Texans 27, Chargers 20

Texans vs Chargers: Good, bad and ugly

Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

In a battle 1-1 AFC contenders, the Texans managed to come out victorious after nearly giving the game away by besting the Chargers 27-20. Here's what I saw in the Texans heart-attack inducing victory:

The Good

-Deshaun Watson had himself one helluva game. He completed 73.5% of his passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns. While he made his fair share of bad throws and indecisiveness, he basically saved the day for his team by coming back after being down 17-7.

-Ballsy call by Bill O'Brien on third and one in the second quarter. Instead of a standard run, he dialed up a flea flicker that gained 38 yards on a Deshaun Watson to Kenny Stills hookup. Two plays later, Watson found Darren Fells for a 16 yard touchdown to make the score 10-7.

-I have been impressed so far with Lonnie Johnson Jr so far. Since given the opportunity last week to get more playing time, he's held his own. Early in second quarter, he prevented Mike Williams (6'4 220lbs) from catching a touchdown on a fade route. Johnson is listed at 6'2 213 lbs. The Texans last had a long, lanky corner a few years ago, but let him go via free agency to a division rival.

The Bad

-The hits just keep coming. Unfortunately, we aren't talking about music. Watson got sacked, fumbled, and it lead to a three play, 15 yard touchdown drive for the Chargers a shade over five minutes into the game. I list it here because they didn't give up 146 sacks today. They only gave up two.

-Watson started the game the game 8 of 9 for 35 yards. I understand you want to get off quick throws against the Chargers pass rush, but averaging less than four yards per pass is not ideal winning football. Hell, four yards per rush is considered average.

-Watson has to do a better job of eluding the rush and making better decisions. He had an interception turned around early in the fourth quarter due to offsetting penalties on both teams. He faded further and further back, then wildly flung a ball into coverage. Throwing the ball away is a good thing. Taking dumb sacks or throwing picks playing hero ball is not.

The Ugly

-The defense continues to struggle in the two minute drill. The Chargers worked an eight play, 89 yard touchdown drive 1:18 that started with 1:40 left before halftime. It culminated with Justin Reid missing an open field tackle on Keenan Allen as he ran in a short crossing route behind a blitz. The pass interference call on Dylan Cole gave up 22 of the 89 yards early on in the drive.

-A paltry 19 yards rushing in the first half. This team had well over 100 yards in each of their first two games. Priding itself on running the ball well, this was a poor performance. They ended the game averaging 2.2 per carry.

-Justin Reid's injury issues with his shoulder are a concern. It's early in the season, so it won't get any better. The thought of Jahleel Addae having to play more at safety and relying on him in coverage scares the crap out of me.

If you feel like you need a drink, a cigarette, amd a cardiologist, you're not alone. They were down, came back, almost lost it, and outlasted their opponent on the road. This team has shown an affinity to play extremely close games and come out on top. They should have won the Saints game, but we'll count that as a moral victory. The fact they're 2-1 right now is a testament to their toughness. It also shows they have tons of room for improvement. They get a Panthers team next week that may be without their franchise quarterback. However, they still have one of the best offensive weapons in the league in running back Christian McCaffrey. The Texans should still win. Hopefully, it won't be as close. Going to grab that drink now.

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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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