At the beginning of the epic comedy "It's a Mad Mad Mad World" (and that is the right amount of Mads, give or take one or two), Jimmy Durante, as he is dying, tells an All Star cast that a huge fortune can be found under a Big W at a S. California park. Craziness, greed, and the worst of human nature then unfolds en route to one of the best big comedies of all time. And of course the treasure is found under the Big W.
On Saturday, the Texans after spending 2 1/2 quarters playing like they had received a bye, roared back to win behind the big plays of their own two Big "W"s - J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson. In this case, the good guys did find their treasure in a continuation of the postseason by getting huge plays out of both those Big Ws on the way to a 22-19 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills.
In the first half, the Texans appeared to be channeling a couple recent playoff disasters - last season's 21-7 loss to the Colts, where they got down 21-0 in the first half, and the 30-0 loss to the Chiefs after the 2015 season, where they were also losing 13-0 at half. Their offense moved the ball a bit, but 5 sacks and a handful of penalties kept stopping Houston from even getting a shot at a field goal. On the other side of the ball, they let the Bills easily march to an opening 75 yard TD drive mostly on the feet and arm of QB Josh Allen. They also allowed the Bills a 74 and a 79 yard drive in the first half, but stiffened enough to force two FGs so that they were behind 13-0 at the half and not out of the game.
After a 3rd quarter DeAndre Hopkins fumble, the Bills stretched their lead to 16-0, but the FG was forced by the first sack by J.J. Watt since his miraculously early return from a torn pectoral. The sack seemed to fire up the offense along with the crowd. Houston's other W, Deshaun Watson, made key plays on the drive, including hitting Hopkins for 10 yards on a 3rd and 8, followed by a 20 yard QB sweep that included Hopkins doing his best Carlos Hyde imitation as Watson bowled over a couple Bills on the way to the end zone. And then of course Watson ran for the 2 pointer that cut the lead to one score.
The defense stepped it up behind Watt and Whitney Mercilus forced a fumble that Jacob Martin recovered. Watson led them down to a 41 FG try that Ka'imi Fairbairn drilled and then the defense forced a 3 and out. This was followed by a drive that featured a 41 yd bomb to Hopkins, a short pass that Darren Fells took for a 14 yd gain, a pitch play to Carlos Hyde that should have been a TD but which Hyde luckily dribbled out of bounds, and then a sweet RPO play that left Hyde all alone for a 5 yd TD. Watson hit Hopkins for the 2 pt conversion and a 19-16 lead.
After the Bills tied it up to force overtime, the Texans did not move on their first drive, while the Bills did. Luckily the Bills had a huge blindside block penalty that forced them back into their own territory and into a punt. Watson made two huge plays on the ensuing drive, hitting Duke Johnson for 18 yards on a 3rd and 18, and then a little later came the play of the day.
On a second and 6, outside of FG range at the Buffalo 44, Big W(atson) took a snap and looked dead to rights as not one but two rushers came immediately clear and hit him cleanly a second apart. Defying the laws of physics, Watson somehow kept his feet and spun away to his right with two other Bills in pursuit. As he was getting hit again, he unloaded to Taiwan Jones, who rolled 34 yards setting up another Fairbairn FG attempt that he drilled 28 yards for the game winner.
So what stands out from this game on the positive side.....
- Big W #1 - Deshaun Watson showed that as long as he is standing, the Texans have a shot. Despite getting sacked 7 times, he still hit 20 of 25 passes for 247 yards, 1 TD, and 0 interceptions. He also ran for a team high 55 yards, a TD, and a 2 pt conversion. He did what he has done so many times. He had one amazing, how-did-he-do-it moment, and it came at the most critical time to win this game.
- Big W #2 - J.J. Watt had not played since Week 8 of the season, when he tore his pectoral muscle and supposedly ended his year. When it was announced Watt would play in this playoff game, no one knew if this would be a ceremonial dip in the pool by someone who was not really ready or a rust-fest from someone who was kind of ready. Watt had not only the sack, but two other QB hits and he played a heck of a lot more than anybody including him could have expected. J.J. was a difference maker down the stretch of this game.
- Taiwan Jones - Jones played well in the Week 17 "scrimmage" against the Titans. In this game, he had no carries but was targeted once on Watson's miracle play. First, he was ready for it and was in an open spot. Second, he made a nice move to avoid the first tackler and turn a two yard dump pass into a 34 yard back breaker.
- DeAndre Hopkins - Hop had a first half nightmare with no receptions. He finally had a 5 yard reception in the third quarter for his first catch and then coughed the ball up. From then until the end of the game, he was a critical cog as he made 5 more catches for 85 yards.
- Whitney Mercilus and Jacob Martin had the other two sacks for the Texans on the day and Mercilus forced the fumble that Martin recovered leading to the Texans second score.
- Fairbairn, who had been as shaky as Don Knotts in a ghost movie earlier in the season, has not missed a kick in his last 7 games and delivered a critical 41 yard FG along with the game winner on Saturday.
- Coach BOB was very decisive in going for the 2 pt conversions
- The team only had the one turnover and just 4 penalties on the day.
- Seven sacks - that just cannot happen.
- In the last 6 games the Texans' defense has allowed 425 yards (Bills), 467 yards (Colts), 435 yards (Bucs), 432 yards (Titans), 391 yards (Broncs) and 448 yards (Pats). At some point, all that bending may break.
- They went 2 1/2 quarters before scoring. If they do this against the Chiefs, they might as well not show up.
- Buffalo was 11 for 21 on 3rd downs against the Texans, a surefire formula for losing.
- The Texans had the ball with 1:35 left, a 3 point lead, and were at the Bills 39 yd line. They needed a first down to put this one away. So they ran 4 times in a row, could not pick up the first on a 3rd and 2 or a 4th and 1, and gave the ball back with 1:16 left in the game.
- Then the Texans needed to get a stop to put the game away. Ten plays later, they watched as Stephen Hauschka tied it up with a 47 yard FG at the end of the regulation.
- Towards the end of regulation with 15 seconds left, analyst Booger MacFarland wanted the Bills to run a draw play on 3rd and 10 and then spike the ball (which would have meant spiking it on 4th down). Oops - maybe he could come help Coach BOB with clock management.