Texans vs. Patriots observations

Tyrann Matthieu was a bright spot. Zach Tarrant, Houston Texans team Web site

The Texans opened the season with a dud of a loss to the Patriots. Losing 27-20 in the season opener on the road to the team that was the Super Bowl runner up is nothing but a moral victory. Last time I checked, those don’t factor into the playoff run. Let’s take a look at some general pbservations:

The Good

-The running game looked solid. 154 yards on 33 carries for 4.7 yards per carry average as a team. Lamar Miller really stood out with his performance. He totaled 98 yards on 20 carries. If they can keep this up all year, it’ll help them to a winning record.

-Tyrann Mathieu, aka Honey Badger, paid immediate dividends. He picked off Tom Brady and recovered a Rob Gronkowski fumble. He’s had a reputation for being a playmaker since his days at LSU, which continued in the NFL. He’s the early leader in the clubhouse for biggest free agency steal this past offseason.

- JJ Watt showed flashes of being his old self. First half, he looked slow, as if he was still adjusting to game speed. Second half, he made a play to chase down a Patriots ball carrier for a short gain. Again he showed flashes when he beat the right tackle and pressured Tom Brady into an incompletion while nearly getting a sack. He finally got a sack with just over six minutes left in the game.

The Bad

-The trend of not converting third downs in close games continued today. 2 for 11 isn’t exactly a winning formula. They also traded two early Patriots touchdowns with field goals of their own. These two key components have spelled doom for teams with losing ways since the beginning of time and the Texans are the epitome of this formula.

-Deshaun Watson was off all game. He was 17 of 34 for 176 yards, one interception, one touchdown, three sacks, and a 62.9 passer rating is a recipe for disaster. The most bothersome part of his performance was his inaccuracy. He missed badly on some passes that should have been completions.

-DeAndre Hopkins ended the game with eight catches for 78 yards on 11 targets. However, the Texans didn’t get him going until late in the second quarter. A couple times he was hung out to dry by Watson’s throws. You have to get your go-to guy going early in the game, not after you’re down by two scores.

The Ugly

-Fumbling on the very first play of the game was not how Watson envisioned getting the season started. That play led to an easy Patriots score. You don’t beat Brady by giving him extra bullets. To make things worse, the Patriots scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to go up 7-0 and never looked back.

-Kevin Johnson is bad at football. Honey Badger is good at football. So when Honey Badger appeared to communicate something to Johnson and he didn’t adjust, he went full Honey Badger on him on the bench by yelling at him and making demonstrative hand gestures as if he was exasperated. Not only that, but Johnson did what he does best: got called for dumb penalties, missed easy tackles going for kill shots, and got another concussion.

-The Texans had no answer for Gronk. He routinely beat any linebacker he was matched up against, as well as the double coverage said linebackers got from the secondary. The worst of it was his touchdown catch over Kareem Jackson as he tried to double him over the top while Zach Cunningham played man coverage underneath. Cunningham was drafted because he could cover. He hasn’t shown that as of yet.

There are plenty of things to look at with hope moving forward. However, there are more causes for concern. This team has high ceiling, low floor potential for this season. I could see anywhere from an 11-5 playoff run, to a disappointing 6-10 missing the playoffs and wondering why Bill O’Brien got an extension offseason.


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