The Playoff Push (The Quarterly Texan Report – 4th Quarter)
The Houston Texans started the season off with a very impressive 9 game winning streak. That streak was ended by the New England Patriots and two more losses followed that one. The Texans finished with a 2-2 record in their last four games of the season. They will end the season with a 11-5 record and be the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Texans have had an unprecedented season with a lot of ups and downs, but there is a lot to like about this Texans team as we head into the playoffs despite the lackluster end to the season.
A Defensive Spectacle..
The Texans came into Soldier Field hoping to right the ship and get back into the win column. Coach Toro wanted to set the tone of the game early on and punch the Bear’s in their mouth from the start. Duke Johnson had his second best game so far this season and had season highs in both yardage gained and the amount of carries since week 7’s victory against the Green Bay Packers. Duke Johnson had 21 carries for 151 yards and 1 touchdown. The Texan’s moved the ball up and down the field for a total of 534 yards of offense. Their 45-27 victory over the Chicago Bears was just as much of a defensive effort as it was an offensive one. The Texan’s defense forced more turnovers in this game than they have in most games so far this season. Deshaun Watson hooked up with Will Fuller 5 times for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns. Will Fuller broke the single-season record for receiving touchdowns. He has now caught 25 touchdowns and counting. There are still three games left in the season, so I expect Fuller to shatter the current record that he set in this game.
The Texan’s defense picked off Nick Foles five times but the interceptions didn’t start pouring in until the second half of the game. The Bear’s were right on the heels of the Texan’s and still in the game until Gareon Conley made a terrific jump on a slant route that Foles clearly never saw him guarding. This interception opened up the game and the Bears were never able to recover. The Texan’s needed this victory badly and it gives them the confidence needed to march into their game against the Colt’s next week .
Different Week but the Same Result..
The up and down season of the Houston Texans continues in their week 15 game against the Colts. The effort of the team was very poor from start to finish. The Texans turned the ball over four times and allowed the Colts to run down their throats. Deshaun Watson was unable to ever find a rhythm in the passing game due to the ferocious pass rush of the Colts. Right end Ben Banogu created fits for the Texan’s offensive line in both games this season. In the first match-up, he had two sacks and a forced fumble. In today’s game, he also had two sacks and a forced fumble. Banogu has 7 sacks so far this season and four of them came against the Texans.
The Texans were able to get on the board first with a 15 yard Duke Johnson touchdown and led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. Deshaun Watson found Will Fuller and Brandon Cooks for touchdowns in the redzone whereas the Colts had a lot of success with Jonathan Taylor in the second quarter. Taylor had two touchdowns, one on a pass from Jacob Eason and the other on a one yard run. The Texan’s had a 21-17 lead going into halftime. The second half, just as it has been the entire season, was night and day for the Texans. Kaimi Fairbarn made a 49 yard field goal to extend the Texan’s lead to 7 on their first drive out of the half. The Texan’s defense held strong the next possession, but the proceeding drive is when the game took a turn for the worse. All Pro tackle Laremy Tunsil got completely worked by Banogu but as Banogu approached Watson, he put the ball on the ground. Deshaun Watson appears to fumble the ball before any contact was made by Banogu. This play shifted the momentum of the game and Watson couldn’t shake off the fumble and close out the game. The Colts outscored the Texans 17-14 in the fourth quarter and won 41-38. Deshaun Watson was highly scrutinized for his fumble, but ultimately the Texan’s couldn’t stop Jonathan Taylor. He ran for 183 yards on 35 carries. The Texans are in jeopardy of throwing away the season if they continue to sabotage themselves in the second half and are unable to close out games moving forward.
Securing the Bag..
The Houston Texan’s were able to secure a playoff spot with their 42-23 victory over the Cincinatti Bengals. The Bengals were coming off a huge upset against the Steelers and they were in prime position to play spoiler, but the Texans were having zero part of missing the playoffs. Justin Reid was a one man wrecking crew and had Joe Burrow blinded all game long. Reid had five solo tackles, three interceptions, and one touchdown. He took home AFC defensive player of the week honours for his performance. His statistical performance also put him over the top for the defensive back of the year award in the AFC. He now sits atop the standings as it is a neck and neck race with Jimmy Smith from the Baltimore Ravens just below him. Deshaun Watson had a bounce back game completing 20 of his 23 attempts and throwing for 289 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception.
The Texans are in prime position to win a division title in week 17. They will face off against the Tennessee Titans and despite both teams already clinching a playoff spot, I expect majority of the starters to play in this game. The Texan’s general manager hinted at wanting to rest Deshaun Watson in week 17, but coach Bull didn’t want any part of that conversation. He wants his team to finish the season off with a victory and their first division title of this madden cycle.
