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Texans Notebook: Gameballs for the Wildcard Win, Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins Waking Up and More

Houston Texans Notebook: Wildcard Game Balls, the odd couple, Will Fuller staying steady and more.

The Odd Couple

Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins have been an odd couple for the Houston Texans in 2016 but on Saturday, they appeared to be on the same page for the first time in a long time. Catching 5 passes for 67 yards an a touchdown, Hopkins got back to his old ways of stretching the field, creating issues for secondaries, and making mind-numbing receptions. 

“Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) is a tremendous football player,” said Osweiler after the win over the Raiders. “Obviously, I’ve known that for a very long time. There’s certainly been some ups and downs as far as getting him the football throughout the course of the year. But I think the one thing that you were really able to see today was that Hop and I were on the same page.”

 Hopkins worked out of the slot, showing his ability to track the ball and tap two feet inbounds, the type of receptions that made him a one of the top weapons in the NFL over the past two seasons. “My coaches and Brock (Osweiler) trusted me to give me the ball,” said Hopkins of his day. “We knew we would get one where only I could get it. We saw some things in the red zone against these guys that we could take advantage of. We went out there and did it.”

Hopkins moved up in the post season record books for the Texans, moving into 4th all time in post season receptions and yards after his strong day against the Raiders. Over the past two weeks, Hopkins and Osweiler have been showing better continuity within the offense. In the past two games, Osweiler has targeted Hopkins 18 times, connecting 11 times for 183 yards and 1 touchdown. 

“He did a great job today. He held his composure the whole game, coming out starting off fast,” Hopkins said about Osweiler. 

Things are appearing more fluid between the two since Osweiler took over the quarterback duties after being benched. Osweiler is crediting the growth between the two to the continuing to learn the offense together. 

“We were on the same page because our coaches put together a great game plan,” Osweiler explained. “Hop and I were both very comfortable with it. We were both on the same page of what he was going to do versus certain coverages and anytime I can get the ball to Hop, I’m going to do it. That’s really what you saw today.”

Will Fuller Stays Grounded in the Biggest Game of the Year

Will Fuller V continues to be a much needed factor in the offense and getting him the football takes pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins in the passing game. Opening up a key scoring drive before the end of the half with a 19-yard reception on the first play of the drive off the arm of Brock Osweiler, Fuller was cool and collected in the Texans win in over the Oakland Raiders in the wildcard round. 

“Not for me. I just try to keep a steady head and treat it like any other game,” said Fuller of being nervous in his first playoff experience. 

“My first playoff game and we won,” said Fuller of the Texans strong performance. “I am pretty happy about that.”

The offense slowly broke out of a season long funk in the first half against the Raiders and he credited Osweiler for getting DeAndre Hopkins and himself going through the air. Getting Hopkins and Fuller the ball vertically in space proved to be enough to open up the offense against Raiders and score a season high 27 points. 

“I am very happy; we have to keep it going,.” explained Fuller of the offense’s performance under Osweiler. “It is only one game and I am looking forward to our next opponent.”

Jadeveon Clowney Needed Vince

Jadeveon Clowney provided one of the game-changing plays with his early interception of Connor Cook when he was trying to hit back Latavius Murray on a screen pass which the defense saw immediatley. Clowney was able to to deflect the pass twice to himself while falling down for the interception, but was disappointed he did not score. 

Clowney laughed about the situation, “Dude grabbed my foot and I was trying to kick him in the head and everything. I was mad. I was trying to,” said Clowney of his attempt to return the interception for a touchdown. 

“I told Vince (Wilfork) if he was in the game, I would have pitched it to him,” Clowney explained with a smile. “But I didn’t want to pitch it to anybody but Vince. I wanted to see the big man rumble for a touchdown.”

"Yeah, he should've scored. If I was on the field I would have taken the ball from him,” Wilfork said jokingly of the Clowney interception. 

Clowney mentioned after the game said this was his first interception since his senior season in high school but was quick to point out that he had 7 that season. 

Play of the Game

After Tyler Ervin had a 57-yard punt return negated due to a running into the kicker penalty by Whitney Mercilus, the Raiders re-kicked and this time, Ervin muffed the punt in the middle of the field. Luckily, Eddie Pleasant was in the area to one hand the bouncing ball and get a 12-yard return out of the potential disaster. With only a two possession lead at that point, Pleasant finding a way to maintain possession for the Texans in the middle of the field was a game saver.

Wildcard Game Balls

Chris Clark and Duane Brown

The offensive line held the Oakland Raiders pass rush to 0 quarterback hits and 0 sacks on Saturday. Chris Clark did have a holding call late in the first half but overall, it was one of his cleanest games since becoming the starting right tackle due to injury. Duane Brown continues to do what he does but, over the past month of the season, pass protection off the edges have been an issue. Brown and Clark took a step in the right direction in the most important game to this point of the season. 

Shane Lechler

Shane Lechler had 9 total punts on the day, with 4 landing inside the 20, and 3 of those on the Raiders 11-yard line or less. Pinning an already deficient Raiders offense back, Lechler proved to be a difference maker, especially against the punter with whom the Raiders chose to replace him, Marquette King. 

Brock Osweiler

His first half of football was Brock Osweiler's best stretch since arriving to Houston. Going 12 of 18 for 146 yards and a touchdown, Osweiler completed 66.6% of his passes, a monumental achievement compared to the way he played during the regular season. With no turnovers throughout the game, Osweiler controlled the game early and did not put the Texans in bad spots. The Texans played conservatively in the second half and only had Osweiler throw 7 times. He did what he was supposed to do to help notch the win for the Texans. 

Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus 

The combination of the two edge players created issues for the Raiders all game. The Raiders could not figure out to double team Whitney Mercilus or Jadeveon Clowney throughout the contest and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel drew up a smart game plan. Mercilus ended the game with 7 total tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, and 2 quarterback hits, while Clowney had his pivotal interception, setting the tone, putting the Texans in business early in the first half. 

A.J. Bouye

A.J. Bouye shut down one side of the field and and gave up 1 reception on 9 targets for 1 yard. He had 4 pass deflections and an interception to ice the game for the Texans late. Bouye slowed Amari Cooper and gave Connor Cook only one option in the passing game, continuing to do what he has all season. Consistent high end play from Bouye is helping the Texans win games week to week. 

Related Articles: Jonathan Grimes Proves Vital for the Texans | Don Jones Likes the Winning Ways of the Texans | Corey Moore Continues to Make Strides

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