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.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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