Texans-Broncos observations

The good, bad and ugly from the Texans win over the Broncos

Demaryius Thomas had an impact in his debut. Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

With their five game win streak on the line, the Texans beat the Broncos 19-17. They were helped greatly at the end of the game yet again. Here’s how I saw it:

The Good

-Newly acquired receiver Demaryius Thomas got going early against his former team. On the first drive, he had two catches for 49 yards. The drive ended with a Jordan Thomas seven yard touchdown, the team’s first opening drive touchdown all season.

-Deshaun Watson looked really good today playing in the thin Denver air while still fighting through his lung/rib injury. He was 17 of 24 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He chipped in 38 yards rushing as well.   

-Rookie safety Justin Reid came up with a fumble recovery in the second quarter that led to the team’s second touchdown. It’s his second straight game with a turnover. The rookie is paying dividends and making teams wonder how’d he slip to the third round.

The Bad

-Missed tackles continue to plague this defense. Tyrann Mathieu, Shareece Wright, and Natrell Jamerson all missed tackles that led to first downs. Kareem Jackson is the only sure tackler in the secondary. That’s a scary thought considering his slight frame and tendency to throw his body at guys when tackling.

- Injuries to the linebacking corps have depleted an already bad group in coverage as 58 of the 87 yards on the Broncos’ first touchdown drive came on two plays to their tight ends being covered or a blown coverage by Texan linebackers.

-Ka’imi Fairbairn missed his first extra point all season. This was another play/scoring chance that almost cost them the game. Let’s hope it’s not a sign of things to come. We’ve seen kickers miss easy kicks and get the yips.

The Ugly

-The failed fourth and one attempt in the second quarter while in field goal range took almost guaranteed points off the board. Scoring and play calling in the “red area” has been an issue all season.

-The 18 yard completion on fourth and eight at the end of the game nearly cost them. It put the Broncos in field goal range and could have spelled the end of the win streak.

-Mathieu got called for illegal use of the helmet right before halftime. The receiver started lowering his head as Mathieu went for the tackle. If they wanted to call contact to a defenseless receiver I wouldn’t have disagreed. The sheer absurdity and frequency of these calls is taking away from the game. Defenders are scared to make plays for fear of penalty. After the Hugo Cruz firing, refs are making preemptive calls. Something has to be done NOW!

Despite missing more scoring opportunities and continually shooting themselves in the foot, the Texans held on to their win streak by the thinnest of margins again. This team is well on their way to winning a bad division and making the playoffs. But they have got to fix the brain farts in key situations or else their playoff run will be short-lived. For now, fans should celebrate one of the longest win streaks after an 0-3 start in NFL history.

 

J.J. Watt is headed for illustrious but strange company

Maximize opportunity before Watt gets wasted

Houstontexans.com

Thursday the reality of what J.J. Watt is facing really hit me. The Houston Chronicle reported Watt had a minor offseason knee surgery. The last three years prove he's far from immortal, though the once incredible career is back on track. For how long, no one knows. Then I finally realized it.

J.J. Watt is on pace to be the greatest defensive player to never play for a conference championship or a Super Bowl.

I started digging into the lists of the all-time great defenders and the best pass rushers in the game's history. Most of the players who would easily be considered a great on defense have at the very least won a Lombardi. If they haven't won the big trophy they've either played or been one game away.

Two names stick out on the all-time greats list. Deacon Jones played three postseason games all in the divisional round. Dick Butkus never played in the postseason. You have to go to 24th all-time in sacks, Pat Swilling with 107.5, to find a sack leader who hasn't at least played in a conference championship or better.

It's a line on almost every great's resume and Watt's missing it.

Watt's only 30 sacks away from the top 20 in career sacks. His three defensive player of the year awards in four years cemented an era of dominance rarely matched in NFL history. He will put on the gold jacket one day. It would be bittersweet to find himself among those greats having never played in a game with that level of importance.

Unless he plays in one.

Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien can't mess this up or they will be accessories to a sports crime: cementing Watt's place as the all-time great without a huge game to his name. The Texans enter one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. They have to find a way to protect Deshaun Watson as he's the key to making sure Watt's schedule pushes beyond 16 games each year. It's no easy task, but go do it. Make the defense's job just a little easier with some powerful offense.

Give Watt and company just a second more too with better secondary play. Help him out with a better pass rush next to him and not just opposite him. There's so many things the Texans have to get right with their massive cap space and three picks in the top two rounds.

It won't all be Gaine and O'Brien's fault if they don't do it, however they have a chance, with Watson and the rest of this team, to make sure a truly significant game appears on the schedule for Watt. Just one conference championship appearance, then, who knows. Maybe the big one and the Lombardi trophy.

Now here's a thought that will shake all Texans fans.

If the Texans don't nail it this offseason and show the next few seasons they're not legit threats, maybe Watt fills the hole in his distinguished career elsewhere. Reggie White left in his 30's. DeMarcus Ware found glory with the Broncos after a long Cowboys career. It isn't unheard of to see one franchise's legend don another team's colors.

I'm not sure what would hurt Texans fans more. Knowing Watt never played in the biggest games with the Texans or seeing him get to one of those games with another team. It's the hope neither of those things happen. There are almost never happy endings in football, but Watt's story deserves one or more of those chapters.

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