The good, bad and ugly

Texans vs Titans Game 2: Observations on Sunday's 24-13 loss

DeAndre Hopkins played well again. Houstontexans.com

The Houston Texans played a good enough game to win, but unfortunately came up short 24-13 to the Tennessee Titans. The game was much closer than the final score indicated. A play or two here and there, and this could have easily have been their fifth win of the season.

The Good

- Deandre Hopkins is making his case for the top wide receiver in football. A stat line of 8 catches on 13 targets for 80 yards and no touchdowns doesn’t say much to most, but he was doubled the entire game when everyone knew the ball was coming his way.

-Tom Savage played a good game, relative to what we are used to seeing from him. He completed 31 of 49 pass attempts for 365 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While under constant pressure, he still managed to have the best game of his career. He made several throws that impressed me, but nothing impressed more than his heightened pocket presence as he didn’t revert to “Strip Sack Savage” as a friend has called him.

-Stephen Anderson stepped up big time. The undrafted second year player had 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. His biggest play of the game came on a 22 yard catch to convert a 4th and 19 that kept the team’s hopes alive down by a touchdown. With the tight end position being decimated by injury, it’s good to see someone stepping up to grab the brass ring.

The Bad

-Texans still have an issue covering tight ends. Delanie Walker had 5 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. The Texans have had this problem since Vernon Davis ate them alive back in week seven of the 2009 with the San Francisco 49ers (7 catches for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns).

-The run game continues to disappoint. 22 rushes for 53 yards gave them a whopping 2.4 yards per carry average. The longest carry was by Lamar Miller on a 12 yard run off left tackle. For an offense that wishes to rely on the run, this can’t continue. This is their second game in a row averaging less than 3 yards per carry.

-Jeff Allen had three consecutive false start penalties on 4th & 4 that ended up in a 4th & 19. Normally playing right guard, Allen was at left tackle on those plays. He’s been an incredibly bad offensive lineman no matter where he has played.

The Ugly

- Injuries are to the Texans, as prostitutes are to Bissonnet. In this game alone, Jonathon Joseph, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Bruce Ellington all left the game with various injuries today. Fiedorowicz, who suffered another concussion, is perhaps the most troubling. He has now had two this year and I believe it was the fourth of his career. After signing an extension this offseason and finally showing some of his potential, I would really hate to see his career derailed by concussions.

- Ka’imi Fairbairn missed 2 field goals today. The 48 yard miss hit the left upright and the 28 yard miss was shanked left. Fairbairn started the year 11/11, and is 6/10 since. He has a case of the yips that started with his first miss against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 5.

-The Texans had 11 penalties for 85 yards. When you’re already handicapped by injuries (pun intended), the worst thing you can do is throw flaming hot grits on an existing third degree burn by beating yourself. Playing disciplined football could’ve also helped avoid losing this game, backups and inexperienced players playing major roles be damned.

This was Savage’s best performance. Too bad it took him four years and eight career starts to put in a decent performance. This is something he and Bill O’Brien can hopefully build upon for the remaining four games of the season. This team at least looked like it fought back today versus a team that appears headed for a playoff berth. Having a chance to win games in a season considered lost is what people, especially fans, ultimately wants.

Drew Brees and the Saints escaped with an ugly win. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Saints have effectively wrapped up the NFC South with their 25-14 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

-Michael Thomas got himself going this week after a subpar performance against the Cowboys last week. He finished with 11 catches for 98 yards. More of note was his record of most catches in first three seasons. He surpassed Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on his second catch, his 289th of his career. I hope people take notice and realize how great of a player he is.

-Taysom Hill once again proved his worth as just a football player. He blocked a punt the Saints recovered at the Tampa 30 yard line. It helped set up their first touchdown. Hill is listed as the third string quarterback, but plays running back, wide receiver, and special teams. He also drew a double team penalty on a kickoff.

-Drew Brees is known for his pinpoint accuracy throwing the ball. However, his athleticism is underrated. He notched his fourth rushing touchdown on a 4th and goal play in which he leapt over the line and extended the ball across the plane. The Saints took the lead early in the fourth quarter on that play.

The Bad

-Right before the half, Brees threw an interception that set up Tampa's second touchdown. When this team is rolling, they are the ones scoring before the half when they're getting the ball back after the half.

-They totaled just three rushing yards in the first half on nine attempts. The longest run was from fullback Zach Line at four yards. Another component of this team's success is predicated on the run game.

-Alvin Kamara was held in check. He was limited to 87 yards on 17 touches. His 76 yards on three kick returns were a help, but this team needs him to get going running and catching passes in order to operate at full capacity.

The Ugly

-This was the second game in a row that the Saints failed to score a touchdown in the first half. It could be a sign of teams catching up to them, or it could be a sign of a team that's feeling complacent. Either way, they need to get their offense going again to start games. 24 plays and 104 yards of offense that produced only three points in the first half.

-On their opening possession of the second half, Brees was stripped in the pocket and the Bucs recovered. The pressure came from the left. Missing starting left tackle Terron Armstead is becoming more and more of a glaring issue.

-Brees was limited to less than 270 yards passing, while they also totaled less than 130 yards rushing. Being held below their season averages on offense and still winning is the definition of winning ugly.

The Saints are now 11-2 and firmly in second place in the NFC. Now, they sit back and hope the Rams drop another game down the stretch. They own the tiebreaker over the Rams and need to finish with the same record to get homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. Saints fans will be Bears fans tonight, as well as Eagles, Cardinals, and 49er fans the rest of the season. This is what happens when you drop games you should've won.

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