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Texans v. Bills Review: Quick Thoughts

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Here are some of the finer details from Sunday’s game.

Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

I didn’t think this season could get any dumber after the Dallas game. That had to be the pinnacle of stupid nobody wants to win this game football. Then Houston played Buffalo. I’ll never constrict the infinite bounds of stupidity. The Texans played another smooth brain football game. One filled with punt mishaps, a fumbling quarterback, missed connections, a Nathan Peterman entrance, and a game winning pick six. Houston is 3-3 after starting 0-3, and won another one possession game against a bad team, setting up the BIGGEST game of the 2018 season, an AFC South kitty cat fight against the Jaguars. There’s no way that game will be any less absurd. But before that happens, it’s time to unpack this most recent batch of silly football.

  • Josh Allen is absurd. I’ve never seen a quarterback this horrendous and sublime at the same time. He’s a freshman starting on the varsity team. He’s an athletic superhuman, but is so far and away from being an actual quarterback. He’s something. That something isn’t a quarterback. Quick little passes can end up anywhere along the football field, and almost never do they reach their intended target.

Whenever Allen completes a pass it’s spectacular. The ball blinks across the field for completions. Spots of light moving at the flick of a switch.

He’s like other terrible quarterbacks, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage come to mind, who have a big arm and can throw far, but can’t throw with much accuracy downfield. The ball is pretty. It flies high. The ball goes forever and rarely is it a completion.

When he hits it rules. It looks better than most completions of the same nature. If Aaron Rodgers made this throw I wouldn’t think anything of it. When Allen does it it’s magical.

How he deals with pressure is the best part of his game. Despite being sacked 21 times, he sits in the pocket rather than rush off at the first site of danger, and keeps his eyes up. The only way he can competently pick up yards is by running for it. He’s fast and strong. Tackle attempts almost always lead to him falling forward.

In this game he did things rarely seen. He turned a J.J. Watt pursuit angle into muddy water stumbling.

He hopped out of a Watt shoe string tackle.

He even stiff armed Watt in the pocket and constructed a zipline between him and Kelvin Benjamin.

I always imagine Watt as a great white leviathan and the quarterback as Ahab. This time the monomaniac was able to escape from the great whale.

Allen is a horrible quarterback. He’s 22 years old and is a Disney movie where some unsuspecting youth finds a magical artifact and gets tossed into professional sports. He shouldn’t be playing. He was drafted to early. Allen creates some spectacular moments, but there isn’t any consistency throughout the game. Before exiting with an elbow injury he completed 10 of his 17 passes for just 84 yards. Yet, I was devastated when he was knocked out of the game. His bright spots are a supernova, and I wanted to be a witness to a potential Allen led game winning drive. Hopefully the elbow still works and Allen isn’t out for a long period of time. Watching him play has been a so bad it’s good joy.

  • Taking his place was Nathan Peterman. I’ve watched more bad quarterback play than good quarterback play. It has diseased my brain. A completion on a seven yard out is amazing to me. I have low standards. I overestimate a quarterback’s ability. Years of watching David Carr, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage, Ryan Mallett, and the AFC South in general has ruined me. Peterman is the worst quarterback I’ve ever seen. He has an interception rate of 11.39% now. These are interception rates not seen since 1970. Peterman has all of Allen’s faults, but none of the athleticism. Any game he plays makes the Bills automatically impossible to watch.
  • I dig Battle Red Toro. He looks like a cartoon that ate a hellacious pepper.
  • The only player to stick Allen yesterday was Zach Cunningham. Hats off to Houston’s coaching staff. They’ve molded him from the insufferable yanker and puller he was at Vanderbilt to an actual defender. His tackling is one of the strengths of his game. Against Buffalo he had 13 tackles, 9 of which were solo. He crushed Allen yesterday.

But he’s lost his ability to play man coverage. I always thought Cunningham was more of a chase and tackler and coverage backer, the perfect compliment to the brutal Benardrick McKinney, but now he looks bigger and stronger and has lost his speed. Getting beat by Chris Ivory in man coverage on a crucial third down was rock bottom.

  • Watt has seven sacks this season. Those sacks were long arms and rips against the opponent’s worst pass blocker. Against Buffalo he had his most impressive sack of the season. He bull rushed the right tackle, swam over the chip, completely ignored the aiding guard, and swam back over the tackle and leapt for the sack in the same motion. He turned this.

Into this.

