After a weeee bit of an issue getting these game films cut and posted here, we’re back with the weekly Houston Texans Sack Tracker. The sweet nectar of the victory over the Patriots has not worn off, so there’s no harm in taking a step back and re-watching some of the less-fond plays from Sunday night’s win. Though there are a lot of pats on the back to go around after the win, that’s not what we are here for. If you forget some of the low points in the game, you’ll be surprised and disappointed when we don't play at such a high level.
The one thing I did keep an eye on while reviewing the film was Chris Clark’s play in place of right tackle Tytus Howard. Clark’s had some up and some definite downs throughout his tenure with the Texans, but Sunday night was not one of them. He was steady, poised, and intelligent throughout the match. I do tend to side with Roderick Johnson for the boost he provides for the run game, but I’ll take Clark’s performance as a benchmark for things to come.
Let’s get after it in today’s Sack Tracker for the Texans vs. Patriots.
Sack #31: Tunsil’s Patience Backfires
I’ll have to go back and count the number of sacks on third down, but it’s beginning to get aggressive at this point. Obviously there isn't any situation where a sack is preferred, but when it’s on third down, ends a drive, and forces a punt...it certainly stings a little.
The Patriots are in a press man look with a single high safety. Since Jordan Akins is lined up to the left of #74 Laremy Tunsil, the linebacker is in a position where he can blitz. This forces Tunsil to focus on this potentially blitzing linebacker, but he does so for too long. His footwork is too slow to recover. His drop steps do not get him the necessary depth he needs and the defensive end swings right by him. Not much Deshaun Watson can do and no time to throw the ball away.
How much are we about to pay Tunsil to “protect” our QB?
Sack #32: Watson gets antsy, but Scharping doesn't do his part.
This is another frustrating one. The Texans are up 14-9 and just stuffed Tom Brady’s attempt to regain control of the game. They have one play before the two minute drill and can get out of their own redone to start off a long drive. Then this play happens right off the bat...
The Patriots are in a relatively simple nickel defense facing the Texans’ offense with three receivers to the left. They only bring four pass rushers, but each defensive lineman instantly gets leverage on their blocker. From right to left, the Pats’ d-line shows speed, technique, power, and vision. This deadly combination crumbles the Texans’ offensive line, forces Watson to scramble, and secures the sack.
Originally half of this sack was going to be credited to Tunsil for not laying a hand on his defender, but I wouldn't be able to sleep at night with that on my conscience. Tunsil checks his defender and does his duty, but it’s his counterpart, Max Scharping, who fails to recognize what is going on on either side of him.
Watch Scharping. He neither helps center Nick Martin against the bull rush nor Tunsil on elusive Chase Winovich. For that, Scharping deserves credit here, and not in a good way
You've got to do something, anything, to put a hand on your defender. It’s not enough to just take care of yourself. This passive play allows the defender to become someone else problem as he roams unimpeded around the offensive line of scrimmage.
Half of this sack does have to go to Watson. There’s something to be said for standing in the pocket and taking the hit, and there’s something to be said for blindly running straight to gain a few inches. This round, Watson isn't fast enough and shuts down the Texans before the half.
Sack #33: Patriots’ blitz stuns empty backfield.
Dare I say it, but I love the play call here by head coach Bill O’Brien. Gasp. Such language might scare the children.
O’Brien comes out of the locker room at halftime with a perfect play to beat man coverage. If you ever see two crossing routes in the middle of the field, it’s because the offense is trying to beat man coverage. They isolate DeAndre Hopkins on the right side and Will Fuller in the slot on deep routes to sprint past man coverage.
This sack is more of a credit to the Patriots’ defensive play calling than any one player’s mistake. After watching this play, I do not see why defenses do not run this blitz every play against an empty backfield. There’s zero way to block this. Watson gets half-fault as he needs to recognize the Pats can bring more pressure than Houston is able to block. Fulton gets partial credit for not shifting and starting the process for the Texans to control this blitz. We’ve seen it before where the free lineman loops back into the pocket to absorb any additional unblocked pass rush. It usually works if it goes as planned, and I bet the Texans wished they called that here.
Watson had shifted the blocking scheme over to the left to account for the extra pass rushers. When #58 Jamie Collins, who is stacked on the line of scrimmage, drops back into coverage, the entire offensive line was [kitten]’d.
You can’t blame this on Scharping because he blocks the man in front of him, which is rules #1, 2, and 3 for offensive lineman. It’s a tough task in general to correctly pick the opposing defense’s scheme, but on this play the Patriots outclassed the Texans.
There you have it. What better way to cap off a week of celebration with a nice ripe cherry of sadness on top? Deshaun Watson racked up 1.5 of 3 sacks today, which means he climbs further ahead on the “Sack-rificial Lamm” chart. He’s at fault for approximately 18% of all Texans sacks this season.
Deshaun Watson: 6
Laremy Tunsil: 4.5
Zach Fulton: 3
Greg Mancz: 3
Roderick Johnson: 2.5
Tytus Howard: 2.5
Darren Fells: 2
Seantrel Henderson: 2
Chris Clark: 2
Max Scharping: 1.5
Nick Martin: 1.5
Senio Kelemete: 1
Carlos Hyde: 1
Keke Coutee: 0.5