One step forward...and six sacks back the Texans’ offense took against the Carolina Panthers in this past Sunday’s game. For the fourth week in a row, the Texans featured a different starter on the offensive line when Greg Mancz subbed in for the injured Zach Fulton.
From left to right, the Texans’ starting offensive line in Week 4 featured Laremy Tunsil, Max Scharping, Nick Martin, Greg Mancz, and Tytus Howard.
As you’ll see in the tape below, Howard took a shot to his elbow. Regardless of injury or substitution, Houston’s offensive line looked futile in the wake of the Panthers’ pass rush. Ron Rivera and Carolina’s defensive scheme were simple but highly effective. They took half of the Texans’ offensive line and overloaded it with fast pass rushers while containing Deshaun Watson’s scrambling with a safety in the box.
The Texans allowed Watson to be sacked six times for the second time in four games. There’s a lot to unpack here, so get your popcorn and embrace the pain.
Sack #11: Greg Mancz, Welcome to 2019
Houston’s first offensive series ended with back-to-back sacks. This is the first one. With an empty backfield and eight Panthers crowding the box, the Texans’ line is outnumbered, outschemed, and in outstanding trouble. Mancz is all alone on this play against Shaq Thompson, who coming into the game had just seven and a half sacks in his five NFL seasons.
The Panthers directly attack Mancz on this play. The defensive tackle to his outside shoulder shoots inside to rush center Nick Martin while Thompson replaces him in the blitz. Because of this Houdini trick the Panthers played on Mancz, he is off balance and gets tossed to the side for a major blow to the Texans’ first drive.
Sack #12. 3rd and 19 Doesn’t Pan Out
The words “here we go again” were probably uttered 50,000 times in NRG Stadium when Watson was sacked in back-to-back plays. I like Scharping’s form on this play, but that’s not why we are here. Mancz turned 2nd and 10 into 4th and 23 in a matter of seconds.
Yes, some blame should be allotted to Tytus Howard for his slow recovery to block the delayed blitz on the right side, but Mancz’s block is so bad that he deserves all of the credit/blame. This is a four man rush against five linemen and a chipping running back; a professional offensive line should win this 7/10 times. Unfortunately we live in a Stranger Things-esque upside-down world where the unlikely is more of a reality. Mancz loses his block here and Watson gets swallowed up trying to escape.
Sack #13: A Hesitant Watson Helps Carolina’s Defense
Trust your pocket and your pocket will trust you. I’m going to ignore the spiteful route running by Will Fuller here and focus on the pocket.
You cannot blame Tunsil for this sack. He’s flushed the defender out of the play. Though he is now behind the offense, on 8 out of 10 drop backs, Mario Addison is not a threat. This play belongs to Watson not making a quick decision, not staying in the pocket, and not keeping his composure.
Sack #14: More Texan-on-Texan Crime
Watson actually has a semi-solid pocket here before RB Carlos Hyde blatantly hurts Tytus Howard by crashing into his outstretched arms while trying to help him. It doesn't help that TE Jordan Akins gets bullied by a Panthers’ OLB, but the magician that is Watson would have escaped that pressure if Panthers’ CB Javien Elliott didn't have a free shot at the QB.
The more plays you watch, the more you will appreciate the Panthers’ pass rush scheme against the Texans. They opened up the playbook and confused the Texans. It doesn't help when our players are crashing into one another. Full credit goes to Carlos Hyde on this play, though Akins should be publicly shamed for his poor blocking.
Sack #15 Complementary Football at Its Finest
This is a coverage sack. Here’s the coverage—the Panthers tout six defensive backs in this instance. When you hear about the importance of gaining yards on first down, it’s to avoid the possibility of a defense getting into formations like this.
There wasn’t a moment where a wide receiver was open. There also wasn't a moment where the offensive line established a pocket for Watson.
Watson had the ball in his hands for 2.64 seconds. That’s certainly enough time to make a full set of reads, but he’s got enough time in the shotgun to fire off a decent throw. On 2nd and 10, Watson was looking for a short yardage play to get the Texans out of their own red zone. Instead, after this sack, the Texans were forced into a 3rd and 19. This is the blame game; if you watch the film, Mancz records his third allowed sack from a mighty bull rush.
We just can’t have nice things, can we?
Sack #16 An Avalanche of White, Silver, Blue, and Black
This is the most inept blocking moment of the day. The Texans are outnumbered and fail to realize it. Partial blame has to be called out on #74 Max Scharping, who is the guard on the right side of this image, but if he doesn’t block the man in front of him, the defender has a direct shot at Watson. Why don't the Texans run more blitzes like this?
Carolina called up a great defensive play. At the snap, Panthers’ safety Eric Reid flies into the backfield off the edge. He perfectly times Watson’s snap count. Luke Kuechly fills in for Reid by shifting left and covering TE Fells. #54 Shaq Thompson fakes a blitz, which forces the Texans’ line to respect his presence even though he isn't rushing. I’m giving this half to Darren Fells and half to Nick Martin. Fells gives zero support on this play. I don't know everything about the Texans’ offense, but there has to be an audible where Fells supports the pass blocking in this situation.
Join the club if you were demoralized after the Texans’ performance on Sunday. From a lackluster offense to a shaky defense to more terrible clock management, the Texans sputtered at home once again. In a single game, Mancz has climbed all the way to the infamous #1 spot on the Sack Tracker.
Welcome to the Sack Tracker, Carlos and Nick!
Greg “I Secretly Hate Deshaun Watson” Mancz: 3
Seantrel Henderson: 2
Laremy Tunsil: 2
Deshaun Watson: 2
Roderick Johnson: 1
Zach Fulton: 1
Senio Kelemete: 1
Tytus Howard: 1
Darren Fells: 1
Carlos Hyde: 1
Max Scharping: 0.5
Nick Martin: 0.5
Comment below with what we should call the Leader of the Sack Tracker in future editions.