This was an odd preseason football game. Marred by an offense completely nonexistent for the vast majority of the game, the Texans had to win the game through unconventional means. An exciting sack and fumble by Jacob Martin (recovered by Charles Omenihu) in the first minute of the game that led to Mark Ingram’s first touchdown in a Texans uniform were the only noteworthy things to happen in the first half. Davis Mills, while continuing to flash that arm and anticipation from last week’s performance, was wildly erratic behind a line that bent to Dallas’s whim. Any sort of run game sought to be established with Ingram or training camp page-turner Scottie Philips was quickly snuffed out by that Dallas line and upcoming star linebacker Micah Parsons. The Cowboys were eventually able to pair together a couple touchdown drives, as Vernon Hargreaves III and the Texans pass defense was at the mercy of the all powerful Cooper Rush for the entire first half.
In the second half, however, the Texans came back onto the field with a bit more spunk than before. The special teams continued to impress into week two of the preseason, consistently flipping the field and lending an olive branch to Mills, who again absorbed plenty of snaps for the majority of the game.
It took until the fourth quarter for the offense to mount any sort of meaningful drive on their own, with Mills finding a bit more consistency in his protection and accuracy to put his team in position to take the lead in the fourth quarter with a 38-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn. Davis Mills ended the game 10/16 for 115 yards, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt (not bad!), a rating of 84.1, and one sack of eight yards. Mark Ingram finished with 7 carries for 24 yards (3.4 AVG) and one touchdown (the only Texans touchdown on offense), Scottie Phillips finished with 4 carries for 16 yards (4.0 AVG), and Buddy Howell finished with 5 carries for 13 yards (2.6 AVG).
The defense, however, was the star of the show. In addition to the aforementioned sack and fumble by Martin, safety Lonnie Johnson Jr. added a pick six to the game after an errant pass by Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci in the third quarter. Martin, Demarcus Walker, and rookie sixth-round pick Roy Lopez finished all with a sack, while Omenihu had two. In the fourth quarter, the Texans pass defense quickly snuffed out any hopes for a Dallas comeback when safeties Shyheim Carter and Terrance Brooks made sure each possession the Cowboys had in the fourth quarter was curtailed by an interception.
Both these preseason victories paint a picture of a 2021 Texans team defined by heads up plays made on special teams and defense while the offense does just barely enough to win, an unexpected development given the amount of resources devoted to running and passing the ball this offseason. A lack of penalties and winning the turnover battle are positive signs for first year head coach David Culley, but the Texans third down percentage must be improved before the regular season begins. It is important to mention the Texans had starters on the field well into the second half of both games (Shaq Lawson, Christian Kirksey, Ross Blacklock, Charles Omenihu), but considering how nearly everyone in a Texans uniform has only been here for a year or less, it isn’t a surprise.
There is a certain attractiveness to how brutally new this Texans team is. With nearly everyone of note a new face in Houston or a rookie, every game (and every victory) is essential as we begin the journey to defining the 2021 Houston Texans. So far, things are looking zany, which is fine by me as long as Davis Mills plays well enough to make me forget about how desperately I wanted Texans A&M quarterback Kellen Mond before he was snatched by the Minnesota Vikings literally one pick before Houston.
While it isn’t pretty, nothing beats winning! The Houston Texans improve to 2-0 this preseason, next Saturday proving the hardest challenge yet as they host the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7 p.m.
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