookie of the Year talk; Deshaun Watson is now in the NFL MVP discussion.
I'm glad Houston is going into the bye week, because Jadeveon Clowney and the gang are banged up and need some rest. The Texans also have a large clutch of new players signed to fill vacancies due to numerous injuries, and the bye week helps them with time to study and prepare before the team heads to Seattle.
This one pretty much went as expected. I didn’t think this would be a huge gaudy stat game for Deshaun or the offense as a whole. I just think Watson rises to the occasion when the Texans are trading punches with another fighter, and this was basically like hitting the heavy bag. It was nice to see the defense put on a largely positive performance, complete with multiple sacks against a solid offensive line, plus TWO scores in the form of a pick-six and a safety. That said, the obvious (and accurate) take here is that - it’s the Browns. But the Texans did what they should do against the Browns or any team of similar ilk - jump them early and keep cleats on the throat. I’m very excited to see the Deshaun Watson Era continue with a tough road assignment in Seattle following the bye week.
A Message From a Browns’ Fan:
Well you’ve done it again, Browns. You’ve ruined another one of my Sundays. I don’t know if I’m even mad at you anymore or if I’m mad at myself for continuing to tune in every week, with some false sense of optimism that you may actually look like a football team. This week was no different than the last five Sundays. It was no different than any of the sixteen Sundays of the last few seasons.
You lead out another kitteny QB, this time Kevin Hogan, for slaughter. Like the many that came before him, Hogan looked and played like kitten, keeping the team out of it with a couple turnovers and a lot of overthrown receivers. I can’t put all the blame on Kevin, as the Browns currently possess a wide receiving corps filled with guys that would struggle to crack the depth chart of a Conference USA team. I also don’t understand how little Duke Johnson was used, considering he’s the one guy who’s actually been playing well for them lately. I guess that’s why I’m not an NFL coach.
The defense got their kittens kicked again, which wasn’t much of a surprise either. Gregg Williams continues to misuse Jabrill Peppers and line him up 30 yards downfield, I guess to prevent them from getting beat deep? At least Myles Garrett looks pretty good. It’s gonna suck when he blows out his knee later this year and never starts another game for them . Also, thank you, Texans for calling off the dogs in the second half. You really could’ve put up a 60 spot today, but you reflected back on your days in peewee and decided not to humiliate your opponent in front of their families. Good on you.
In conclusion, the Cleveland Browns have managed to make me hate football. I really don’t want to watch them get their kittens kicked again next week and I’ll probably promise myself I won’t.
But who am I kidding? Of course I’ll watch.