Every week I end up saying the same thing, but I love looking back at the Hair of the Dog feature we run every week. It shows what our thoughts about the game were in real time. Yes, those are always good for a laugh, but more importantly they give an accurate reflection of what watching a typical NFL game is like.
The Houston Texans obviously defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-6 and they statistically dominated the game in most of the categories. Yet, there were key inflection points at different spots of the game where things could have turned out radically different. We often forget that when looking back at the game from 30,000 feet. These last two weeks were about key plays made in key moments. They turned close games into blowouts. Those plays go the other way and who knows what happens?
Yards Per Play:
Time of Possession:
You rarely see anything this one-sided in an NFL game. We haven’t seen a Texans effort this dominant since Kubiak was here. The Bill O’Brien model seemed designed to get the Texans around .500. We heard it all before. It’s an 8-8 league. It is so hard to win in this league. We have seen enough Texans games needlessly come down to the wire that we have collective PTSD.
Don’t believe me? Go to the HOTD feature. We were all saying it. We thought the Texans would start turtling and just hoping that the Steelers would do something stupid. It’s no way to live and thankfully DeMeco Ryans doesn’t want to live that way. Will he get burned by his aggressiveness? I suppose it is probable that it will happen at some point, but it is refreshing to see someone that keeps their foot on the gas.
Again, this game was about C.J. Stroud and the NFL record that he now holds. He has thrown more passes without an interception than any rookie at the start of a career. He should have been picked once, so there is always a bit of good luck involved, but that interception wouldn’t have changed the outcome. He is smart with the football and two weeks in a row has avoided being sacked and has not turned the ball over. I can’t guarantee victory in those circumstances, but I’d gladly bet the contents of my wallet every week that happens. I think I’d win more often than not.
Obviously, the receivers are the beneficiaries of this passing game. They get yards after the catch and that only serves to boost their numbers as well. Nico Collins went into beast mode and just manhandled the Steelers. He wound up with over 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns. I don’t think anyone saw him being THIS good before the season.
The only major category we lost in was penalties. This reared it’s ugly head on the first drive of the game. Stroud got first down on the one inch line and it somehow took us an addition four plays to get in because it involved two Texans penalties (both on Shaq Mason) and one from the Steelers. Yes, we scored the touchdown but it didn’t need to be that difficult. A better team would have walked away down 3-0 instead of 7-0. Remember, every game has some key plays and that sequence was one in the Texans favor.
In blowouts, these things feel like nitpicking. I get it. For many, this just seems like looking for something to complain about. Certainly, there is truth to the fact that negative people will find something to complain about. I’m sure Ryans will work on cleaning this up. Eventually you will meet up with someone that doesn’t let you overcome these errors.
Giving up four yards per play is good defense. Giving up only six points is typically great defense. Yet, there is a festering sore inside of those numbers. The Steelers gained 111 yards on 25 carries. My crack math skills tell me that is almost four and a half yards per carry. That just isn’t going to cut it and we know DeMeco is going to get on them during the week to clean that up.
As is normal, those 111 yards didn’t come evenly. There were numerous plays where they stuffed the back behind the backfield. Then there were others where their back bounced off tacklers like a game of pinball. I can’t count the number of times I yelled at the screen, “tackle him.” You can’t just hit most backs in this league with a shoulder and just expect them to fall. You have to wrap up and wait for reinforcements. Ryans will continue to coach that into them this week.
There is always that point in the Little League game where you call off the dogs. Our league had an eight run max in any one inning. The last team I played on benefitted from that rule in almost every game. We made the Bad News Bears look like the Big Red Machine. We are rapidly getting to the point where we can stop the count of Stroud against Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young.
C.J. Stroud— 1212 yards, 62.3%, 6 TD, 0 INT, 100.6 Rating, 51 rushing, 0 TD
Anthony Richardson— 479 yards, 56.9%, 3 TD, 1 INT, 85.4 Rating, 131 rushing, 4 TD
Bryce Young— 503 yards, 65.0%, 2 TD, 2 INT, 75.0 Rating, 61 rushing, 0 TD
This isn’t about Young or Richardson. They are both doing some good things and on balance have to make their teams happy to have them. Richardson in particular has his team in the game. They came within an eyelash of beating the Rams because of what Richardson was able to do. This is about Stroud and what he has been able to do. He is playing like an elite quarterback. I’m not sure if he is there yet. Accurately identifying an elite quarterback is like nailing Jello on a wall. It’s an inexact science at best.
Still, we are rapidly approaching the time when we will have to compare Stroud with the elite quarterbacks in the league. I never thought we would be here at all much less this quickly. I was sure that Young would be the better quarterback. I think we all were. As it turns out, we can actually have nice things.