Tom Savage = Difference Maker
In a game where the Texans offense once again looked as though it was blindly searching for answers, Tom Savage infused some life into the unit. Throwing for 260 yards with no turnovers while completing nearly 64% of his passes, the offense was able to move the ball with ease through the air while Savage was in control.
From the 0-9 yard range, Savage completed 71.4% of his passes and threw for 158 yards, helping DeAndre Hopkins regain his difference-maker form.
Savage targeted Hopkins 14 times and completed 8 of them for 87 yards. Additionally, Hopkins had a drop in the end zone on a play action pass on which Hopkins had Jalen Ramsey beat after he got his hands on the football, only to have the ball pop loose when he hit the ground.
The offense put together 9 drives with Savage running the show, including 5 scoring drives (4 FGs | 1TD) and 5 drives for over 40 yards and 8+ plays. It was one of the best games the offense has had this season.
There was no Turning Back
As much as it needed to happen, Bill O’Brien risked the season and put it in Tom Savage’s hands. If Savage would have faltered, the season would have been at a loss. A calculated risk, especially in a must win game for the Texans, the move was not only about this season but a survival move for Bill O’Brien’s tenure as the Texans head coach.
Bob McNair made it clear that the decision to move from Brock Osweiler to Savage was O’Brien’s decision.
“I’m just glad I wasn’t the one that had to make that decision,” said McNair after the game. “I mean, that was a gutsy call. Give Coach (Bill O’Brien) credit. He made a change and it was for the good of the team. We benefited from it.”
In which direction the Texans go against the Cincinnati Bengals is yet to be seen but it falls in O’Brien’s hands to make the right choice again.
Jadeveon Clowney a Difference Maker in the End
5 total tackles, 1 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hits, a pass deflection, and multiple quarterback pressures resulted in a solid day at the office for Jadeveon Clowney.
With help from Brennan Scarlett and Antonio Smith doing the dirty work on pass rushing stunts to open up lanes for Clowney to go to work, Clowney took notice of how in sync the defense is in right now.
“I’m just trying to fit in where I fit on the defense. Coaches are dialing it up,” stated Clowney. “Just trying to go out there and make as many plays as possible.”
Clowney has set a career high in sacks this season with 5, and raised his season total to 15 tackles for loss. His presence continues to grow week-to-week and it is becoming clear he is a game wrecker when needed.
“I’ve been trying to stay healthy, keep fighting. In this team I got my guys who got my back, and we go out there and fight,” Clowney explained.
Quick Notes Game Notes
Brennan Scarlett proved to be activated from the injured reserve at the right time. With no Whitney Mercilus, Scarlett moved into the edge role opposite of Clowney and put together a solid game. With 4 total tackles and running well-designed stunts up front to free up other players to make plays in pas situations, Scarlett contributed immediately.
It was a rough day for the Texans running backs. The group had 3 fumbles with 2 by Akeem Hunt and another by Alfred Blue, helping create a rough start for the offense. When adding in the two interceptions from Osweiler, the offense was its own worst enemy early on the day.
Nick Novak was dealing with back spasms all game but came up big, going 4 of 4 on field goal attempts with makes from 27, 39, 43 and 45. Over the past two games, Novak is 9 of 9 and helping an offense trying to put points on the board. Novak is tied for the league lead with field goals made at 36.
The Texans special teams continue to be a mess. Giving up a 100-yard kick off return to Marqise Lee did not help the cause. A miscommunication between Will Fuller V and Wendall Williams resulted in the ball hitting the ground. The mistakes were only a couple but they were large and almost caused a loss for the Texans.
Ryan Griffin picked up the passing game with C.J. Fiedorowicz out, catching 8 passes on 8 targets for 85 yards. He caused some issues in the middle of the field for the Jaguars defense and he proved to be a good safety blanket for Savage to do damage in the middle of the field.
The growth of D.J. Reader, Joel Heath, Christian Covington, and Ufomba Kamalu is making a difference. As young players on the team, they are getting the experience needed on the field to hold their own and it is paying off for the run defense. A group that was in question earlier in the season is now coming together.
Benardrick McKinney is the second Texans defender to total over 100 tackles and 5 sacks in a single season. McKinney is becoming the linchpin for the the defensive unit and his ability to rush the passer has become his best attribute this season. The Texans try and keep McKinney out of coverage, using him as another pass rusher with John Simon and J.J. Watt not playing, and he has helped a front looking for extra pass rush.
Robert Nelson and A.J. Bouye provided some solid coverage against a pass-happy Jaguars offense. In coverage, the two were targeted a combined 9 times, only allowing 2 completions for 20 yards. Bouye did have two penalties called on him but the two had strong games in coverage. Kareem Jackson had 4 targets his direction and gave up 1 reception for 2 yards. The Texans cornerbacks only gave up 3 completions for just over 7 yards.