Two weeks ago, the Houston Texans were without QB C.J. Stroud, WR Nico Collins, WR Tank Dell, and OT George Fant. Who stepped up? None other than WR Noah Brown. Racking up eight receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown, Brown scorched a Tennessee Titans defense en route to a 19-16 overtime victory.
After five years in Dallas in a rotational role, Brown found a more productive position within the Texans offense. He surpassed his yardage total in his only nine games this season, compared to his last-and-best season with the Dallas Cowboys (559 vs 555 yards). He also only needs one more score to tie his career-high three TDs in a season. From an efficiency standpoint, Brown is having the best season of his career with an average of 17.5 yards per catch.
Within the offense, Brown has developed into a middle of the field pipeline for quick yardage. According to ESPN, 23 of his 32 catches on the season have been between the two red zones. Of that 23, 14 catches occurred between the Texans 21-50. Brown isn’t Houston’s reliable bedrock of the offense, but rather the spark plug to get the offensive engine going.
Particularly, quarterbacks Stroud and Case Keenum have also utilized Brown as the accelerator when the team is behind. 18 catches and his two TDs on the season have occurred when the Texans were trailing.
Texans tied with the Titans late 4th quarter after Case Keenum hits Noah Brown for the touchdown.— Mark Berman (@MarkBerman_) December 17, 2023
Houston will have both Stroud and Collins active and ready to go for Sunday’s matchup, but the need for an explosive performance from Brown remains.
With the Titans eliminated from playoff contention and mounting injured reserve list, Brown faces an injured opponent in CB Sean Murphy-Bunting in the secondary. Murphy-Bunting missed last week’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks with combined knee-hip-back injuries. He’s hoping to get back to the field against the Texans where he’d face off against Brown as the second wide receiver.
When Brown last played the Titans, he had one of his better games of the season. Based on his Next Gen Stats route chart, Brown was able to attack the Titans all over the field.
In particular, the Texans utilized him in the flats to unlock the Titans defense with his speed. His most effective plays appears to be down the middle of the field where he caught one touchdown and broke out for two 20+ yard receptions.
Brown remains questionable heading into Sunday’s matchup as he manages a lingering knee injury. The same injury kept him out of Weeks 11 and 12 after he exploded the two weeks prior for 153 yards and 173 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals respectively. He hasn’t been the same since returning, netting only 120 yards over a four game stretch.
The combination of an injured Titans defense with nothing to play for plus the return of C.J. Stroud could equal pay dirt for Brown in a must-win game to remain in the playoff hunt.