Texans grind out 10th win of the season thanks to stellar play from J.J. Watt
During their nine-game winning streak, the Texans won a lot of ugly, grind it out games. Add Saturday's 29-22 victory over the Jets to the list.
The Texans were outplayed for much of the game and at times the Jets looked like the 9-4 team going in and the Texans appeared to be the 4-9 group. The Texans settled for too many field goals. They were gashed in the secondary (again). Deshaun Watson took too many sacks (again). The offensive line and Watson were terrible against the blitz (again).
But once again, the Texans found a way to win. Watson led a fourth quarter, game-winning drive and the Texans escaped.
While there is a lot to dislike about the win, the big picture numbers are impressive:
The Texans are now 31-1 with a halftime lead under Bill O'Brien. That is simply outstanding.
They have won 10 games under O'Brien for the first time. They sit 10-4 in the AFC.
They took another big step toward wrapping up the AFC South, and remain alive for a first-round bye if they can get some help elsewhere. But they will need to play better moving forward.
DeAndre Hopkins once again played like the best receiver in the NFL. He had 10 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. He limped off afterward, but appeared to be OK.
Lost in everything is the season J.J. Watt is having. Healthy for the first time in three years, he continues to play at a high level. Watt made plays early in the game - sacking Sam Darnold on the Jets first series and forcing a fumble that led to a touchdown - and constantly put pressure on the Jets. The only thing missing from his Player of the Year days is his stamina. He has been gassed many times this year, and was again against the Jets in the second half. But he came back with a huge sack in the fourth quarter. He finished with two sacks, the forced fumble, two tackles for loss and seven tackles overall.
They needed every bit of what he had to offer. Once again, the pass defense was terrible. Darnold looked terrific at times, completing 24 of 38 for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 35 yards. The secondary could not cover the Jets mediocre receivers.
Watson was good when it mattered, but held the ball too long on several instances and was sacked six times. The offense suffered when Lamar Miller went out early. Alfred Blue was awful, with only six yards on nine carries for a ridiculous 0.7 average. They were brutal on third down, going just 1 of 9. (The Jets were 9 of 16). The Jets outgained the Texans 318-286. They had more first downs (21-15) and dominated time of possession (35:04 to 24:56).
The Texans did not make good halftime adjustments, as the Jets defense dominated out of the break.
But the Texans also got some help from the Jets, who missed two extra points. Good teams win games when they are not at their best. The alarming thing is we have not seen the Texans at their best very often this year.
Watt, however, is playing his best. He now has 14.5 sacks and has forced six fumbles. He looks a lot like vintage Watt. He won't win Defensive Player of the Year, and likely would not finish in the top three. But he has been excellent.
They needed every bit of it on Saturday, on a day where they were not at their best. But they escaped with a win.