Consistent winning is a process. Look at nearly every championship team and there was that uncomfortable period right before they were good. The talent seemed to be there and they showed it in spurts, but they never could seem to consistently make the plays they needed to make. The plays the Houston Texans made the past two weeks were elusive on Sunday. They made some of them, but not enough to win.
We could massage the numbers and we could do a little song and dance, but that’s essentially what it came down to. The Atlanta Falcons just made one or two plays more than the Texans. That’s life in the NFL for teams that find themselves in the middle of the pack. It is an evolution. The Texans are no longer a bottom feeder. In some ways, these games can be more frustrating. Still, we have to keep focused on where it all is headed.
Falcons— 447 yards
Texans— 313 yards
Falcons— 351 yards
Texans— 249 yards
Falcons— 96 yards
Texans— 64 yards
Time of Possession
The Texans won the turnover battle and the penalty battle. There are lots of coaches (David Culley cough) that would take that and walk away. Still, the numbers don’t lie. Those mistakes by the Falcons made this a competitive game, but they were also squandered opportunities. Let’s get to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
There were two things that became abundantly clear when watching on Sunday. The Texans wanted to force Desmond Ridder to beat them. Ridder came in as the worst rated quarterback in the league according to PFF. He had the lowest number of yards passing per game coming in. It was a sound game plan. The second thing was that the Texans largely accomplished their goal. They made Ridder beat them.
If you do the crack math, the Falcons gained less than three yards per carry. Bijan Robinson is on pace to gain over 1,000 yards, but he was a non-factor for a majority of the game. Ridder stepped up and played the best game of his life. Still, you could credibly claim that the defense did enough to win. Sure, they surrendered a lead late, but everyone saw that last drive coming. The Texans had been on the field most of the second half. They just simply ran out of gas.
Still, when you enter a game with a major objective and you actually succeed in meeting that objective, you have to feel good about your chances to win. The defense played well enough to win both games and if we are being honest, we won’t point the finger at them this time around.
Bobby Slowik had himself two good games in a row. Despite what Spencer Tillman may think, Tim Kelly and Pep Hamilton couldn’t find two games on their resume that would compare with those two. This one won’t go on the coaching resume. Now, this wasn’t all on the playcaller. The boys up front (we will get to them later) and the wide receivers did not do the offense any favors. Stroud was 20 for 35, but it should have been 25 or 26 for 35 based on the number of drops from the receivers, backs, and tight ends.
However, Slowik began what we might call turtling in the second half following fumbles on back to back possessions for the Falcons. That produced a whopping three points which likely could have been when the offense could have put the Falcons in a sleeper hold. I know he wants to run the football, but in four of five games the running game simply hasn’t been there. In particular, any run to the right was blown up by penetration. Those carries likely averaged -1 yards. They gained less than three yards a carry overall. Gee, I think they should have shelved the run game sooner.
The Texans did not surrender any sacks. So, any talk about the offensive line must start with that stat. This was not literally the worst performance in franchise history. Any mention of that would be beyond hyperbole. Still, the right side of this offensive line sucked today. Stroud has shown he can read pressure and get the ball away. That is a large reason why he was 20 for 35 and 26 or 27 for 35. Watching the right side try to block on running plays was a festival of sadness.
Part of this is on Slowik. Any simple-minded fan could see this coming from the word jump. I don’t know if it was Shaq Mason or George Fant. Maybe Jarrett Patterson could get some blame his way as well. I suppose watching the all-22 would lend some clarity as to who exactly needs to be tarred and feathered. Maybe all of them can offer plausible excuses, but any kind of talk should resemble a circular firing squad. I know they are trying to fill holes, but Tytus Howard is a right tackle. The sooner he gets back there the better.
I suppose the best part of the game on Sunday was the fact that Stroud did not beat the Texans. Most rookie quarterbacks would feel the pressure and start humming it around the yard. He was patient and put the team in position to win the game with less than two minutes remaining. So, yes his rating went down, but there will be games like this. He and the offense will learn and execute better in key moments.
I don’t know how he compares to the very best of the best, but he is clearly the best of those top three quarterbacks taken in the 2023 draft. Obviously, that isn’t the bar when all is said and done, but it has to feel good to look at for the time being. Bask in the glow of these numbers below.
C.J. Stroud— 1,461 yards, 61.3%, seven TD, zero INT, 98.4 Rating, 53 Rushing, zero TD
Bryce Young— 750 yards, 63.4%, five TD, four INT, 77.0 Rating, 55 Rushing, zero TD
Anthony Richardson— 577 yards, 59.5%, three TD, one INT, 87.3 Rating, 136 Rushing, four TD
Richardson’s Colts have a better record than the Texans and Richardson has produced as many touchdowns as Stroud. However, he has already missed a game and he could be out again with a shoulder injury. Availability is the best ability. It’s very early and we have to often pinch ourselves. but so far so good.