Texans' Week 3 - Well That's Better - At Least The Second Half

This was not quite the insane comeback the UCLA Bruins pulled on the Washington St. Cougars in a crazy Saturday night/Sunday morning marathon where the Bruins scored 50 points in the last 20 minutes to turn a 49-17 WSU laugher into a 67-63 UCLA win that turned the WSU grins to tears. (And before you ask - this is the game that is played with an ovoid, not a round ball)

But the Texans' 27-20 come from behind drilling of the LA Chargers at a bush league looking college soccer field somewhere in the badlands of L.A. was a significant win for the local good guys. They suffered through a poor first half, plus a good chunk of the third quarter sporting a 17-7 deficit on the scoreboard. The Texans then put up TDs on three consecutive possessions sandwiched around a forced fumble and recovery, plus a stop at mid-field against the Chargers and QB Phillip Rivers that gave them a 27-17 lead that they clung to until a stop on the penultimate play of the game clinched a win for them.

Three plays in the third quarter were critical in turning this game around. In that first of three TD drives, Deshaun Watson was sacked and the team was facing a 3rd and 14 and possible failure for the 6th time out of 7 possessions. Watson threw a laser for 15 yds to Deandre Hopkins and a first down and then followed it up with a beautiful deep ball to Will Fuller with two Chargers trailing his deep drag-across route for 30 yds setting up a short TD by Carlos Hyde. The third critical play put a stop to a Charger excursion into Texans' territory as Whitney Mercilus (again!) strip sacked Rivers and Zach Cunningham's made the recovery that kept the Chargers from extending their 17-14 lead and allowed the Texans to march down and make it 21-17.

The Texans were a bit fortunate at times, but also made their own luck.

  • Watson had to scoop up (another) poor snap from Nick Martin, rise up and hit TE Darren Fells for the Texans' first TD.
  • The Texans won a Charger challenge on a non-call defensive interference penalty the play before the Mercilus strip sack.
  • Off-setting penalties wiped out a Chargers' interception on the Texans' last TD drive
  • Deshaun (Houdini) Watson somehow avoided a sack when he was caught dead to rights by the Charger's pass rush and then threw a perfect pass against his body to the right while he was scrambling to the left, hitting Jordan Akins for the final 53 yd TD.
  • They allowed a 17 yd pass to the 7 yard line on the Chargers' final drive that was brought back on a holding penalty
There were a few negatives on the day:
  • On their first drive of the day, Watson had one of those - oops I meant to not throw that - lost handle - fumbled / passed lateral that L.A. (I so wanted to type San Diego) scooped up to set up their first TD of the day.
  • The run offense was almost non-existent - 19 carries for 39 yards, though Carlos Hyde did punch across the crucial 2nd TD for the Texans.
  • Along with missing a 56 yd FG at the end of the first half, Ka'imi Fairbairn missed another extra point (OK - he lucked out that his missed XP against the Jags ended up a do-over) that allowed the Chargers an easy path to a tie. Will Fairbairn follow his kicking partner, Trevor Daniel out the door?
  • The Texans allowed the Chargers to slice and dice through them right before the end of the first half. Then once they took the 10 point lead in the 4th quarter, allowed LAC to get a quick FG and then to control the ball for 14 plays, including 4th and 13 and 4th and 2 conversions along the way on their last failed drive. This time the prevent defense did not prevent the Texans from winning, but barely.
On the plus side:
  • Deshaun Watson went out and showed why he continues to be the Texans' best hope for success this season. He was accurate and clutch as he went 25 for 34 and 351 yds, 3 TDs and a QB rating of 135.8.
  • The newest version of the Texans' offensive line (with rookie Tytus Howard manning the RT spot and rookie Max Scharping manning the LG spot) did Job #1 - protect Watson the passer. He was sacked only twice, which was a big improvement over previous weeks and did a much better job of giving him time to look around and find his targets, which he did with precision. Yes, the run blocking has to (and should) improve, but the pass blocking was improved and acceptable against a good pass rushing team.
  • The tight ends! On a day when Watson did a tremendous job of spreading the pill around, Darren Fells and Jordan Akins combined for 8 catches, 122 yds and 3 TDs. Akins did a terrific job of not giving up on Watson when it looked like he was about to go down and finding the open spot in the defense as he roamed through empty spaces for his 53 yd TD. He also was not running like a TE on that fast dash to the end zone.
  • The WRs! They did not dance in the end zone but they hung on to 15 of 20 targets for 207 yds. Ken Stills along with leading the team with 89 yds receiving gets an extra good boy star for his "good to the last drop" block on Akins 53 yd touch down. Stills kept the last defender from ever getting a sniff of Akins.
  • The pass rush! Watch out NFL, JJ is back. 5 QB hits, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 3 solo tackles. Mercilus had that critical strip sack and 5 tackles including 2 for loss. DJ Reader proved the nose tackle can be impactful with 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss.
  • The coaching - no exclamation point, but they did an overall better job this day.
After an odd opening two weeks to the season, where the road loss to the Saints gave the Texans' fans more hope than the home win over the Jags, the Texans took a step up in a Week 3 road win. Now, they need to cement that step forward and spring board higher with a home game against the Carolina Panthers, who followed up two bad games with a good game on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.