It’s weird how we learn more about success and failure in defeat than we do in victory. The Houston Texans defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 37-17 on Sunday, but it is hard to see how the Texans could repeat that result again if they tried. Victory is often that way. It involves lucky breaks and bounces that you simply can’t account for. Andrew Beck might not have a moment in his life like that ever again, but it happened this Sunday and that is what matters.
Still, when we look at the numbers we can see some things that point to victory. It is these things that coaches harp on because it is those things that can move from vacationing in January to sticking around and joining the other elite teams in the playoffs. The Texans got a taste of that on Sunday.
Inside the Numbers
Yards per play:
Time of Possession:
The Texans lost that game in nearly every category. The only significant category they won was the turnover battle. When teams are +2 or more in a game their record improves dramatically. While the official count was two, the Will Anderson block on the field goal served as a de facto turnover. So, the count was really +3. That was the difference in the game.
C.J. Stroud was brilliant again and more importantly was markedly better than he was in the first two games. He threw for a higher percentage than the first two games and did not take any costly sacks. It was also the first game without a turnover. Some of that was on the game, some of it was on the offensive line, and some of it was all about Stroud. The connections with Tank Dell in particular were beyond encouraging. We haven’t seen a better deep ball from a quarterback in at least a decade.
Obviously, no effort is perfect. There were still an odd throw here and there that could have been picked off. The encouraging thing is that Stroud makes these mistakes once and only once. They will go to the film room and work on those things because the next opponent is much better defensively.
The Jaguars moved the ball at will. When a team gains over 400 yards they have mastered your defense. The Jags just couldn’t score points. They shot themselves in the foot repeatedly on Sunday. It’s okay, we are used to that from them and that is particularly true in Jacksonville. However, most of the guys that were out will be out again on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers typically don’t make as many mistakes.
The run defense is still a concern. the Jags averaged exactly four yards a carry on Sunday, so the lack of rushing yards was really a function of them being behind. If it had been a close game they likely would have cleared 150 yards on the ground. That puts the Texans squarely back in 2022 territory.
As bad as the Texans run defense is, their rushing offense is worse. They had a little more than three yards per carry. If you remove the Stroud scampers then it was under three yards per carry from the backs. Everyone is asking what is wrong with Dameon Pierce. The first carry on the last touchdown drive is a microcosm of the whole season. He needed to break close to ten tackles to gain two yards. Any other back in the league would have lost three yards on that carry.
There have been teams that have won games without a viable rushing attack. The Chiefs aren’t exactly a smash mouth football team. They also have the best quarterback in football. As good as Stroud has been, he isn’t quite there yet. This team will not consistently move the ball until they get this figured out.
Sunday’s game is a game Davis Mills would not have won. The team couldn’t move the ball on the ground and the offensive line had only one healthy lineman. It was a game everyone on the masthead had penciled into the loss column. Going back I would have made the same prediction given the information available. The Texans really had no business winning that game based on the talent level on the field.
Those are the kinds of games that franchise quarterbacks win. Those are the kinds of games that earn them the 40+ million per season contracts. If they have the ability to take lesser talent and win with it then you can afford to pay them the ridiculous contracts. Neither Bryce Young nor Anthony Richardson played on Sunday. So, the rookie comparison is beginning to look kind of lopsided.
C.J. Stroud— 906 yards, 64.5%, four TD, zero INT, 98.0 rating, 35 rushing, zero TD
Anthony Richardson— 279 yards, 63.8%, one TD, one INT, 78.2 rating, 75 rushing, three TD
Bryce Young— 299 yards, 59.2%, two TD, two INT, 66.6 rating, 51 rushing, zero TD
Being the best rookie is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Eventually, you get compared with all the guys that have been doing it for awhile. That’s the next step for Stroud, but for now we can bask in the glow of the early returns. The Texans got the right guy for once.