TEXANS 42, DOLPHINS 23

Texans open up the offense in 42-23 defeat of the Dolphins

The Texans came up tough against the Dolphins. Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Texans took control and never looked back in a 42-23 defeat of the Miami Dolphins in the Thursday night prime-time matchup. Bill O’Brien used the same winning formula from the Jacksonville game to manage the offense early, opening it up in the second half for big plays and the most points they have scored in a game all season. The offense finished the game with plays of 34, 58, 73, and 49 yards to the tune of 427 yards of total offense and a five-touchdown night for Deshaun Watson.

He didn’t have to pass for a lot of yards, but Watson had a big game anyway. He threw for more touchdowns than incompletions, finishing the game 16 of 20 for 239 yards and 5 touchdowns. The most important stat was that he went the entire game without taking a sack.

It helped that there was a lot of balance to the game plan. Lamar Miller led ground game with 133 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown, including a big 58 yarder to set up a touchdown. The Texans ran for 188 yards as a team and got 8 of their 17 first downs on the ground.

In the air, Will Fuller led the way in yardage with 124 yards and had two of the biggest catches of the night. The first one was a 34-yard catch and run and the second was a huge 73-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. DeAndre Hopkins had another big night as well with 82 yards and two touchdowns, one a 49-yarder. Rookie tight end Jordan Thomas had a breakout night at tight end. He caught his first two career touchdown passes on short yardage plays in the red zone, contributing to a 4 for 4 night for the Texans offense.

It wasn’t the greatest of nights for the defense but limiting Miami to field goals was crucial in the win. The Dolphins were trotting out former Texan quarterback Brock Osweiler to lead their offense and he did little to help his team. Miami’s first touchdown came on a running play after a bad penalty call on a field goal attempt gave them a fresh set of downs. They got one more when a trick play resulted in Danny Amendola throwing a touchdown to Kenyan Drake. The rest were field goals. The defense may have given up 370 yards of offense but the bend, don’t break play helped secure the win.

J.J. Watt got his 8th sack of the season on the first drive. He then blew up a 4th and 1 play to get the ball on downs. Houston would get five quarterback hits and seven passes defensed on the night as Osweiler could never really settle in. Tyrann Matheiu got his second sack of the season in the fourth quarter to help force a Miami punt. He wasn’t the only safety to make a splash play either. Justin Reid pulled down his second career interception on the first play of the second quarter.

This game looked close at the half with Houston leading only 14-10, but after they scored a touchdown on the first drive of the second half it just never looked close again. Deshaun Watson threw for four touchdowns in the second half to lead his team to a convincing win and a 5-3 record.

 

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It's easy to blame Bill O'Brien for the Texans woes. He is a lousy GM, a below average play caller and his offense is boring, predictable and ineffective. Not once has he had a top 10 offense in the league. So he does not get a pass here.

But Deshaun Watson shouldn't, either.

Last year, Watson was in the MVP conversation entering the game in Baltimore. Four of the nine games he played before that, Watson had an ESPN Total QBR over 85, which is playing at an elite level.

Since that 41-7 debacle (where his QBR was 13.6), Watson has played 10 games. He has topped 85 just once (and barely - 85.6) in the win over the Patriots. While QBR is not the be all end all, it shows a trend. And before you blame the talent around him or the ridiculously stupid DeAndre Hopkins trade, eight of those games were with Hopkins in the lineup.

Over his last 10 games, Patrick Mahomes has done it five times (and just missed last week at 84.7). Lamar Jackson has done it six times in his last 10. Russell Wilson is six for his last 10. Dak Prescott? Three. Aaron Rodgers? Three. Ryan Tannehill? Three. Josh Allen? Two. Lamar Jackson led the league last year with an 83 for the season. Watson was sixth at 71.3. To be a top 10 quarterback, you had to average 64.1. In two games this season, Watson sits 20th, about where he was over the last six regular season games and two playoff games last year.

In essence, Deshaun Watson - who often gets compared to those players - is not on their level. Yes, O'Brien has a lot to do with it, but it's also time to start looking at Watson's performance and regression as an NFL quarterback.

In 2018, Watson had four such games. In 2017, four in six starts. And now ONE since that Baltimore game. In fact, he has topped 80 just once in that stretch, and 60 just three times.

What it tells us is Watson has been an average quarterback over his last 10 starts. The Texans invested heavily in an offensive line to protect him. They have added depth at WR but a net loss without Hopkins. Elite quarterbacks turn in performances like that roughly half the time. Getting more consistent has always been an issue for Watson. But since that Baltimore game, he has not been close. And he is being paid to be elite.

In the end, O'Brien is still the main culprit. He has hand picked all the players around Watson, he designed the offense, and he controls everything.

But it's time to quit giving Watson a pass. Right now, he is part of the problem.

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