Like many older Houston football fans, I already have two strikes against me. Venerable sports writers were reminding us of Buffalo when the team went up 38-14 in the third quarter. The fact that such warnings had legs shows you how damaged the fanbase is emotionally. The second strike personally comes as an ex-coach. Coaches are always programmed to fear the worst and never feel totally relaxed until the deed is done.
Yet, that was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The key is to keep things in perspective. This team is still playing with house money and they will be underdogs no matter who they go up against from here on out. By sheer definition that means we cannot expect victory. Still, the sins of the past are in the past. This is an entirely new team with a fresh group of players and coaches. They hold no ties with those Oilers and Houston Texans teams that burned us in the past. It’s morning in Houston and your Texans are one of the eight best teams in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns— 324
Houston Texans— 356
Time of Possession
There were only seven penalties in the game total. Surprisingly, no one missed the officials. It was a quick and clean game. In spite of their hardcore beliefs that they must insert themselves in every game, the officials actually weren’t missed. Since Roger Goodell was in attendance maybe he should take note of that.
Two pick sixes have a way of skewing the results and it is certainly gratifying to be on the positive end of one of these games for a change. The Texans offense really didn’t have to play in the second half, so a lot of these numbers don’t have the meaning they otherwise would. After all, they only ran 44 plays in the game.
We will get to the most important position on the field in due time, I don’t want to short-change the obvious here. However, this game really belonging to the defense. Yes, the two touchdown drives in the first half looked troublesome at the time, but this team put the clamps down on the Browns when they needed to and essentially played the Browns offense to a dead even tie on their own.
Christian Harris played his best game ever at the absolute right time and while Steven Nelson was burned on a few glaring plays in the first half, his pick six in the second half may have been the key to the entire game. If the Browns go down and score on that drive it becomes a one possession game and the Houston faithful all collectively say, “here we go again” as a game goes down to the wire yet again. That play put them on easy street and the Harris interception was just icing on the cake.
The total yards really don’t tell the story in he running game. Davis Mills plays mop up and had the kneel downs in victory formation so the numbers were actually a smooth 20 carries for 80 yards. My crack math skills say that’s four yards a carry. While those numbers won’t make anyone forget Walter Payton or Jim Brown, they are good enough to complement a passing attack that is becoming one of the best in the NFL.
Devin Singletary has already voiced his desire to come back and I can’t find a reason to tell him no. He has demonstrated an ability to run and catch passes out of the backfield. It is true that he needs a better complement than Dameon Pierce, but that is a problem for later. For now, he is good enough to keep defenses honest and that is all you can ask for when your quarterback is becoming elite before your very eyes.
You really have to search for something to complain about in a 45-14 romp, but Colin Cowherd of all people produced a stat I wasn’t aware of on his podcast. The Houston Texans are second in the NFL in dropped passes to the Kansas City Chiefs. Anyone that has watched a large sampling of Chiefs football knows how much of a lead they have in this category, but seeing plays like Dalton Schultz’s drop in the first quarter are somewhat concerning.
Again, we have to take this in some perspective. Nothing negative can really overshadow a 45-14 win. This is more of a file it away kind of deal. Whether the Texans match up against the Chiefs, Bills, or Ravens, they will not get as many opportunities for splash plays as they got on Saturday. So, they must convert them. This is includes the missed touchdown to Nico Collins in the second quarter. Whether that is on C.J. or Nico really doesn’t matter today. It is just an acknowledgment that they will likely have to be almost perfect to advance from here.
It might seem that the tone of this screed is way too somber for the occasion. That is probably universally attributed to my Houston football PTSD. My youth was littered with Oilers teams that seemingly could run circles around opponents but found ways to lose anyway. This team has nothing to do with those teams. More importantly, this quarterback has nothing to do with those quarterbacks. Whatever IT is, this quarterback seems to have IT.
Elite quarterbacks can overcome any multitude of sins and we have seen that in the NFL time and time again. The bad news is that the Texans will now match up against team(s) that have one of those guys. This just means they have a fighting chance and that is something they never really had with Matt Schaub or any of the cast of characters Bill O’Brien threw out that prior to Name Redacted 2.0. Stroud’s passer rating was perfect and he could have easily thrown for over 400 with four or five scores if he needed to. That was against the best passing offense in football. Past results are not a predictor of future ones. Any of the remaining teams in the AFC could theoretically shut him down like the Jets did earlier this year. He could also very well repeat the performance he had on Saturday. Either seems equally likely and that much is exciting for Texans fans.