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.

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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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