It has been awhile for the Houston Texans. They haven’t been .500 or better this deep into a season since 2019. The Texans reached the .500 mark at the six week mark by defeating the New Orleans Saints 20-13. What might have been more impressive is the fact that not every phase of the game was firing on all cylinders. It definitely doesn’t take a huge imagination to picture the Texans offense and defense playing better.
Yet, the team did enough to win the game. No team goes through the season without a clunker. The San Francisco 49ers lost their first game of the season and the Buffalo Bills came within a yard (twice) of losing the the New York Football Giants. No team is immune from looking bad. Yet, when you can visibly be off of your game and still find a way to win then you have a chance in this league.
Total Yards Per Play
Time of Possession
The Saints dominated this game statistically except for the score. Yes, they had one additional turnover, but that came when the game was virtually over and it didn’t directly impact that outcome. It helps Steven Nelson’s stats and will be huge in contract negotiations, but the Texans would have been better off with him dropping it. There were also numerous back breaking penalties for the Saints that changed the outcome of the game.
We show these numbers on a weekly basis because we start to notice trends. The Texans have yet to lose the turnover battle and have actually won it most weeks. The same is true with penalties. When you commit fewer penalties and turnovers on a weekly basis you give yourself a chance to win every week. Ultimately, DeMeco Ryans has somehow accomplished the only thing David Culley ever wanted. Interesting.
Coming into the game, the Texans led the NFL in missed tackles according to advanced stats. I can’t think of a more depressing job than counting the number of times a defender fails at his job, but I guess someone in the league office has to do it. Obviously, if you read the HOTD feature on a regular basis then you know this instinctually without doing the math.
What you also know is that this part of the defensive game improved immeasurably on Sunday. This was particularly true in the second half. In particular, Blake Cashman, Jimmy Ward, and Shaq Griffin made crucial open field tackles that may not have completely saved the game, but they were plays that hadn’t been made in their defeats. Alvin Kamara is one of the best two-way running backs on the planet and the Texans defense made him look ordinary in the open field. So, the Saints gained a lot of yards, but they were unable to successfully take the kill shot the Texans defense usually endured in the past.
This is two weeks in a row that an opposing quarterback has turned the Texans into Swiss cheese. Both Desmond Ridder and Derek Carr threw for over 300 yards in what could be called their best games of the season. Neither Ridder nor Carr will be going to Canton unless they buy a ticket. This isn’t to demean them. Carr probably rests somewhere in the middle of the NFL quarterbacking universe. As Texans fans, we would have loved to have someone like Carr the past two seasons. Still, neither should be doing this.
Granted, this goes in the bad category for two reasons. First, the Texans defense largely won the game. So, while the passing game gashed them for yards, it did not gash them for points. Secondly, it was by design for the second consecutive week. They did not want Kamara and company to take over the game. For the second week in a row, the defense did a good job overall of controlling the running game. So, we file this under things to work on during the bye week and leave it at that.
The most important part of coaching in the league is self-scouting. Some of that is looking at your own tendencies to see if there are patterns opposing coaches can key on. The main part is looking at your own players to see how they are currently performing. For instance, Blake Cashman was just a guy last year. This year he is performing like a Pro Bowler. I don’t know why, but you get that guy on the field any way you can.
On the other hand, Dameon Pierce was the Texans best offensive player last year. This year he is not. We blamed blocking. We blamed a lack of continuity. We blamed play calling. He gained 26 yards on 11 carries Sunday. He got stuffed twice at the one. He just looks hesitant and slow compared to Devin Singletary. I’m not an NFL coach. I can’t tell you why any of this is happening. I can just see it and most of you do too. Whether it can fixed or not, Singletary should get the bulk of the carries until Pierce shows us something is going to be different.
C.J. Stroud lost his streak. At the end of the day it ended up being the best possible thing. The defender immediately fumbled and Stroud doesn’t have to answer questions anymore about the streak. This game was not a great effort for him. ESPN’s QBR and PFF have him rated right around the middle of the pack offensively. If the season ended today, he would throw for about 25 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Anthony Richardson might be out for the season. Bryce Young’s team is hosting the Texans after the bye, but they have yet to win a game. It is time to stop comparing Stroud to the other rookies. He has officially graduated to the rest of the league. Unfortunately, that means a higher bar for him to clear. I and others will be using the time during the bye to do just that. Stay tuned.