FALCON POINTS

Texans grind out 10th win of the season thanks to stellar play from J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt again made big plays. Mark Brown/Getty Images

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.

Again.

Slow to make big moves hasn't equaled a drop in potential for Texans

Texans are better despite slow free agency

The Texans are better today than when the season ended. It isn't a huge improvement, and there is room for far more improvement, but they're better.

Despite some people's frustration with the Texans not making moves they really haven't missed out on much, the draft is where they will truly improve, and people aren't remembering how good, or bad, they were last season.

Tyrann Mathieu is not $20 million better than Tashaun Gipson. I don't even believe Mathieu was the right type of safety for the Texans. He was a mismatch problem on bigger players, specifically tight ends where Gipson thrives. Mathieu was the third best safety on the team last season not playing as well as Kareem Jackson when he was at safety or the total body of Justin Reid who impressed in his rookie season. While the leadership aspect can't be denied, the Texans praised repeatedly the locker room personality Mathieu brought, the team doesn't lack for leaders.

Gipson has had more success in recent years statistically than Mathieu and plays a different style. You'll notice far less tackles and no sacks to Gipson's stat line. He will be asked to cover more than Mathieu was and his success in recent seasons shows he can do that well. He hasn't had to clean up a lot of messes in the Jaguars secondary, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye held their own, his experience playing deep will hopefully help handle the lack of top talent at cornerback for the Texans.

Speaking of cornerback, if that is where Kareem Jackson was going to play for the Texans in 2019 then there is no loss whatsoever in seeing him leave. He was not good as a corner last year after a really solid start to the year as a safety. Bradley Roby is more physically gifted and took a prove-it deal to try to hit the market with more buzz than this year. I would have preferred Jackson sticking around as a safety but alas the Texans didn't seem to see his value there.

Wholesale changes on the offensive line did almost nothing to improve it last season so I am not sure why some fans and media have desired that again. Yes, they shouldn't have been outbid on Roger Saffold (Titans) by a division rival who has invested greatly in their offensive line. No, Trent Brown (Raiders) and his bloated contract wasn't the answer at left tackle. Matt Paradis is coming off a broken leg at the center spot though he would have been an upgrade at center.

It is clear help on the line is coming via the draft, a deep one along the line might I add. With three picks in the top two rounds there will be opportunities to find players to push Nick Martin, Senio Kelemete, and Julién Davenport and it isn't out of the question. Seantrell Henderson despite his new contract is pushed by a rookie as well. This is a fine plan as only Nick Martin was a top round pick of any of the Texans current offensive linemen.

Also, this team won 11 games last season. Don't let a disappointing playoff performance skew how this team played. Deshaun Watson is going to improve and that is the most important thing about this team. He won't take as many hits as he did last season with draft investment and improvement of players on the roster. The rookie tight ends have a year of seasoning under their belt. D'Onta Foreman and Keke Coutee should be healthy and eventually Will Fuller will return. The defense returns or has replaced key figures.

Acting like this is a team that had to spend money just because they had cap space isn't a smart way to look at this team. Typically a team sucks when they have this much cap space, the Texans didn't fall into that category. Is there still room for improvement? No doubt. There's also room to find multiple bargains, be a destination for a trade post-draft, and pay Clowney. Relax, this is a long offseason. The Texans are better today than last week.

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