Rebuilding a franchise never occurs in a straight line. There are bumps, turns, and sudden stalls along the way. There are also glimmers of hope where there might not be when looking at only the overall result. The Houston Texans lost 31-20 on Sunday. In some respects, the game was closer than you think. In other respects it was a bigger blowout than some might think.
We begin this edition the same way we begin all of them. We look at the overall numbers to see if somehow we can get an idea of where this team is at and what they need to do to improve. Answers begin to happen in the aggregate as we now have multiple games under our belt.
Yards Per Play:
Time of Possession:
You would think the score would be a lot closer based on how these numbers turned out. A large part of that is execution in the red zone. The Texans got one red zone touchdown and two red zone field goals. They also botched a possession late in the game where a field goal would have put them within one possession. Give them those seven points (counting one field goal as a touchdown and converting the last field goal) and you are looking at a 31-27 game.
If we take a few steps back we realize this is all part of the maturation process. Stroud led two touchdown drives. He led zero in week one. The name of the game is growth and if he grows in each game the Texans will be a winning organization again. They may not be there yet. There clearly are some issues on both sides of the ball, but there is enough here to be upbeat about.
The good clearly came on the offensive side of the ball. Texans fans have been waiting patiently for Nico Collins to develop into a threat on offense. After two weeks the waiting might be over. Collins had seven catches for 146 yards and a score. He had six catches last week for 90 yards. So, that’s 13 catches for 236 yards and a score. He won’t keep up that pace, but he could be a 1000 yard receiver if he stays healthy
Tank Dell also had himself a day. He caught seven balls for 72 yards and a nifty touchdown in the fourth quarter. If wasn’t all roses and kisses as Dell got blown up on a sideline option play (Stagger Lee?) that didn’t go according to plan. There is room for growth here. However, if we have to pick a positive that positive has to be the passing game.
Picking between the bad and the ugly is a bit of a challenge. I might just have to flip a coin. The bad this week will be the offensive line. It was a rough day all the way around for the unit that was somehow missing both starting tackles, a starting center, and a starting guard. One regular lineup isn’t going to get it done, but since this is not a permanent problem it gets the nod as the mere bad.
Bobby Slowik promised more touches for Dameon Pierce and more touches he got. He rushed 15 times for 31 yards and caught two balls for four yards. Two yards per touch just isn’t going to get it done. 52 yards rushing on 26 carries as a team really isn’t going to get it done. Add in the six sacks and we can clearly see that this team desperately needs Tunsil, Tytus Howard, and Juice Scruggs back. Hold on for dear life, boys.
The numbers above tell the whole story, but you need to study them closely. It wasn’t the rushing or passing yards that killed the Texans. The Colts moved the ball at will until they didn’t have to. It was the number of yards per play. The run defense as a whole is better than it was last season. Considering the run defense was the worst the league had seen since 1972, it couldn’t help but get better.
It was the pass defense that was a killer. Gardner Minshew carved up the Texans like he was Johnny Unitas. The fact that they hardly ever got pressure on him was part of that. The other part was a secondary clearly playing with subpar players. Both starting safeties were out. Eric Murray left under the concussion protocol. It was a group of players that just couldn’t get it done.
Rating the Quarterbacks
The fans of this game were deprived of watching two very exciting quarterbacks duke it out in what will be a very entertaining series for seasons to come. Anthony Richardson as a pure thrower of the ball might leave some to be desired, but when you add in the affect of his legs you can see that the Colts could have a monster on their hands. Stroud isn’t that guy but he showed two weeks in a row that he is the best pure passer of the three rookies on top of the draft.
Bryce Young: 42/71, 59.2%, 299 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 66.6 Rating, 5 rushes, 51 yards
C.J. Stroud: 58/91, 63.7%, 626 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 91.2 Rating, 7 rushes, 21 yards
Anthony Richardson: 30/47, 63.8 279 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 78.2 Rating, 13 rushes, 76 yards, 3 TD
After two weeks you could claim that Anthony Richardson is the best quarterback so far from the 2023 NFL Draft. He has generated four scores with only one interception. Stroud has zero interceptions, but has lost two fumbles. Are they his fault? I suppose you could say he held the ball too long and maybe better ball security is an issue, but by and large he has played clean football so far on the season.
When you compare Stroud with the rest of the football universe you can see how far he needs to go. He might outrank more guys if he had a decent line in front of him. That has to be a part of the comparison. We will see how groups like Football Outsiders and Power Football Focus rank him later in the week. So far he looks like a middle of the road quarterback and that is a vast improvement over what we have watched the past two seasons.