Another big day

Without its stars, the Texans defense dominates Cleveland 33-17

Jonathan Joseph had two interceptions to helo the Texans beat Cleveland. Bob Levey/Getty Images

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The Texans caught a break this week after losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season in week 5, hosting the winless Browns at home. The expectations were that the offense would be the difference in the game while the defense adjusted to the big losses in their front seven. Little did anyone know, the defense wouldn't skip a beat and perform better than expected in the 33-17 win. It is the Browns, so there is no way to know what will happen going forward; but getting this week and the bye week to game plan for how the defense will be used is key to figuring out what the Texans will look like going forward. 

Early on the offense appeared to be continually growing under the play calling of Bill O'Brien and the performance of Deshaun Watson. From the start there was a lot more throws over the middle to tight ends and consistent running plays in short and mid range down and distance. It may have been an early attempt to control the clock which has keyed a lot of their offensive success this year, but it helped keep the offense in good down and distance.

The first drive of the game looked great but stalled in Browns territory and walked off the field with a Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal. After exchanging punts the Browns were able to get something going and tied the game at 3 with a field goal of their own. That was as close as it would get. The Texans moved the ball 87 yards in five plays on their next drive for Watson's 13th touchdown pass of the season. He connected with Will Fuller for the 5th time this season. Fuller now had 5 touchdown catches in 7 total receptions. From there it was pretty much all defense.

The very next drive saw Kevin Hogan march the Browns down to the Texans 22-yard line but sail a pass over the head of Duke Johnson and into the arms of Jonathan Joseph for an 82-yard touchdown. A missed extra point left the score 16-3 but that was fixed shortly after. The next Browns drive ended in another interception, this time by Dylan Cole. A gasp went through the crowd again and Cole was injured on the return and limped off the field. It was the second injury of concern on the drive as Jadeveon Clowney had gone down earlier, and they could not afford to lose him for the season. Clowney's injury wasn't serious and he was back on the field before the end of the drive, but Cole's hamstring would keep him out for the rest of the game. 

Watson would get another touchdown on a shovel pass to Braxton Miller and go into the into the half with a 24-3 lead after tossing a successful 2-point conversion to Ryan Griffin. The first half would end with Joseph getting his second interception of the game, and the 13th in a Texans uniform giving him the franchise record, passing his teammate Kareem Jackson.

Bill O'Brien was 20-0 when leading at the half and the win today would make it 21-0. This was especially assured when the defense started the second half playing like it was ready to win the game on its own. They would force a 3-and-out on the Browns first drive and then record a safety on the next Cleveland possession. The Texans capitalized on the free kick with another Watson touchdown throw, this time to DeAndre Hopkins putting the game well out of reach, 33-3. Watson has now thrown at least three touchdowns in the last three games, making him the first rookie to do so. That is the kind of performance that can carry a team a long way.

He would make one mistake though, on a second and 5 play from the Houston 32 yard line he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Jason McCourty, making the score 33-10. Hogan would get a garbage time touchdown to Seth DeValve cutting the final score down to 33-17 but that would be it. The Texans would walk away with an easy home win and a break to prepare for a tough road game in Seattle. 

At the end of the day it was the kind of all-around game that you expect from an above average team against a franchise in line for another first overall pick. The Texans' offense would finish the day with 217 yards through the air and three touchdowns and an additional 123 on the ground. The Texans had nearly equal time of possession despite getting defensive scores and great field position.  Their record sits at 3-3 with games against Seattle and Indianapolis coming up after the break. If they can keep up this level of play they will find themselves in a good position going into the latter half of the regular season.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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