Texans 30, Titans 24: Another Comeback Win, a Kicker Problem and a Rookie Emerges
Texans fans and players probably can't take this kind of heart-pounding action for an entire season. In only their second game, the Texans managed a comeback win in the fourth quarter against the surprisingly good (at least on defense) Tennessee Titans, 30-24. Quarterback Matt Schaub and rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, after a miscommunication on a blitz pickup that turned into a pick six for the Titans, redeemed themselves with a stellar pair of series and the game-winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone on the first set of downs in overtime.
For the better part of three quarters, this was a slug fest. Both teams traded long opening drives for touchdowns, but neither could manage more than a field goal for the rest of the half and only one touchdown in the third. The Texans should have been ahead 13-10 at the half, but second-year kicker Randy Bullock missed a pair of field goals. Titans kicker Rob Bironas missed one of his own as well.
But, the teams combined for 31 points from the 7:46 mark of the third quarter through the end of regulation. The key play for the Titans was the pick six of Schaub, but the Texans rallied tying the game at 24 with a brilliant fourth quarter ball. The defense, who was ridiculously stingy all game long save the opening drive and a 99-yard drive by the Titans in the fourth, held and the Texans managed to get Bullock a chance to kick another game winner. His first attempt was good, but the Titans called timeout as he kicked it. The second missed, but another timeout gave him an additional chance. The third attempt was blocked, but the Titans were offsides. Finally, he got one off that banged off the upright sending the teams to overtime.
In the overtime, the Texans took the ball first and converted with a TD from Schaub to Hopkins for the win. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win.
What went right: The Defense
In one stretch of the second half, the defense held the Titans to four straight three-and-outs. J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing had monster days combining for 16 tackles, four sacks and two batted passes. Linebacker Joe Mays forced a safety. With the exception of two long drives -- one in each half -- the defense was exceptional.
Runner Up: Gary Kubiak won BOTH of this challenges. For a guy who has not done well throwing the challenge flag, it's a welcome sight and both plays were important including an overturned call that became a safety.
What went wrong: The Offense
Up until the fourth quarter -- with only the first drive of the game as an exception -- the Texans were bad on offense. They didn't up the tempo at all and struggled to protect the quarterback and open lanes for the running backs. There were miscommunications, one that led to a pick six, and the running game was anemic (take away the 60-yard run for Ben Tate in the first quarter and he and Arian Foster combined for 112 yards on 27 carries).
Runner Up: I'll get to the kicking game in a second, but it's worth a mention here.
What must improve: Place Kicking
It was a rough week for the Texas A&M Aggies. They lost to Alabama on Saturday and their former kicker, Randy Bullock, missed almost everything at Reliant Stadium on Sunday. For the season, he is 1-5. He missed the potential game-tying kick TWICE with one called back thanks to a timeout. He is booting the ball through the end zone on kickoffs, but if he can't get his yips fixed, the Texans are going to have a serious kicker problem on their hands.
Runner up: The running game still must get better. Foster looked like he gained a step from week one, but they were stuffed too often and couldn't ever really establish themselves.
What should stay the same: The Special Teams Minus Bullock
It's almost a shock to say this given how bad they have been, but the special teams if you aren't counting Randy Bullock was an absolutely plus today. Punter Shane Lechler is demonstrating how valuable a good, consistent punter can be and coverage teams were outstanding all day. They pinned the Titans back on several occasions, one resulting in a defensive safety. It's tough when one position is such a glaring deficiency, but special teams in the first two games have been great.
Runner up: The defense finally got it going and they were dominant at times. J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Antonio Smith and others swarmed the quarterback and stuffed the run over and over again. What did we learn from the game?
The Texans didn't open the season with a pair of chumps like we thought they would. San Diego, after falling to the Texans at home last weekend, went to Philadelphia and beat the Eagles and their new vaunted fast-paced offense. The Titans, coming off a defensive gem against Pittsburgh, nearly beat us on our home field. Their defense is legit. This isn't to say both of them will end up in the playoffs, but they certainly aren't the bad teams many thought they would be. They both challenged the Texans right down to the wire and, surprise, surprise, the Texans prevailed in both.
What do we never want to see/hear again?
Dear Calvin Klein: Never, ever, ever show your stupid underwear add with some ripped, model in nothing but his drawers lit in shadowy black and white again. What did you think you were advertising during, exactly, because you couldn't possibly have though football was the right demographic for that.
Key Moment of the Game
There were some wonderful moments like the catch by Andre Johnson that knocked him out of the game or the game winning catch by Hopkins. There was the awful pick six that nearly cost the Texans the game. But, honestly, the most bizarre sequence deserves some recognition here. With just seconds left, the Texans lined up for a game winning field goal attempt. The first try was good, but the Titans called timeout. The second try missed, but the Titans had used their final timeout again to ice the kicker. The third try was blocked, but the Titans were called for offsides. Finally, Bullock took his shot and clanged the ball of the upright sending the teams to overtime. It would be Bullock's third miss of the day.
Game Balls: DeAndre Hopkins
The rookie has arrived. After a couple tough sequences in the fourth quarter in which he missed an assignment that cost them a touchdown and couldn't get open while Andre Johnson was double covered, he went OFF making big play after big play and winning the game in overtime with a corner end zone catch. He finished the day with 7 catches for 117 yards and that final touchdown. He is going to be a deadly weapon this year.
J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing
I lump them together because of how they took over the game in the second half. They were everywhere and managed to shut down the Titan's offense. The two cornerstones of the Texans defense were absolutely outstanding. (Oh, and don't look now but Kareem Jackson is looking like a Pro Bowler)
Who would have thought a punter could make such a difference. Lechler averaged over 48 yards per kick and left the Titans inside the 20 on 5 of his 7 punts.
Goat of the Week: Randy Bullock
The kid has got to get his game straightened out...literally. Shanking kicks like he has been is inexcusable. If he were older, he might be a candidate for getting cut, but it's unlikely given his lack of experience. But, he better pull it together soon or he won't last the season.
Random thought of the week:
Liberty white is a dumb color name (to go with Battle Red and Deep Steel Blue), never mind white isn't actually a color. But, what gives it liberty? Nothing. Just call it white and let go the names that make the uniforms sound more like items from a J. Crew catalog. What's next, Oatmeal banners and Slate shoes?