The final game of the surprisingly thrilling pre-season Houston Texans has ended. But, wow! What a crazy game! What a crazy three-game stretch!
As ridiculous as it is, they have done more than enough to make me genuinely excited to see how this absolutely strange team will compete each week in the regular season. In that respect, they have won the preseason.
Davis Mills played nearly the entire game, had well under a 50% completion percentage, a terrible quarterback rating, and two poorly placed throws forced into tight coverage, creating costly interceptions. He had completed two passes by halftime. Ka’imi Fairbairn was unavailable this game because of a minor leg injury, forcing none other than safety Justin Reid to become our kickoff specialist, while also making the offense stay on the field to convert the majority of fourth downs they were confronted with. Most were failures, two of which ending drives deep in the red zone. Jack Easterby stalked the sidelines.
And yet, despite all of this, The Texans still had the ball, down seven with three minutes left and a chance to march downfield and win the game. How is this even possible?
A solid rushing attack by (massive) committee, an excellent special teams performance, and a defense oddly keen on forcing multiple turnovers, especially in clutch moments. They are the spitting definition of opportunistic.
I think the drive that defines this preseason Texans squad happened at the beginning of the second quarter. The first somewhat coherent offensive drive of the game, both Scottie Phillips and Davis Mills made a few good plays (including a 34 yard run by Phillips) to get Houston down to the Tampa Bay 9 yard-line.
1st & Goal: Three yard run by Phillips.
2nd & Goal: Davis Mills throws just barely ahead of an open Nico Collins in the end zone.
3rd & Goal: Rex Burkhead bursts forward, but falls literally inches short of the goal line.
(Can’t kick a field goal because we don’t have a kicker, no All FG Offense, today.)
4th & Goal: Burkhead is immediately stopped at the line of scrimmage.
What a defeating end to the first solid drive of the game. I can’t believe Davis Mills missed tha-
FUMBLE! FUMBLE! KYLE TRASK JUST FUMBLED THE BALL AT THE ELEVEN YARD-LINE.
1st & 10 at TB 11: TOUCHDOWN! Davis Mills fires pass right into Nico Collins’ hands and he goes right into the end zone!
And they completed the two-point conversion! They’re back in this game out of nowhere!
…What just happened?
It was like the football gods had been watching the Texans offense slowly get up and trip over themselves again and again throughout the game, and in the wild hilarity of it all decided to serve up several golden opportunities for them to score, which they took advantage of often enough to have a chance at stealing the game with the last possession. Unfortunately, and third Davis Mills interception locked away a chance at an undefeated preseason.
While Houston didn’t really do anything in particular to force the wild turnovers of this game, they certainly made it a habit to capitalize on mistakes (a common thread in all three games). Houston created four turnovers this game, two of which were Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask just losing the football, another coming from a big-time interception by Texans safety Terrance Brooks.
Speaking of Terrance Brooks, the defense continued to be one of the biggest stories of this preseason. Demarcus Walker, Jacob Martin, and Charles Omenihu all added another sack to their impressive preseason totals, Vincent Taylor and Roy Lopez each added half a sack to bring the team total to four, and Christian Kirksey got a TFL to bring the team total to 5.
The special teams also made clutch plays to keep the offense in it even when Davis Mills appeared to be burying his head in the sand. Two blocked field goals, an impressive emergency kickoff performance by Justin Reid, and punter Cameron Johnston averaging 48 yards a punt all added to the legend of a very resourceful team.
The details on offense are…a little less shiny. Davis Mills ended the game 10/27 for 106 yards (3.9 AVG) with a 34.4 passer rating, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. While he displayed better awareness and mobility, Mills revealed he hasn’t quite mentally left Stanford yet as he frequently attempted to fire the ball into tight coverage, usually resulting in an underthrown or overthrown ball. Tyrod Taylor’s few possessions looks a little better, 6/9 for 31 yards (3.4 AVG) with a 72 passer rating. But, no matter how you slice it, this passing attack is BAD. And the pass protection? Possibly worse!
But, the running game is its saving grace (if there is one). If most games work out like this, Nick Caserio’s investment in an auditorium filled with random running backs may pay off after all. Scottie Phillips finished with 8 carries for 73 yards (9.1 AVG), Mark Ingram II finished with 11 carries for 44 yards (4.0 AVG), David Johnson with 4 for 30 yards (7.5 AVG), Phillip Lindsay with 6 for 17 yards (2.8 AVG), Buddy Howell with 4 for 16 yards (4.0 AVG), and Rex Burkhead with 2 for 5 yards (2.5 AVG) It’s an obnoxious amount of running backs, all of whom will not be needed on the final roster, but the offense is clearly much more comfortable keeping it on the ground than resorting to the dark arts of the forward pass. Phillips’ and Johnson’s agility and speed are great compliments to the bull rushing style of Ingram and Burkhead, and Taylor made it very clear in this game he still has the wheels to make big plays happen all on his own.
While it is just the preseason, it’s hard not to get excited at how this Texans squad somehow skipped and stumbled and rolled their way to multiple game-winning opportunities, regardless of the failures of the offense. This team will have much more difficulty finding those turnovers or big-play moments against first-string players in the regular season, and the massive mistakes made by Davis Mills or Tyrod Taylor will be even more difficult to remedy. Omenihu, Walker, Martin, and Brooks will have to make it a habit of sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers every single game. But, despite all of that rational thinking, it fails to get at the heart of this very irrational team. That’s why, as stupid as it sounds, I’m excited to see how they’ll play in the regular season.
3-14 here we come, and I’m gonna love every single second of it.
The Texans finished the preseason with a 2-1 record. They open the regular season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, September 12th at 12:00 PM. Regular season football is just two weeks away!
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