A Quarterback Miracle
No one has a clue how it happened, but the Houston Texans have now lost three quarterbacks, within a two game span, in consecutive years. Ryan Fitzpatrick (broken leg, 2014), Tom Savage (knee, 2014) and now T.J. Yates (ACL, 2015) all suffered season ending injuries. Sunday in Indianapolis, Yates scrambled from the pocket, then planted and fell, immediately reaching for his knee. Put simply, this team has some of the worst luck when it comes to quarterback injuries.
With that said, the Texans had no choice but to turn to Brandon Weeden, who was claimed by the Texans off of waivers from the Dallas Cowboys. After spending a month learning the offense, this week Weeden took one singular team snap during practice: a run play.
With essentially zero time working with the offense on the practice field, Weeden was able to scratch together two scoring drives to give the Texans the separation needed to beat the Colts. He focused on getting the ball into DeAndre Hopkins hands and was 6 of 8 throwing the ball to him for 66 yards. Weeden completed 61.1% of his passes. For the cards that he was dealt, this was a major win for Weeden and he did enough to give the Texans the points needed to come out of Indianapolis with their first win there in the team's history.
Alfred Blue Answers the Call
Alfred Blue had a costly fumble on the second drive of the game but woke up in a big way with two significant carries, one for 10 yards and another for 41 yards, softening up the Colts defense. He averaged 16.3 yards per carry in the second quarter, which proved to be a a big response after the early fumble.
Sidelined by a back injury last week, Blue was a big reason why the Texans were able to pull out a win.
Late Change at Cornerback
Late in the 4th quarter the Texans opted to go with A.J. Bouye over Kevin Johnson and it proved to be a sneaky play. Bouye was targeted four times and gave up a reception for 21 yards in zone coverage, but the other three targets resulted in an incompletion, a broken up pass on third down, and an interception to ice the game.
Bouye has had few chances with Johnson taking his spot, but he came out on top with his play late.
Kareem Jackson Makes a Difference in the Run Game
The one thing Kareem Jacksonhas done his entire career is tackle at a high level and this past Sunday, he was a difference maker in the run game. What Jackson did, attacking downhill and taking out blockers so other teammates could make plays, will not be on the stat sheet.
Jackson played physically and had four total tackles, helping slow the Colts running game, forcing them to go to the air.
Texans Gave up the Inside
For some reason the Texans offensive line, tight ends, and wide receivers could not cut off inside penetration from the Colts defenders, which slowed the Texans run game. Kendall Lamm lined up at tight end plenty of times during the game and, off the line of scrimmage, he was not quick enough to cut off the inside. Duane Brown was beat inside more than once, Cecil Shorts IIII was called for a hold because he was beat so badly, and DeAndre Hopkins just let the cornerback covering him almost stop Blue on a key fourth down run.
It will be frustrating when film session starts on Monday, but it is something the Texans have to clean up to make things better offensively.
Whitney Mercilus Continues To Play At High Level
The stat sheet only says two total tackles, but Whitney Mercilus had two game changing plays in week 15. He had a sack on Matt Hasselbeck and also a big hit on him, knocking him out of the game for a short time. On the hit of Hasselbeck, Mercilus did a spin move to go untouched against two Colts offensive lineman to lay the hit. He continues to do what the coaches ask him to do: play the edge, the inside, and run stunts with others to get to the quarterback.
His unselfish play is not going unnoticed and it is helping the defense evolve over the season.
Rough Two Weeks for Newton
With four sacks given up over the past two games, including a sack resulting in a forced fumble on Sunday, Derek Newton has struggled in recent weeks. However, there could be an injury that has not yet been fully disclosed. Seeming to favor a knee and nurse an elbow injury, Newton was rotated out with Chris Clark on Sunday. This usually does not occur unless they are trying to maintain players and, in such a crucial game, it raises some question on the status of Newton.
J.J. Watt Being Monitored
The Texans are being smart on how they are using J.J. Watt. In all situations. Romeo Crennel continues to keep Watt away from the inside in nickel and dime situations on defense. Watt is playing fundamental football in base defense from his normal 3-4 defensive end spot and it has paid off with him eating up blockers. Watt is taking less chances on making splash plays because of his broken hand and he is trying to be sure on making plays.
He did take some chances getting upfield which resulted in some decent yardage plays for the Colts. The issue is not with Watt in the run game but, with the broken hand, he has lost some effectiveness as a pass rusher. Lining up primarily over the right tackle, Watt is concentrating on rip moves with his good hand and trying to post up people with his club. His inability to grab offensive lineman to steer them is a big reason for his pass rushing numbers going down. Watt had two hurries and one quarterback hit on the day, showing just how important his hand game is to his overall success. Watt will have to continue to adjust to his broken hand.
Punt Coverage Issues
This was bad combination of inconsistent hang time from Shane Lechler’s punts and spotty coverage opening up some big lanes for the Colts return game. Four returns went for 16.8 yards a piece and a long of 33 yards. The Texans are trying to match up personnel with the active group they are taking to games. There have been too many missed initial tackles by gunners downfield giving returners too much room to get going.
It is a bad combination right now for the Texans.
Nick Novak has Limitations
There is no doubt Bill O’Brien was chasing points or, possibly a more accurate description, was desperate for points, attempting a 56-yard field goal with Nick Novak. Novak’s longest field goal made in his career was 53-yards in 2011, nearly four seasons ago.
Sure the Texans are trying to make things happen but in a field position game early, it was a poor choice to try that type of kick when Novak does not have that range.
The Game Changers
Here is a look at the plays that changed the tide for the Texans.
- Eddie Pleasant had a key pass breakup on Colby Fleener in the end zone.
- Caused fumble by Johnathan Joseph on Griff Whaelen.
- Jaelen Strong’s 15-yard catch that needed a review from the booth to count as a reception.
- Weeden’s 28 yard strike to DeAndre Hopkins on 3rd down. Hopkins had to fight for the ball.
- Alfred Blue’s 4th down one yard gain to extend the drive that resulted in Strong’s touchdown.