Unbelievable. This is the type of stuff that was the norm from 2012-2015 during his reign of dominance.

  • There wasn’t much of Jadeveon Clowney in this game. Buffalo did a good job of pulling at him and blocking back on him in the run game. Buffalo’s left tackle Dion Dawkins had a great game. He was super quick off the snap and got kick sliding in unison with the snap of the ball. Clowney couldn’t edge rush against him at all.

Clowney did deliver the play of the game when he yanked Chris Ivory down by his hair. I could feel him scream as his scalp separated from his skull and his one braid was pulled out. I could hear the shredding of hair. Don’t call Clowney if you need a hair cut.

  • Romeo Crennel made the same mistakes O’Brien made to start the year. He didn’t do what worked in previous seasons. Watt wasn’t put up against the opponent’s worse pass blocker. Clowney was used too often as an outside linebacker and blindside rusher. The Texans weren’t able to generate interior pressure. That’s changed. Crennel has brought the past into the present. Clowney is a stand up interior rusher at times, and is playing more defensive end. And now Benardrick McKinney is getting in on it. He had another sack. It came again with him looping on an inside blitz. I’m glad this is back. I missed this.
  • Houston’s defense is going to be dominate against any team that relies heavily on the run. Entering this game they were second in run defense DVOA. They limited the Bills to 3.7 yards a carry, and aside from a few Euro-Stepping LeSean McCoy runs and Allen scrambles, the run offense was non existent. The troubles come against pass heavy spread attacks. Unless, the pass rush is cranking, Houston doesn’t have the defensive back play to win with coverage alone.
  • Shareece Wright has dealt with a lot of slants since he’s moved from nonexistence to cornerback number two. Almost always he’s beat, and occasionally he makes up for it with some life saving leaping pass defenses. Zay Jones took advantage of previous plays, and tore him up with a nasty fake slant and go to the corner of the endzone. This throw is a lifetime achievement for Peterman.

I’m already looking forward to Jones becoming a Pro Bowler once he leaves Buffalo. This place is Siberia for NFL wide receivers.

  • The Johnathan Joseph pick six was wide open. There was an enormous distance from Benjamin to the football, and Joseph, playing off man, saw it instantly after the wild failed curl route on the previous play.

On both throws Peterman and Benjamin were off. On the first Benjamin came inside, and the ball was thrown to the outside. On the second Benjamin sat outside and the ball came inside. Also, it’s hilarious how slow Benjamin is. He can’t even catch up to the high stepping version of Johnathan Joseph.

  • Buffalo allowed only 13 points in this game, and 10 of those came after short fields thanks to punt return atrocities. Their pass rush was the key for them this game. They sacked Watson 7 times and hit him another 12 times. I hope Russell Wilson consoles him after every game. Buffalo runs a defense similar to Carolina. There’s always two linebackers on the field, they have to get a rush with their front four, and they typically play their cornerbacks on each side of the field. The big difference is they blitz pretty often.

The slot corner blitz is taking over the NFL this year, especially from the quarterback’s blind side. With everything spread out, it almost always guarantees a free rusher, and it’s not too difficult to switch the coverage assignment pre-snap. Here Buffalo brought the blind side corner blitz. The offensive line blocked correctly. Lamar Miller just didn’t step up into his block. This is awful. Buffalo picks up an easy sack.

They also crushed Houston with stunts. The Jerry Hughes-Kyle Williams combination was unblockable. It was 2014 all over again. On this E-T stunt Hughes beats Juli’en Davenport with an inside movie, and Williams wraps around it and beats Senio Kelemte across his face, never allowing him to get his hands on the block.

This one has similar results. Davenport helps too much inside, and blocks Hughes himself. This overcommitment leads to him only getting his hands on the inside of Williams. This pressure leads to a quickly thrown incompletion and punt.

Even Trent Murphy was able to generate pressure. The former second round pick is having the best season of his career, and is having a Margus Hunt esque out of nowhere season. On this rush, the tackle soaked up two blocks when he looped around. Zach Fulton lunged when he switched over to punch Murphy. Fulton transformed into a blocking dummy and was swam over. Murphy missed his sack attempt, which led to Watson scampering out of the pocket, and heaving an interception into the back of the endzone.

He even strip sacked Watson in this game. He was stopped on his edge rush, but planted, and shoved Lamm outside creating an inside rushing lane. Watson tried to climb up, but was trapped by a Hughes inside rush move. Edwards and Hughes both leaped on his back to force the ball out. Rookie Harrison Phillips was there to recover. I’ve never seen someone so happy to recover a fumble before.

