Before, we get into the nitty and gritty of the numbers and the observations from Sunday, we need to go into some general platitudes on the game itself. The nature of good, bad, and ugly is that two of those are negative. Sunday may have been the gutsiest victory in franchise history. We know it is the only one they have won without a kicker. Dare Ogunbowale somehow kicked a 29 yarder through. This game will be about C.J. Stroud as well as it should, but they don’t win the game without that field goal.
Additionally, they were without their starting center, starting running back, one of their starting receivers, and two of their three primary safeties. They also lost one of their defensive tackles over the course of the game and a second wide receiver. I’m probably missing someone, but that’s kind of the point. Whatever else gets said from here on out, we at BRB want to tip our cap to DeMeco Ryans and this coaching staff for coaxing a win out of this game.
Time of Possession
As per usual, we recommend trying out the Hair of the Dog feature we do every week. We chart our thoughts on the game in real time. Two things punctuated this one throughout. First, we noted that the Texans cannot run the football. We will get to that later. The second is that we didn’t watch the game to watch a bunch of middle aged me throw yellow flags. 200 yards in penalties is ridiculous. Who knows if that impacted the final outcome, but it is certainly stupid either way.
Calling C.J. Stroud good is an understatement. We will get to him later. The good goes to the coaching staff. Ryans and the coordinators made do with what they had. As much as I groused about the running game (and there will be much grousing) they only ran the ball 17 times. They virtually abandoned it in the second half. The last two defensive drives were rough, but they stopped the Bucs for much of the third quarter and that allowed them to get back into the game.
Someone once said that you should not ignore in victory what you would not ignore in defeat. This is four games in a row that they have had a lead in the fourth quarter and simply needed a stop to win the game. They managed to do it against New Orleans, but that was it. This final drive was punctuated with poor tackling and penalties. Granted, those officials inserted themselves into a game when they didn’t need to and no one watching wanted them to. Still, when you have third and long you have to find a way to get off the field and there were too many instances where they didn’t.
53 yards doesn’t tell the real story. Only three yards a carry doesn’t tell the real story. 24 of those 53 yards came from wide receiver runs or Stroud scrambles. In a weird box score glitch that is listed as three carries. Somehow Stroud gained ten yards without a single carry. Maybe it was a rounding error. So, the basic math tells me they gained 29 yards on 14 carries. Again, my crack math skills tell me that is essentially two yards a carry. That’s pathetic.
I don’t care who is running the ball. At least we can’t blame Dameon Pierce for that effort. My guess is that Walter Payton and Barry Sanders would have done better, but they wouldn’t have looked like their Hall of Fame selves running behind that line. Yes, you had your fourth or fifth string center in there. Tytus Howard is playing out of position yet again and goodness knows what else is going on. Sooner or later you come to the realization that running on first down is just a waste of time. You might as well signal to the official scorer that you are just starting on second and 10. It would save the rest of us a lot of time.
There are jet sweeps, draw plays, and reverses you can try. You can try short passes on first down and then maybe try to get the first down on short yardage like second and two or second and three. At least then you would have a short pass to fall back on if the defense blows up yet another running play. I get that some situations call for massaging the clock. I get that you literally can’t pass every play. I get all of this. What I don’t get it trying the same thing over and over again and just throwing up your hands. It’s like watching a toddler whack on the square peg and just not getting why it won’t go in the round hole.
I’m not even going to start with the numbers. This game is about more than numbers. This was an imperfect game with a ton of baggage attached. I discussed some of that baggage above. Franchise quarterbacks win these games. They figure out a way to get it done. The numbers may or may not be pretty. The point is that they make the plays when they have to make them. Stroud had one of those games on Sunday. He isn’t a franchise quarterback yet. He has to do this over and over again. Still, this is one of those games people will point to when they ask about when he became THAT guy.
Stroud: 2,270 yards, 62.0%, 14 TD, 1 INT, 102.9 QBR, 78 yards rushing, one TD
If it looks like duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck then it is probably a duck. Stroud has most of the characteristics of a franchise quarterback. He doesn’t have the scrambling ability of some of the other franchise guys, but the rest of it is there. Sure, the completion percentage is low, but the 8.1 yards per attempt is near the top of the league. If nothing else positive happens this year, the Texans can bask in the glow of knowing they have found their guy.