TEXANS 23, REDSKINS 21

Texans defense keeps win streak alive with victory over Redskins

Brennan Scarlet (57) made a big play. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Texans powered their way through turnovers and offensive struggles to win their seventh in a row, 23-21 on the road in Washington D.C. It looked like it would be all Houston early as they jumped to a 17-7 lead before the half, but the Redskins fought back and took a late lead. In the end, the defense made sure their team stayed on top of the division with a 7-3 record.

Defense was the name of the game today as the Texans and Redskins combined for five turnovers and only 598 yards of offense. The difference in the game was a 101-yard interception returned for a touchdown by standout rookie Justin Reid. That score gave the Texans a 17-7 lead on a day where Deshaun Watson was not playing the way the Texans have come to expect during their six-game winning streak. He finished the day with two interceptions and three sacks while throwing for 208 yards and a touchdown, completing 16 of 24 passes.

Houston still ran the ball well, even after injuries to interior linemen Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete early in the game. Lamar Miller averaged 4.3 yards per carry on his way to an 86-yard effort. Alfred Blue had another solid day backing him up with eight carries for 46 yards.

Keke Coutee had a good game in his return from injury, collecting five receptions for 77 yards, keeping pace with DeAndre Hopkins who had five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Rookie tight end Jordan Akins only had two receptions on the day for 42 yards, but it was his 28-yard catch and run on the Texans first drive that really got the offense started early.

Houston moved the ball 68 yards in 10 plays on the first drive but settled for a field goal at the five-yard line. They didn’t settle on their second drive as Watson connected with DeAndre Hopkins for the eighth time this season as the Texans took a 10-0 lead.

Washington cut into the lead with a touchdown run by Adrian Peterson and Watson followed with his first interception of the day but after both teams punted Alex Smith had his team back in the red zone. Justin Reid made sure that drive ended the Texans way by intercepting the ball in the end zone and running it back for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead. That play was the difference in the game because the second half defense by the Redskins stymied Houston and allowed only six points.

From the start, J.J. Watt and the Texans front seven applied constant pressure on Alex Smith. The defense finished the game with seven quarterback hits and five sacks. One of those sacks, a third quarter takedown by Kareem Jackson, resulted in a gruesome injury to Smith. The injury was listed as an ankle injury, but the replay looked much worse. Colt McCoy took over and led two touchdown drives to give the Redskins their first lead, and their first lead change in a game all season.

Through the air, the Texans pass defense made life difficult, breaking up eight passes and intercepting two of them. Houston might have scored on the second, a great one-handed grab by Brennan Scarlett that set his team up on the Washington 22-yard line. But Ka’imi Fairbairn missed his first field goal of the day. It was not his only one.

With 52 seconds left in the game and the Texans leading by only two points he had a chance to make it a five-point game when he badly booted a 45 yarder that never had a chance. That gave the Redskins one last chance to kick a game winner, which came up short from 63-yards.

Houston is still in control of the AFC South after another Jacksonville loss and the Colts beating up on the Titans to even each teams’ record to 5-5, two games back of the Texans. Next week Houston comes home to face the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. Houston lost the early season matchup to Tennessee and will need to keep the win streak rolling in a crucial divisional game.

 

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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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