The Houston Texans have made it to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. They were able to defeat the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans before losing to the New England Patriots in the Conference Championship round in season 1. The Texans bounced back from that loss and fought tooth and nail this season. The Houston Texans traveled to Baltimore to face off against the Ravens in the wildcard round of the playoffs. The Texans came into this game as the underdog team and they were favoured to lose this game. The Ravens had only lost three games all season and featured one of the best defenses in the league. The Ravens had their playoff berth locked in since week 15 and had been sitting some of their key starters in the games to follow. It begs the question if the choice to sit some of their players was wise because had they played a few starters and won their week 17 game, the Ravens would have faced off against the Steelers instead of the Texans.
Defense Wins Championships –
The Texan’s defense ranked in the bottom eleven in total yards given up per game whereas the Ravens ranked at the top during the regular season. The Texan pass defense ranked in the bottom five whereas the Raven’s defense ranked at the top and both teams were equally successful in the regular season stopping the run finishing in the top five. In this seemingly one sided matchup, the game was decided just before halftime and it featured a surplus amount of points. The Texan’s edged out the Ravens 48-31, but the scoreboard doesn’t do the first half justice.
The Ravens took the lead with a go ahead touchdown in the first quarter, but the Texans bounced back just before halftime to tie the game 10-10. There was just under a minute left before halftime and the Texan’s defense wanted to force a turnover, so coach Bull called a zone blitz that sent a linebacker and a corner right at Lamar Jackson. Bradley Roby broke on a poorly thrown ball by Jackson, who was demolished as he threw the ball, and Roby ran it back for a pick 6 and the Texans took a 17-10 lead. The ill-advised throw was compounded by another Lamar Jackson mistake the proceeding drive. Jackson rolled out of the pocket and up the sideline, but instead of running out of bounds, he juked back inside fooling a Texan defender, but only to get lit up by Asante Samuel Jr. Lamar Jackson fumbled the ball and the Texan’s scooped it up already in scoring range. Deshaun Watson hit Jared Cook over the middle and then Will Fuller scampered in for a touchdown on a Jet Touch Pass to the left side of the field. This 14 point swing going into halftime completely changed the momentum of the game and allowed the Texans to resort to the game plan that they had been focused on running all season long. Lamar Jackson’s four turnovers led to 14 points for the Texan’s defense and the Raven’s defense that had been solid all season long appeared to be stuck in the mud as MVP Javian Hawkins ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Scrambling into a Turnover –
The Houston Texans faced off against the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round and the matchup didn’t favour the Texans. The Chargers had a top ranked defense in all categories during the regular season but they were a team that didn’t have starting halfback Austin Ekeler and right end Uchenna Nwosu due to being placed on IR. The Texans thought that this might make the Chargers one dimensional on offense and wanted to key in on being able to stop the pass. This was a back and forth game that came down to the last minute in the fourth quarter. The Texans were plagued by mistakes and poor play calling that ultimately led to a 45-38 Charger’s victory.
Justin Herbert was almost perfect. He picked apart the Texan’s defense for 520 yards and 6 touchdowns. There was zero balance for the Charger’s offense, they simply wanted to pass the ball down the Texan’s throats. The Texans were aware of what was coming but just couldn’t stop it. The efficiency and patience of Herbert helped him lead his team down the field time and time again, but the Texans never went away. Coach Bull knew that his offense had to light up the scoreboard if he wanted his team to compete in this game, so he developed an aggressive style of play calling. The play calling on offense was a breath of fresh air that mixed both the running game and down field passing game, however, Deshaun Watson had three interceptions that were very costly and one that sealed the loss for the Texans.
Deshaun Watson was scrambling for his life on a few plays, but he made an attempt to throw the ball out of bounds on a third and long and couldn’t get the ball high enough and it was picked off by a Charger defender who was simply waiting in the area. On the game tying drive, Deshaun Watson had Jared Cook wide open running up the seams in the slot but he rolled over just briefly and threw an inaccurate ball over the head of Cook and into the arms of a Charger defender. The Texan’s aren’t where they want to be defensively and Coach Bull commented after the game that the team plans on reshaping the defense in the off-season. He didn’t comment on if players would be moved or cut, but we expect to see a much improved Texan’s defense heading into season 3.
FS Justin Reid – 59 solo tackles, 10 interceptions, and 1 touchdown.
CB Gareon Conley – 29 solo tackles and 6 interceptions.
DE J. J. Watt – 24 solo tackles, 8 sacks, and 1 touchdown.
Players of the Year –
Halfback Javian Hawkins has been one of the most talented rookie players to come out of the draft in a long time. 31 other teams allowed Hawkins to sit for four rounds until the Texans selected him with the 8th overall selection. Hawkins had to fight in the pre-season to prove that he should be the starter and he enhanced his catching ability and his pass blocking and shined in the preseason. Hawkins went on to lead the Texans to a 10-6 season and a trip to the divisional round in the playoffs. Coach Bull relied on Hawkins heavily. The Texan’s offense was dramatically changed from one season to the next and Hawkins was able to take every carry and make the most of them.
Hawkins won the Most Valuable Player award for the league. He also added the Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Halfback of the Year awards to his resume. He also led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns and was selected to his very first pro bowl this season. Javian Hawkins will be the anchor to the Texan’s offense for years to come.