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Red Zone Play: The Good, The Sad, and the Facepalm

The Houston Texans’ performance against the New England Patriots was surprising in many ways.

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With so much hope and anticipation for the first game of the season rolling into kickoff, it was almost hard to believe what unfolded on the field at Gillette Stadium last Sunday. It was as if everything we’re used to seeing go wrong went right, and what was expected to go right barely went at all.

The Good:

Tyler Ervin. Really hard to believe I’m not typing in “The Twilight Zone” when I say he was really solid. Ervin had a 31.2 yard kickoff return average, which might just be a record for Houston in a single game since Bill O’Brien took over. And never once did Ervin put the ball on the ground. Beyond that, he had good blocking and followed it well. Sure, he didn’t break one, but against a less disciplined coverage team, it probably would have happened.

Rookie tight ends. The Jordan Twins looked ready to go in the passing game. Give Deshaun Watson and these two some more time to develop chemistry and we may be looking at the first truly weaponized tight end unit in the Bill O’Brien era. Once Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee are back to take the top off the defense, Watson may have so many choices that no defense can cover them all.

The Honey Badger is firing live rounds. I don’t know about you, but if this is what we can expect from Tyrann Mathieu, he’s already the greatest safety in Texans history. When you make statements like that after one game, imagine what it might be like after a few seasons.

The run game. Despite the heart-sinking first hand-off of the game landing on the turf, Houston’s run game looked pretty solid. Lamar Miller put up 98 yards, and if Bill O’Brien hadn’t gotten away from Houston’s identity as a run team, Miller and Alfred Blue might just have hammered the New England defense enough for the passing game to get moving as well.

The Sad:

The team looked totally unprepared to play ball when they came out for the first half. Deshaun Watson seemed nervous and a lot of the other players seemed to be sleepwalking. This is on Bill O’Brien. It’s his job to have a solid game plan and make sure his players are at a level to execute it. Running the same offensive play twice in a row to start the game was a head-scratcher, and the consistent inability or refusal to play to Houston’s strengths even more so.

I wondered at first if O’Brien was just playing poker to undermine Bill Belichick’s nigh superhuman ability to make halftime adjustments, but in the end it just seemed like another game where O’Brien was simply outcoached. It’s way too early to call for his head on a pike (even though I’m sure that’s already happening somewhere), but the reality is none of Belichick’s coaching tree has gone on to be anything other than subpar.

The Facepalm:

The very first snap hitting the turf. If Watson had been able to keep the ball and take it for a big gain, who knows what it might have done to the team’s energy level? But watching it get recovered by New England had to have been demoralizing to the rest of the Texans from the jump.

The Rob Gronkowski non-catch. It wouldn’t be a game in New England without some controversial “the refs screwed up” call.

Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros getting hosed the same day by another officiating crew. Any Boston natives living in the Houston area might want to lay low for a while after that one.

What did you think went right? What went wrong? What were your two or three most unbelievable moments from the season opener?