The light bulb may have flipped on inside Tom Savage’s helmet last Sunday as he had the best performance of his NFL career. He was 22-32 for 230 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception that occurred on a tipped pass. Savage’s velocity was on another level against the Cardinals, and that allowed him to drive down the field much more effectively than before.
The Texans forcibly ran the ball against Arizona’s solid run-stopping defense. What seemed like D’Onta Foreman’s breakout game quickly collapsed into a torn Achilles and another player on Injured Reserve.
Even with the loss of Foreman, the Texans are still in the playoff hunt. They can give thanks to these four TDs for keeping (or getting) them there.
Touchdown #1: Lamar Miller pass from Tom Savage (Texans 7, Cardinals 0).
In an empty set on 2nd and Goal, Tom Savage first looked to DeAndre Hopkins in the slot. With three-time NFL First Team All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson playing with outside leverage and a safety over the top, the Cardinals had Savage’s primary option shut down.
With pressure coming from the strong side of the formation, Savage signaled for the offensive line to shift their coverage left, making the clear-out route combination a more difficult throw and thus forcing Savage out of the pocket. In this set, Lamar Miller split out against a linebacker, Deone Buchannon. This was the most favorable matchup on the field and quickly Savage’s only option.
The lack of coverage skills forces the disadvantaged LB to turn his back to the entire field, where he loses track of the quarterback’s position. Miller jukes back to sideline and keeps his toes inbounds to put the Texans on the board 7-0.
Touchdown #2: DeAndre Hopkins pass from Tom Savage (Texans 17, Cardinals 10).
It’s 1st and 10 from the Cardinals’ 28, and Bill O’Brien makes it clear that DeAndre Hopkins is the best player on the field with another play called directly for him. It was a pretty simple play against a simple defense—all go-routes against man coverage with Peterson pressing Hopkins at the line of scrimmage.
The critical moment in the play was when Hopkins broke even with Peterson and ripped through his arms to get loose at the top of the route.
As shown above, when Peterson loses placement on Hopkins’ inside shoulder, he opens his hips, thus losing leverage on Hopkins. Savage places the ball in #10’s lap for the second Texans lead in the game.
Touchdown #3: D’Onta Foreman rush for 3 yards (Texans 24, Cardinals 21).
Although Foreman got less than half of the carries, he still outrushed Lamar Miller in the game. The biggest reason for Foreman’s early success was his vision in the hole, paired with a willingness and toughness to fight for the extra yard. Both were on full display when Foreman got in the end zone.
This is zone left to the TE side. Foreman did a great job reading the blocks in front of him instead of trying to blast into the back of one of his offensive linemen. The Texans offensive line did a good job getting a hat on a hat while pushing to the second level on a double linebacker blitz.
If Foreman immediately ran into the backside A-Gap that was wide open, he would have been met by Tyrann Mathieu in the hole. Thankfully, Foreman went with his intended path. What is so good about Foreman is his center of gravity. On this play, he stayed low and centered, allowing him to muscle his way in for a touchdown. Good goal line rushing will pay dividends in the NFL.
Touchdown #4: Foreman stretch run for 34 yard TD (Texans 31, Cardinals 21).
The last Texans TD of the day came at a terrible cost. Foreman has been confirmed to have a torn Achilles suffered on the end of this run. This play was a great design that the Cardinals did not play well at all. Bruce Ellington swung through the backfield, followed by Xavier Su'a Filo.
Two poor defensive techniques on this play allowed the Texans to break this play open for a TD. First, DE Josh Mauro presses inside, bypasses the TE’s block, and gets crushed by Sua’ Filo’s pull. C.J. Fiedorowicz gets to the second level and cuts off the MIKE LB from pursuit.
Second, nickel S Budda Baker runs into the play and loses outside contain on the stretch.
When this play developed, the Texans had outside leverage on the S and LB closest to the play. Braxton Miller’s block down the field sprung the rookie RB for a TD.
Most fans would agree with me in preferring to take a loss on the play rather than losing Foreman for the year. Foreman’s burst through the front seven and tenacity at the point of attack will be surely missed.
Four good touchdowns this week to celebrate and diagnose. Hopefully there will be more of these against the Ravens on MNF.