Texans win sixth straight, earn tough 19-17 win in Denver

Texans win sixth straight, earn tough 19-17 win in Denver
Shareece Wright made some plays. Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Texans didn’t let the altitude in Denver stop their win streak as they got their sixth in a row, 19-17. They caught a break when Broncos kicker Brian McManus missed the final 51-yard field goal as time expired, but defensively they earned it. This was a tough game because each team’s defense limited the running game, and that meant pass rush was a factor. After two weeks of relatively few hits taken, Deshaun Watson took a beating from the Broncos. He took four sacks and with all the pressure ran the ball six times for 38 yards, just two yards short of the team lead for the day.

Houston has been running the ball well recently with Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue, but they managed only 59 yards between the two of them. On 27 attempts, that’s a 2.2 yard per carry average. Watson averaged 6.3 yards per carry on his scrambles. His still managed a good game through the air where he completed 17 of 24 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

The Texans started the game fast, scoring the first touchdown on an opening drive in Houston’s last 13 games for a 7-0 lead. After rookie safety Justin Reid recovered the day’s only turnover, a fumble by Devontae Booker; Watson found his favorite target DeAndre Hopkins for a 16-yard touchdown. A missed extra point and Houston was leading 13-3 in the second quarter. Ka’imi Fairbairn made both of his field goals on the day and those points were the difference in the game.

The Texans defense had an up and down day. They limited the Broncos to only 75 yards on the ground, but a 14-yard rushing touchdown by Booker tightened the score in the second quarter, 13-10. Denver would take the lead 17-16 after halftime on a tight window throw by Case Keenum to tight end Jeff Heuerman, who seemed to be a thorn in Houston’s side all day. His 10 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown were big for the Broncos offense, including one to help move the ball closer on the final drive. Houston would take back the lead and hold off the Broncos but there was more than one drive that looked like it could allow the Broncos to regain the lead.

The Texans defense held up on the strength of their front seven. Second half sacks by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney helped end consecutive drives in the fourth quarter, but they weren’t the only ones in Keenum’s face and he was forced to throw the ball away multiple times. The secondary also had another solid day, including Shareece Wright who was starting for the injured Jonathan Joseph. He made a great play on a pass in the end zone to knock it from the hands of Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton to save a touchdown. Ultimately, Denver was able to throw the ball well at the end of the game and had a chance to win it with a field goal.

Another solid win for Houston who was only 30% converting third downs and had seven penalties for 60 yards. DeAndre Hopkins continues to be the most dangerous player on the field, bringing in 10 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. And Bill O’Brien did a great job early on taking advantage of the newly acquired Demaryius Thomas who had three catches for 61 yards in the game. He caught two of them for 49 yards on the opening drive that ended in a touchdown to Jordan Thomas who now has three in the last two games as a rookie. It will be good to see this continue next week as Houston travels to Washington D.C. to face the Redskins.


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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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