The Game That Got Away..
The Texans have a complete meltdown in week 17 in what was shaping up to be a fantastic finish. The Tennessee Titans were perfect at every phase of the game. The Titans had over 600 yards of offense and forced 5 turnovers on defense. The Texan’s defense was very pedestrian all game long. Coach Bull approached his defensive scheme differently than how they were used to playing. He sent a 5-6 man blitz on almost every defensive snap. He wanted to force Ryan Tannehill to make a quick decision, but this ultimately was a mistake. Ryan Tannehill connected on 25 of his 30 attempts and throw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Titans were the better team in this game and have a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. The Titans had a commanding 21 point lead early in the game, but the Texans were able to manage to fight back late in the third quarter.
The Texans were down 14 points and driving down the field. Deshaun Watson connected with a few of his receivers and the Texan’s offense found themselves on the goaline. Will Fuller came around to the right on a jet sweep and was lit up after Duke Johnson failed to block a rushing linebacker. Fuller dropped the ball and the Titans recovered the ball and ran it back to midfield. The Texans were unable to recover from this and it led to three more interceptions by a panicked Deshaun Watson. The Texans ultimately lost the game 59-31. Coach Bull said that in PML, you have to have a short memory. This loss hurt the Texan’s pride, but it doesn’t take away from what they were able to accomplish this season.
The Texans will have the #5 seed in the playoffs and will have to travel to Maryland to play against the #4 seed Baltimore Ravens. The Texans and the Ravens played once already this season in week 2 where the Texans edged out the Ravens 38-34. The Texans allowed Lamar Jackson to rush for 125 yards and a touchdown on five carries. The majority of Jackson’s yards came off of designed running plays. They allowed 7% of Lamar Jackson’s total rushing yards for the season. Coach Bull will have to gameplan better against Jackson’s ability to run the ball. The Texans are expecting this game to have weather implications and possible heavy snow. If the game is played in the snow, you have to wonder if Coach Bull will call Duke Johnson’s number more and mix in Deshaun Watson’s ability to also run the ball.
Top Offensive Contributors –
QB Deshaun Watson – 338/479 5,382 yards, 60 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, 70.6 completion percentage, and 118.6 QBR. 31 attempts for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns.
HB Duke Johnson – 247 attempts for 1,324 yards and 11 touchdowns. 88 catches for 856 yards and 5 touchdowns.
WR Will Fuller – 85 receptions for 1,829 yards and 28 touchdowns. 1 attempt for 14 yards and a touchdown.
FS Justin Reid – 73 solo tackles, 10 interceptions, and 3 touchdowns.
CB Keion Crossen – 42 solo tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 8 interceptions.
LB Whitney Mercilus – 23 solo tackles and 6 sacks.
Players of the Year –
Quarterback Deshaun Watson and Free Safety Justin Reid are both the heart and soul of the Houston Texans. Watson is the commander of the offense and Reid is the captain of the defense. Deshaun Watson now holds the record for single-season passing touchdowns with 60 for the season. Watson has had his share of mistakes this season but it is without question that his leadership is what has driven the success that the Texans have had. Deshaun Watson connected with 11 receivers this season but his favourite target was Will Fuller. In week 14, Watson helped Fuller break the single-season record for receiving touchdowns and since then they connected on three more touchdowns. Will Fuller set the single-season record with 28 receiving touchdowns for the season. Watson spread the ball around this season and helped produce three 1000 yard receivers for the Texans. Duke Johnson was on the cusp of a 1000 yard receiving season but fell just short. Watson is currently atop the standings for the best quarterback in the AFC and barring a spectacular performance by any other quarterbacks in week 17, he should finish with that award as well as a pro-bowl nod.
Free Safety Justin Reid led the team in solo tackles, interceptions, and touchdowns. He is the most valuable player on the Texan’s defense and his accolades this season should be awarded with a pro-bowl nod and the defensive player of the year award. Reid is only 23 years old and has two years left on his contract. The Texans are going to have to start budgeting their cap space now in order to give their best defensive back the payday that he deserves.
The biggest question mark of the season is and has been defensive end JJ Watt. He has been an essential non-factor in almost every game this season. Watt ends the season with 17 solo tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 touchdown. There were circling rumours that Watt was going to be on the trade block when the season started but upper management decided that Watt was a crucial piece to the defensive line. Watt has been seeing double teams every single game which has dampened his statistical performance. Watt is the highest paid player on the Texan’s roster with a $15.50M salary. Watt does pave way for other players when he is on the field, but with the Texan’s not having any draft picks in the first or second round, it’s possible that they attempt to move Watt for draft capital.