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On the Texans-Patriots: 3 headlines 2 questions 1 bet

Kevin Johnson (right) is broken again. Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

 

3 Headlines

O'Brien Thought Gronk Caught It

Bill O'Brien said he thought Rob Gronkowski caught the ball from Tom Brady late in the second quarter and initially his eyes in the booth were unsure and those were the reasons he didn't use a timeout. 

"I very much realize I can take a timeout there," he said. "I decided not to because I felt from my vantage point that it was a catch and that's what I went with."

O'Brien said since seeing the play and the angles and in hindsight, he would take a timeout to hope they would buzz down.

"Surely I would've taken a timeout to see if they would have buzzed down," said O'Brien. 

Regardless of the review, O'Brien believes after watching the coaches film Gronkowski caught the ball. He also explained he didn't want to take a timeout, have the review go against the Texans, and let the Patriots have the time to scheme their next few plays. 

Seantrell Henderson finished for the year, Rankin and Davenport at tackle for now

Seantrell Henderson is done for the year with a "significant ankle injury" according to O'Brien. He will have surgery this week. 

Martinas Rankin, one of the team's third-round picks, made his debut yesterday as he headed to left tackle and Julién Davenport manned right tackle. 

"I think Martinas Rankin went in there and did a nice job, for a rookie, and I think he's going to be a really good player," said O'Brien. 

Rankin was pleased with his first real NFL action. 

"It's a learning experience," he said. "Hate to see a guy go down, one of my brothers, but I adjusted."

Rankin said he learned that he "belonged here" throughout the game and said there was plenty to work on for him. He said building chemistry with the line would be a focus as he hasn't had many reps with the group he played with yesterday. 

"No fear. I belong here. They brought me here for a reason."

The Texans only other tackle on the roster is Kendall Lamm. O'Brien said they would look at players in the building and the practice squad as well as likely work out some players. 

Kevin Johnson's return uncertain

Kevin Johnson left yesterday's game with a concussion, his second in a month. His status is up in the air going forward, but he won't be playing soon. 

"I think he will definitely miss a lot of time," O'Brien said of his injured cornerback. "Two [concussions] fairly close together, it's concerning."

Johnson had a rough day on the field, allowing a couple of big plays and drawing a holding penalty wiping out a third-down stop by the defense. Kayvon Webster is on the roster as a cornerback but O'Brien said he isn't ready for this week but trending the right way. Johnson Bademosi had quite a few key reps in the preseason when Johnson was out with his first concussion. Andre Chachere is a rookie cornerback on the practice squad.

2 Questions

Can O'Brien and Watson figure it out quickly?

Bill O'Brien and Deshaun Watson both were upset with the performance of the quarterback position in the loss to the Patriots. There were flashes though; Watson made a few nice throws and O'Brien's rhythm calling plays appeared once or twice. It has to be from the start though. 

O'Brien mentioned today the team needed to get "back to the basics" and that would be a good move. O'Brien said they needed to make better coaching decisions but Watson also has to make better decisions and the "rust" word showed up. He also agreed they needed to guard against letting Watson try to do too much. The easy stuff opened things up for the Texans yesterday and the rushing attack getting going was a nice sign and a bright spot in an otherwise dim offensive showing. 

Will Fuller and potentially Keke Coutee returning as well as a potentially healthier Sammie Coates would be huge for the Texans on offense against the Titans. Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas both earned praise from O'Brien after their debut. With more weapons back and those players who took a lot of the reps together in the preseason the offense will have the chance to look totally different. It's up to O'Brien and Watson figuring it out though. 

Will the second half defense show up for a full game?

If they do, watch out. Everyone on the front seven started pretty slow for the most part but they looked far better in the second half. The Patriots managed just six points in the second half. The Texans defense sacked Tom Brady twice and hurried him five times after having zeros in those categories in the first half. Despite a few issues with coverage early, Johnathan Joseph had a nice game at cornerback as did Aaron Colvin. The safety play was good for most of the game as well. 

Credit to the Patriots, they were not going to let the Texans get to Brady like they did last year. Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney were both vocal about how they didn't like how they played in the game. If one of those two gets going, with Watt playing closer to his second half self, the defense will be a tough one to score on like many thought they would be. The Texans already have faced the best quarterback, coach, and offensive coordinator on their schedule. There are still dangerous offenses ahead, but, this defense showed plenty in the second half to get everyone excited about the next 15 games. 

1 Bet (0-1 on the season)

Just one more score and the over hits in Sunday's game but alas, it is called gambling. This week is another nod towards offense. The Texans dominated the Titans last year when Watson played against them, establishing the franchise record for points with 57. It was, incidentally, after the Patriots game as well. Mike Vrabel is the head coach of the Titans now and his defense was a mess with the Texans last year. This is the perfect get right opportunity against a defense that allowed a mildly talented Miami offense over 300 yards and 20 points. It will look a lot closer to last year's Titans game after the Patriots than Sunday's game against the Patriots. The Texans are scoring a ton this week and they should roll the Titans. 

 

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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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