Brian Cushing has an MCL Tear
The time table is set to a 4-6 week recovery for a MCL tear in Brian Cushing’s right knee. He was leg whipped on the first defensive play of the game and later in that drive, he was cut by a Bears offensive lineman on the same knee, which clearly bothered him. He played the remainder of the drive, 11 plays, on the knee with issues. It was clear he was not right and when looked at by team doctors, his body language made it seem like it was the worst news possible. Either way, the Texans have to find a way to get through this stretch without Cushing by utilizing Max Bullough, Benardrick McKinney, and Akeem Dent.
Bill O’Brien was clear what Cushing means to the team, “Any time you lose, basically, the heart and soul of your team – Brian is a heart and soul-type of player. I’m not sure how long he’ll be out. We’ll find out tomorrow. But hopefully he’ll be back at some point.”
J.J. Watt Knocking the Rust Off
It was clear that J.J. Watt is working to get back into shape and he was slowly returning to form as the game went on. He was close to to notching a sack but he did have three quarterback hits and one tackle.
“Physically, my body feels fine,” explained Watt. “I just need to get back into totally being myself out there and trusting my body and letting my body take over and do what it knows how to do. I have to stop thinking so much.”
The Bears still kept an eye on Watt and made sure he was accounted for, sending two to three offensive players his direction to slow him. Watt was working to get better against the run during the game but he was having some issues anchoring during those plays. Things evened out some when the team moved him to the edges and he was able to create some space to work.
“I’m knocking some rust off. I’m knocking a little bit of rust off. I think as we move forward here, I’ll start to feel fully like myself again, but there’s definitely some things I wish I could’ve done differently today.”
Whitney Mercilus Continues His Rise
Leading the team with two sacks, Whitney Mercilus has become a quarterback sacking machine.
In his last three games, including the wildcard game, he has 8.5 sacks.
During his last 12 regular season games, he has 14 sacks.
In Mercilus' last 13 games played (including the wildcard game), he has 17 sacks.
“Whitney, over the three years that we’ve been here, going into our third year here now, he’s a guy that has really improved every single year,” said O’Brien. “He’s coached really well by Mike Vrabel. They have a great relationship. Mike drives him very hard and I think he really likes that. He’s ended up adding moves to his pass rush repertoire, I think he’s done a good job against the run and he’s a team guy.”
Will Fuller Answers the Call
Will Fuller V’s best attribute is answering the call after something not-so-good occurs. He showed it in the preseason and he did it again on Sunday after dropping what would have been an 80-plus yard touchdown reception. Fuller, after that, put up four receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown with 38 yards coming after the catch. He is adding a dynamic of catch and run to the Texans that has not been seen in some time.
“The one thing I know about Will, having known him for a while, he’s a very resilient guy,” said O’Brien about Fuller’s nature.
Fuller said it was his teammates who helped pick him back up after the crucial drop. “I tried to forget about it. My teammates told me to forget about it. I tried my best to forget about it and go out there and help my team win.”
Brock Osweiler liked how his young target responded, “The thing I love about Will in that situation is he came back in the second half and made a couple big plays for us.”
DeAndre Hopkins even took notice of Fuller. “I expect that out of him. He dropped one, and all the guys told him to keep his head up because he was going to come through for us big, and he did.”
Texans Tight Ends Show Up
The tight end group continued to be a collective positive in the passing game. The group was targeted seven times and they had 6 receptions for 48 yards, with rookie Stephen Anderson grabbing 3 receptions for 25 yards. They need to tighten up their run blocking but, as a group, they were productive when needed and will continue to be a three pronged group utilized in match up situations.
Special Teams Unit a Plus
It has been some time since the Texans special team unit was a solid group. There was one mistake when the punt coverage team gave up 31 yard return to Eddie Royal. After that, they locked down the coverage led by Alfred Blue, Charles James and Brian Peters, who all had two special teams tackles apiece.
Tyler Ervin averaged 24.3 yards a kick return and 9.7 yards a punt return. Shane Lechler averaged 48.6 yards a punt with a net of 40.6 yards and a key 58-yard punt late in the game to flip the field position, pinning the Bears at their own 12-yard line. Add Nick Novak’s kickoffs, which allowed only one of six kickoffs to start outside the Bears own 25 yard line. Novak did have a field goal blocked but the ball snuck inside the uprights from 28 yards out.
Overall it was a solid day for the entire group.