Hughes was relentless this game. His speed rush is among the best in the league. He had 15.5 pressures, 6 quarterback hits, and 3 sacks entering week six. When he times the snap perfectly there isn’t even a need to bed around the edge. He comes in a sharp diagonal into the quarterback. Beating the tackle instantly, and allowing his momentum to carry him past the block and destroying the pass attempt.

This sack coming against Kendall Lamm is unbelievable. The way he dips and maintains his speed seems impossible.

On this edge rush against Davenport he creates space and delays the point of contact. The additional steps creates a longer race that he’s able to win. He dips under Davenport and gets to chasing.

  • What kept Buffalo in this game wasn’t just the pressure and the sacks, most importantly, it was the turnovers. Watson threw a field goal range interception in the redzone after escaping from pressure. Lorenzo Alexander sat at the line of scrimmage, tipped the ball up in the air, and intercepted it himself. It’s football’s version of dinner is served.

Watson fumbled the ball three times, and threw two interceptions. Houston was fortunate to lose only one his fumbles. Without these give aways Houston would have comfortably won within the normal 60 minutes. Actually, that’s not true. They would have found someway to keep Buffalo in it. Nothing is easy.

  • Davenport was bad this game. He has to remove embarrassing pass sets from his play. He doesn’t even get of stance when the ball is snapped. Hughes has four steps on him before he takes one. This is a comeback no one is capable of coming back from. These sort of mental errors are inexcusable.
  • Houston is an atrocious screen team. The offensive linemen struggle to get out in front. The receivers don’t make an effort to block. These plays are usually a three yard reception. Bill O’Brien should either cut them out of his playbook, or go find some inspiration in Los Angeles or Carolina.
  • Lamar Miller actually played. He had some nice runs. He’s immensely better as an outside cutback zone runner.
  • Houston was able to score a touchdown against one of the worst redzone defenses in football. A nice back shoulder fade to Hopkins out of the slant. The coverage here is great. Watson and Hopkins both deliver a better throw and catch. Things don’t have to be so complicated. O’Brien needs to do a better job ensuring Hopkins gets redzone catch opportunities.
  • On their late redzone chance Houston had the following sequence: an inside zone run with Alfred Blue on first down, a jet sweep play to Keke Coutee on second down, a false start by Kendall Lamm on third down, a Jerry Hughes pass pressure and defensed pass on third down. What a mess.
  • Despite his mistakes and turnovers Watson did make some great throws this game. He found Keke Coutee on third and 18. This is some nice pocket climbing. The ball is put in the vacant space between two defenders. Also, look at that. Houston actually uses its tight end to chip Hughes to help Davenport out. They’re learning.

Watson found Fuller V deep down field to set up the game tying field goal. I love Fuller’s release off the line of scrimmage. He stutters and gallops in place for a second, and then just takes off. This is amusement park speed. The defensive back held and made contact before the ball arrived. There were four flags on the field on this catch attempt. It was like a pinata busted upon. The ball was put right on Fuller’s chest. It was difficult, but Fuller could have made this catch.

He had Fuller deep earlier in this game too. Fuller outran the defensive back off the line. There was no stutter or deeper level movement needed to get open. He just runs inside of the defensive back. That’s it. Watson barely overthrew him. Josh Allen is jealous of this throw.

This was my one big gripe with the offensive game plan. Houston should have taken more swings downfield. Buffalo’s safeties are whatever, and Houston has the talent to attack any team deep. The worst thing that happens is an early punt. As long as Watson puts it close, there’s a chance to draw a penalty. These big plays swing field position, and generate immediate points. Once Houston had a lead they reverted to shorter quicker routes.

My favorite throw is the type that great quarterbacks make in a casual manner, and are rarely lauded. Watson was in his own endzone against a Buffalo blitz. Pressure was closing in. There was a rusher in his face. And Watson stood big and mean and tough and strong and put the ball right on the sideline for Hopkins.

  • Ten of Houston points were set up by special teams plays. Brennan Scarlett recovered two fumbles. Houston is seventh in special teams DVOA. It’s beautiful watching a punter who doesn’t allow punt returns, a kicker that hits the gimmes in high pressure situations, a punt returner who catches every punt and gets a little bit here and there, a kickoff coverage that’s making immediate tackles, and its now making impact game changing plays.