NFL Week 1: Chiefs-Texans — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
Hoyer was not good in his Texans debut.
For the first time since 2009, the Texans opened the NFL regular season with a loss, dropping the 2015 opener 27-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at NRG Stadium in one of those unfortunate games in which early silly mistakes completely take the crowd out of the game for most of the afternoon.
In fact, the only times the crowd really hit a fever pitch were in the pre-game for player introductions (Individual player intros are back! They listened to me!) and when backup QB Ryan Mallett led the Texans from down 27-9 with six minutes left in the game to within an onside kick of a chance to tie the game in the final minute.
The end result of all of it is an 0-1 record for the Texans and a welcomed QB controversy for sports talk hosts and fans of Ryan Mallett. It will be interesting to see where the QB situation goes, as Bill O'Brien was noncommittal after the game when asked who will start next Sunday against Carolina.
So let's get you all in a good mood for this first regular season edition of "4 Winners, 4 Losers." Let's get hyped up! John Cena…take it away!!!
All right, onward we go….
4. Travis Kelce
On Friday, in my "Four Things To Watch For" post for this game, I wrote the following:
3. Solve the Kelce Situation
….Travis Kelce is a really good pass catching tight end, and I'm not sure how they solve this issue. (By the way, the issue doesn't go away in Week 2, when they'll see Greg Olsen in Carolina.) Certainly, Kelce's presence could test Cushing's rehabbed knee if he's out there in nickel packages. This is where the safety issue for the Texans could rear its head, too. Eddie Pleasant is more of a quasi-linebacker, good in run support, a concern in coverage (although he made some plays in the preseason). Andre Hal's size would be a major issue against Kelce. This will be very interesting to swatch, especially since the Chiefs now have a downfield threat to open things up for Kelce in Jeremy Maclin.
Kelce's Sunday stat line — six catches (on six targets), 106 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter that put the Texans behind the eight ball in a huge way, one where he got matched up against Kareem Jackson in the red zone and another on a coverage bust where nobody was within 20 yards of him. The Texans had no answer for Kelce all day long.
3. J.J. Watt
Watt did what he does pretty much every game — stuff the stat sheet with all sorts of crooked numbers, redefine the term "greatness" for defensive linemen, pillage the opposing team's pocket and make women worldwide swoon. Sunday, he had nine tackles (all solo tackles, because like J.J. needs help!), six tackles for loss, two sacks and three quarterback hits. His new trick this time around was sacking the quarterback while wearing no helmet…
J.J. Watt isn't human, but to think about that is also to remind yourself how this franchise continues to criminally burn daylight in his halcyon years with quarterbacks like Brian Hoyer. It's a shame. Oh well, at least they gave him help in the form of….
2. Jadeveon Clowney
It seems strange to think that Sunday night is the first night in Clowney's NFL career that we can go to sleep knowing (or at least assuming) that he's fully healthy and ready to be on the practice field this week. In 2014, the No. 1 overall pick played in four games. He left the opener with the torn meniscus in his right knee, came back several weeks later to play against the Titans and the knee did not respond well, and then a few weeks later, played back-to-back ineffective games against Cleveland and Cincinnati. At no point in 2014 was there a feeling that Clowney was right medically. Sunday night, we can rest a little easier. He played a couple of dozen plays on Sunday, had four tackles, one tackle for loss, and looked generally strong and explosive, if not a little raw still. Knock on wood, Clowney looks healthy.
1. Tennessee Titans
They wake up this morning the only 1-0 team in the AFC South on the strength of a sublime rookie debut by QB Marcus Mariota in which he went 13-16 for 209 yards and four touchdown passes in a battle with No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay. The narrative going into the season on these two QBs went like this — Winston is the more pro-ready of the two, having played in a pro style offense at Florida State, while Mariota may take more time to develop since he played in a spread at Oregon. That all may wind up true, but after one game, it looks like rubbish. Winston threw a pick six on his first career pass in going 16-33 for 210 yards with two picks. So you know, Texans fans, that this means you have Andrew Luck and what appears to be a competent to good (at least) Mariota to deal with for a decade or so. Please, football gods, keep Blake Bortles sucky.
4. Brian Hoyer
We will have all week to break this down, but suffice it to say, Hoyer was not good in his Texans debut, throwing a pick in his own red zone, fumbling inside his own ten yard line and being generally scattershot all day before giving way to a much crisper Ryan Mallett. I guess I can sum up my feelings on this strange O'Brien-Hoyer marriage by posting this 2013 video of Bill O'Brien speaking to some coaches about what he looks for in a QB:
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Summing it up, he looks for the following:
1. They have to be able to throw the ball accurately.
2. They have to be good decision makers.
3. They have to be intelligent with a great football IQ.
I'm not saying that Brian Hoyer isn't capable of being all these things, but it's worth pointing out that he has been none of these things so far as an NFL starter with a 56 percent completion percentage as a starter, and around a 1-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. My point is that O'Brien is really asking all of us to count on his quarterback evaluation skills being almost clairvoyant and his coaching skills being transformative. That's a big limb to ask a city to step onto with you, Bill.
3. NRG Stadium turf
The streak remains alive. Opponents hate NRG Stadium's turf…
2. Texans special teams
Randy Bullock became the answer to a trivia question on Sunday — "Who is the first kicker in NFL history to miss an extra point kick from the new 15 yard line of scrimmage?" BOOM! Fat Randy! And that bit of notoriety was about the best thing to happen to the Texans' special teams all day. The punt coverage unit began De'Anthony Thomas's campaign for a Pro Bowl berth in earnest, allowing him 81 yards on five punt returns. Meanwhile, Texans return man Keith Mumphrey picked up right where Keshawn Martin left off last season, totaling 14 yards on four returns. Someday, the Texans will have competent special teams. I just hope I'm alive to see it.
1. Super Bowl favorites
Texans fans, before you cash in your chips and begin scouting quarterbacks in the class of 2016, let me give you this reminder that it is only one week — the two teams who are favored to meet each other in the Super Bowl both lost Sunday to teams with perceived QB issues, Seattle losing to St. Louis 34-31 in overtime and the Colts losing in Buffalo by a score of 27-14. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.
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