A lot has been said about Sunday’s 24-21 loss and I assume a lot more will be said after I am done. I will save a special comment for some of the more popular punching bags when we get into the good, bad, and ugly. Suffice it to say, it was a very close game and an important game in the final standings. We will spend much of this week likely looking at the fallout of that game.
As per usual, we will take a look at the numbers first. As a general rule, we look at the totals in yards, passing, rushing, and other important in game numbers. As you will probably notice, the basic numbers don’t tell the whole story. We will break it all down momentarily.
Total Rushing Yards
Total Passing Yards
Time of Possession
The difference in passing looks more stark when you include the sacks into the passing yards. Stroud officially threw it 36 times, but we count total drop backs. Lawrence was clean for almost every play. Stroud was running for his life for most of it. We will obviously talk more about Stroud shortly.
This team has one great player. That player is C.J. Stroud. Do great players have bad days? Sure they do. Do they make mistakes? Of course they do. The sequence on third and fourth down in the fourth quarter was likely a lot on Stroud. He went for broke twice when only a half yard was needed. In past editions of this space I’ve called for the ball to be put in his hands. Well, the ball was put into hands. However, these are the moments he will learn from. So, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yet, you are not in this game without imagine. Just think about what a Davis Mills quarterbacked game would look like without a running game or pass protection. Yes, they gained 91 guards on 18 carries. They gained 47 of those yards because of Stroud. They gained 12 yards because of Dell. So, they really only gained 32 yards from their traditional running backs. Yuck.
Sunshine (as Trevor Lawrence is sometimes called) is somewhat athletic, but he isn’t Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, or Anthony Richardson. He might be closer to Gardner Minshew in terms of his running ability. Yet, they didn’t even make him sweat in this one. He had more than nine yards per drop back. That is inexcusable. The Texans need to find a way to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. They defended the run admirably for much of the game. They just couldn’t get off the field often enough to win the game.
I like to think of myself as a levelheaded guy. I’ve been writing in this space for nearly two years now. Those of you that read regularly know I don’t complain about officiating. Part of that is because my dad was one back in the day. The other part is that as a former coach, I know you lose the script if you complain about officiating. Sure, you might get jobbed a few times, but there are tons of plays you don’t make where you just have to look in the mirror.
It’s true this time around too. If the Texans played their best game they would have won. This is more of a question for the competition committee. How many of the rules on the books are just there and how many actually involve things that impact the game? They called an illegal shift on the 60+ yards play to Tank Dell. Was their an illegal shift? I suppose so if you look at the letter of the law. Did it really impact the play? No. To be perfectly fair, they called one on Jacksonville too and it was just as inane although it didn’t have nearly the same impact on the game.
The series for the Jaguars second half touchdown was absolutely ridiculous. I haven’t seen an officiated drive that pathetic since the LSU/Texas A&M game several years ago that went to what seemed like 12 overtimes. In regulation the Tigers won about four times only to have the refs run in and say, “no, no, no, no no, we can’t let that happen.” That’s what happened this time too. Am I wearing Battle Red colored glasses? Maybe. However, whatever contact was being made did not impact the play. That’s kind of the whole point.
Rules should be in place and enforced for one of two reasons. Either you want to promote player safety or you want to penalize a team when they do something illegal that gives them an advantage. When a lineman holds a linebacker because he is about to kill the quarterback that should be flagged. When a corner mauls a receiver before he can catch the ball that should be flagged. If a young kid does a celebratory dance because he got in the end zone you just need to let it be. He may never get there again. If two players accidentally move at the same time well before the snap who has really been hurt? If a lineman accidentally lines up two feet behind the line then what in the heck are we doing flagging that? Let the players play. Let them have fun. Let us have fun watching them. We aren’t there to watch men and women in black and white. We are there to watch the players wearing the uniform with color. Let us watch them.
The statistics will say otherwise, but this was C.J. Stroud’s best game. Sure, he made a few bad throws and made some bad decisions with the ball. He was under duress for the whole game. He used his legs more today than in any other game. Most fantasy projections had him gaining about 150 yards on the ground and scoring one touchdown. He has now surpassed 100 yards rushing and three touchdowns and there are six games left.
More importantly, this was a game without any turnovers. That’s remarkable given the number of times he was running for his life. More to the point, I can’t remember a single turnover worthy throw. Unfortunately, his MVP chances dwindle every time the Texans lose. He could throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns and if they lose he becomes an outcast in that conversation. However, he has taken one more step to the Rookie of the Year award. He is also learning and he shows it every game.