For three weeks in a row the Houston Texans have done more good things than bad. So, for the second week in a row we will look at the great, the good, and the bad instead of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nothing was truly ugly in this one. You could argue that nothing is ever ugly in a win, but we have seen enough Texans games over the years to know that’s not true.
The Texans play a very entertaining brand of football and more than anything else that is the bottom line. After all, we could be playing golf, fishing, or dare I say shopping during those three hours. The Texans make those three hours worth it win or lose because you can guarantee you will see something you haven’t seen in a very long time. As I sit here, I have no idea how the season will turn out and that by itself is a breath of fresh air as compared to seasons past.
Inside the Numbers
Time of Possession
For the second week in a row the Texans lost the turnover battle and this made the game a lot closer than it should have been. We will get to more of that later. What is probably more remarkable is that this was a game where the Texans were favored and their talent was considerably better than the Cardinals talent. it has been a long time since we could say that about a Texans team.
Both teams have talented players. As someone once said, they are paid to play too. There are very few NFL games you will get through without both teams making big plays over the course of the game. The Texans just made more of them on this day and it puts them in prime position to compete for a playoff berth.
Kyler Murray is not the most physically gifted quarterback in the sport. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, or Josh Allen might win that honor, but he’s pretty damn close. I’m not sure who would win a race between he, Jackson, and Josh Fields. Jalen Hurts might have something to say there too. Still, he might be the most elusive quarterback the Texans have played this season.
The Cardinals drove it at will in the second half against a beleaguered Texans defense that wasn’t getting any help from its offense. They forced not one, not two, but three fourth down turnovers (turnover on downs) in the second half. There are good defenses and there are great defenses. The great ones shut down everything from jump. The Texans aren’t there yet, but they could become that with another draft or two and some free agent dollars.
What they are is good. Good defenses do what they need to do when they need to do it to win the game. That’s what this defense did. Christian Harris, Derek Stingley, and Will Anderson all made big plays on Sunday. Those are three guys that the Texans can build around. Add in Jalen Pitre and maybe Henry To’oto’o and you have the beginnings of a very competitive defense.
For the second week in a row, the Texans running game showed up. They don’t get into the great category because a little over four yards a carry isn’t great. It’s good. With Dameon Pierce on the shelf, the Texans have not had a secondary back in recent weeks. Devin Singletary might be the new featured back. He isn’t going to make anyone forget Arian Foster, but he might be in Lamar Miller territory.
The running game will need to play off the passing game. They cannot run in between the guards or even off tackle when everyone in the stadium knows it’s coming. The best running attacks can and they aren’t there yet. What they can do is run draw plays or on downs that teams think the Texans are going to pass on. They did that again on Sunday. You do that often enough and it makes you impossible to stop.
We start from the general and make it to the specific. The Texans had five possessions inside Cardinals territory where they came away with zero points. Three of those ended on interceptions. One of those came with a missed field goal. Another involved in inexplicable pitch play to Mike Boone on fourth down. Technically, they tried Andrew Beck on another third and one that went nowhere. That was not quite in scoring position but they likely would have been close had they converted.
If you give them even four field goals on those six possessions and this becomes a 33-16 football game. If you have touchdowns on even two of those drives and you are watching Davis Mills and the other backups getting garbage snaps in the fourth quarter. This is two weeks in a row that the Texans made things a whole lot harder on themselves than they needed to. Three of those six drives are on Stroud. This might have been his worst game as a Texan on balance. On balance he was pretty damn good. You are just talking two or three bad throws. The other three are on Bobby Slowik. Mike Boone and Andrew Beck shouldn’t be touching the ball on third or fourth down. They certainly shouldn’t be carrying the ball.
At the beginning of the year, I and others said that you would probably know one year in whether you have the guy or you don’t. The Colts may not be sure because of Richardson’s injury, but the Panthers may be worried about Bryce Young. Stroud is not a fluke anymore. This offense is not a fluke. When you compare him with the others in key stats you see where he ranks
Passing Yards: 2962 (second)
Passing Touchdowns: 17 (ninth)
Interceptions: 5 (fourth among those with 200 or more attempts)
Completion Percentage: 62.8 (25th)
Yards Per Attempt: 8.3 (third)
Rating: 99.3 (eighth)
Sacked: 22 (12th most)
I think we can identify one area of growth for Stroud. Occasionally he gets ambushed and takes a lengthy sack. However, that number above isn’t bad when you consider he has taken all but one snap. It puts him in the middle of the pack along with his completion percentage. That’s low not because of inaccuracy but the fact that he has averaged three or four obvious throwaways a game.
If the name of the game is scoring points and limited mistakes, he is a top ten quarterback. The Texans 238 points put them 11th in the league. A few teams haven’t had their bye week yet. The running attack definitely isn’t carry the load here. Stroud looks like a top ten quarterback already. Throw out who you want out of that preseason list, but he belongs.