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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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