Fitz-Magic: Texans Route Titans Behind Resurgent QB
Back from the dead, Ryan Fitzpatrick spun up a gem Sunday against Tennessee.
Photo by Groovehouse
The Texans 2014 season has been nothing if not interesting. They've already won four more games than last year and have been a lot more fun to watch most of the time. They went from not drafting a quarterback to benching the starter, who was only supposed to be a stop-gap while a new, young QB emerged, only to see him return two weeks later thanks to an injury to his replacement, Ryan Mallett.
It doesn't sound like a particularly compelling script, but Fitzpatrick flipped it on Sunday, along with some help from the hapless Titans, torching Tennessee for six touchdowns and 45 points (both franchise records) to go with 356 yards on 24 of 33 attempts. His six touchdowns went to five different receivers including two to DeAndre Hopkins (more on his career day in a minute) and J.J. Watt, his fifth touchdown of the year including three on offense. On third down, Ftizpatrick was absolutely brilliant and his completion percentage probably should have been even higher considering the handful of drops by receivers.
The Texans were up 24-0 before a tepid run by the Titans cut it to 24-14, but minus a garbage-time score, the route was on. Now, before everyone gets too excited, this was the Titans. They are a wretched team -- nearly as bad as the Texans next opponent, Jacksonville -- and they didn't help their cause by turning the ball over four times. They even lost their rookie QB to an injury. It was a rough day for the former Oilers.
Offensive Game Balls
DeAndre Hopkins Hopkins is big time and on Sunday, he showed it racking up 9 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He had as many completions as targets, scooping a couple of low passes early for important third-down conversions. We've seen him make stellar catches, but his route running has steadily improved as well and he absolutely owned the Tennessee secondary. He may not have afterburner speed, but with his glue hands and precise routes, he is becoming the Texans number one receiver in a hurry.
Ryan Fitzpatrick What a day for the guy who trimmed that nasty tangle of a beard. No one ever questioned Fitzpatrick's toughness or how game he is. He may not have the necessary tools to be a top end starter in the NFL, but he is smart and knows how to dissect a defense, particularly one as inept as Tennessee.
Defensive Game Balls
(J.J. Watt has already been retired from consideration, FYI, or he would be in here every week.)
Jumal Rolle The former Green Bay practice squad player led the team Sunday in tackles (6) and picked up his third interception of the season to lead the team in that category. For all the problems the Texans have had in coverage over the last few seasons, it appears they are finally beginning to assemble a talented young group of players in the secondary, several of whom were not even drafted by the Texans -- like A.J. Bouye, who got his second pick of the year against Tennessee. Rolle was outstanding on Sunday and continues to make a case for more playing time.
J.J. Watt The guy is unreal. In one sequence of plays, he had a strip sack and fumble recovery followed a couple plays later by his touchdown catch after lining up as a fullback and going in motion. The catch wasn't easy either. He ended the day with 2 sacks and near constant pressure on the Titans quarterbacks. He was a one-man wrecking crew and deserved the chants of "MVP" from the crowd following his TD catch.
The Ghost of Bud Adams Since the death of the legendary Oilers/Titans owner, the team has floundered. They were not doing well before that either, come to think of it. While the Oilers/Titans never won a title in the modern era, they got close on several occasions and certainly appeared less rudderless when Bud was at the helm.
Hopkins had a career day on Sunday.
Photo by Groovehouse
What Should Stay the Same
I'd like to say, "Everything Fitzpatrick did," but I'm not going to pretend this wasn't a beautiful anomaly. What really needs to stay the same for them is what they have done all year: play well defensively. Even with a mediocre offense, they can stay with teams if their defense holds they way it did on Sunday. Granted, the Titans are awful, but the Texans defense was absolutely blowing up plays and racking up turnovers, something they have done nearly the entire season.
What Needs to Improve
With marked improvements on both offense and defense -- they were 2-14 last year after all -- they still remain a very poor special teams squad. Some of it may be due to the lack of depth, much of which tends to materialize on special teams. But, whatever the case, they have got to get better. Their punt and kickoff coverage and return teams are absolutely hideous and continue to stink up the joint every week.
I think we'd all be nuts to say we saw what Fitzpatrick did today coming. I'm sure it shocked the hell out of a few fantasy owners out there, maybe more than Texans fans.
Give credit to Coach Bill O'Brien, the Texans were prepared for EVERYTHING the Titans threw at them -- with the one exception of the run game where the Texans struggled despite the return of Arian Foster -- and he dialed up some masterful plays throughout the game. He also managed to keep the team focused when Tennessee made that mini-run to start the second half.
The Fitz-o-Meter was pegged into the red all day long matching the beard hair he left on his bathroom floor after a noticeable trim. Fitzy had a career and franchise day in front of his extended family in town for the holiday. Good for him.
Funny Media Moment
During his post game press conference, Fitzpatrick's son wowed reporters with his freakish math skills. He seems like he is going to follow in his old man's footsteps and head to Harvard some day.
Welcome to the NFL, Rookie
Texans fifth round pick Tom Savage got his first regular season minutes on Sunday. He got the privilege of handing the ball off a few times. It even merited a post game tweet. Nicely done, rook.
I took a snap in an NFL game today... Loved it #HoustonTexans
— Tom Savage (@tomsavage03) December 1, 2014
Play of the Day
After the Titans scored a pair of touchdowns to cut the lead to 10 in the third quarter, the Texans drove into Tennessee territory and on third down, Fitzpatrick lofted a pass to DeAndre Hopkins who beat his man on a double move. Hopkins made a stellar catch in the end zone for a 34-yard TD and a cushion they would not relinquish.
Two of the final four games of the season are against the God awful Jacksonville Jaguars, the first of which comes next Sunday in Florida. The Jags shocked the Giants on Sunday, notching only their second win of the year behind rookie QB Blake Bortles and a hot mess of an offense. They have a fairly decent pass rush, but there shouldn't be any good reason for the Texans to lose even on the road.