The Texans-Raven game felt like the most important game of the year. It was the "sexy" one with the potential MVPs of Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson facing off in a battle of giants that turned into a total one-sided beat down.
In the end the Texans-Colts game was a much more critical game for the Texans to win. And that is what they did in their 20-17 takedown of the Colts on Thursday night. If the Colts had won, they would have basically had a 2 game lead over the Texans with a one game lead plus the head to head tie breaker. But the 7-4 Texans have a one game lead over the 6-5 Colts and they currently have the tie breaker. It is the third tie-breaker of record against common opponents. (They are of course tied on head to head and are also tied on record within the division at 3-1 with Indy). The Texans are 6-0 against common opponents, while the Colts are 4-2.
Watching Thursday's matchup was an uncomfortable experience as it felt like so many other games in this series where the Texans could not put away the Colts and succumbed to them late. Here are some observations about the game:
- The Texans so often this season have dominated the time of possession, but the Colts ran the ball a ton which moved the needle to their side on TOP, while the Texans ran an all or nothing offense that moved the ball in chunks or not at all.
- As an example the Texans had a decent looking 99 yds on 24 carries - a tad more than 4 yards a carry. But if you take away two anomalies (a Duke Johnson 19 yard carry and a Carlos Hyde carry for 33 yds) which accounted for more than 1/2 their yards - they only had 47 yds on the other 22 carries, which is a little more than 2 yds a carry - which matches what the eyeball told us.
- Similarly Deshaun Watson was 19 for 30 for 298 yds almost 10 yards an attempt. However 184 of those yards were on just 5 catches, including the two TDs to DeAndre Hopkins and two long passes to the just returned Will Fuller. On the other 25 attempts they only gained 114 yds for an ugly 4.5 yds per attempt.
- On the bright side, the return of Fuller from injury far outshone the return of normal Texan killer T.Y. Hilton. Hilton only caught 3 of 6 targets for 18 yds (with a couple huge drops), while Fuller snagged 7 passes for 140 yds and more importantly may have been the reason Hopkins was wide open a few times on the night.
- Also on the plus side, the Texans only had 4 penalties (two on the first drive on rookie Tytus Howard) and only gave up one sack, which was definitely a case of Watson holding the ball too long.
- The Texans only gave up one turnover (recovering two fumbles) on a Watson pick. They were a little lucky that the Colts missed a couple other right in their hands picks. The Texans had their third game out of four where they forced 0 turnovers. And they only had one sack on the night as they continue to struggle a bit without head cheerleader J.J. Watt.
- The most disturbing part of the night was Houston's inability to stop the running game of the Colts (after an even worse week against the Ravens) giving up 175 yards on 39 carries and 2 TDs. The Colts' offense was almost the opposite of the Texans as they had no plays over 20 yards running or passing on the night.
- The Texans gave up 9 first downs on 15 third down attempts on the night. Luckily they stopped the Colts on their last third down attempt and then tackled Jacoby Brissett for a six yard gain on a 4th and 7 on the play following. It was impossible to see the Texans corral Brissett on that play and not imagine Lamar Jackson not only converting that play, but possibly taking it to the house. Oh well, that was another game....
- The Texans continued their season long trend of going scoreless in the first quarter, but luckily held the Colts down at the same time.
- With a very makeshift defensive backfield, the Texans bent but did not break. When it mattered the most, they did not allow the Cots to score after they took a 7 point lead with 5 minutes left in the third quarter and the offense did just enough to grab and hold the lead down the stretch.
- It was encouraging that after the offense sputtered so often early that the Texans ground out a crucial first down and held the ball for the balance of the game after the fourth down stop of the Colts. We will not speak of how close they were to giving up the ball on a Watson bobble in the last minute.