Texans 31, Chargers 28: A Tale of Two Halves as Texans Win on Tuesday Morning Football
Nearly three hours after the late start, the game was still in doubt, but that was a massive improvement over where the Texans were about two hours earlier. The Chargers took at 28-7 lead on the Texans in the third quarter only to see the Texans come flying back and pull out a 31-28 road win on a kick at the buzzer by second-year Aggie Randy Bullock.
The Chargers dominated the Texans in virtually every phase of the game through two-and-a-half quarters, from the interception on the first play of the game to Philip Rivers's fourth touchdown pass of the night in the third quarter. The Texans, however, decided to wake up and realize they were playing a football game, mounting a furious comeback fueled by an up-tempo "sugar huddle" offense, an inspired defense that had been pushed around all night, a fake punt (who are you, Gary Kubiak?), a bizarre personal foul call on the Chargers and the combination of Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson.
For everything that could go wrong in the first half -- missed field goals, interceptions via deflections, dropped passes, a piss poor running attack, a dominated offensive line and a brutalized secondary -- it all went right in the second half on the way to the first win of the season.
What went right: Matt Schaub
It is fashionable to hate on the Texans QB, but Schaub was brilliant most of the night. Even the pick was a deflection. He finished his night 34-45 for 346 yards, 3 TDs and the 1 interception. He completed huge third downs to extend drives including a critical play in the second half getting away from pressure to convert a third and 13 to rookie DeAndre Hopkins. The guy was money down the stretch and, quite honestly, played well most of the first half as well. There were plenty of problems, but Schaub absolutely was not one of them.
Runner Up: Andre Johnson with his NFL record 19th game with 10-plus receptions. He finished with 12 catches for 146 yards.
What went wrong: The Secondary
It's hard to imagine that with only the addition of Ed Reed the defensive backfield will suddenly become very good, but we can hope. Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson had mostly good nights. Both gave up some plays, but both made plays as well. Danieal Manning also played well even coming up with a sack. But Bryce McCain was routinely killed by Charger wide receivers and rookie D.J. Swearinger looked as lost as a kitten stuck up a tree. The good news is there is nowhere to go but up from here.
Runner Up: The offensive line looked shellshocked most of the night. Granted, San Diego is a solid defensive team and they added Texans nightmare Dwight Freeney, but they were torched early and often. That has to change.
What must improve: The Running Game
If you wanted a smaller workload for Arian Foster, you got it. He carried the ball 18 times for only 57 yards. Ben Tate was more affective with 9 carries for 55 yards. But, neither looked great and too often the offensive line was blown off the ball killing drives and bogging the offense down. Foster looked rusty like he missed the preseason, which he did. It is certainly possible he improves as the season continues. He better. This is still an offense that thrives on a solid running game.
Runner up: The pass rush, despite journeymen and rookie offensive linemen playing for the Chargers, was anemic. Rivers was sacked twice, but too often he looked comfortable in the pocket.
What should stay the same: The Sugar Huddle
No one will ever mistake Gary Kubiak for Chip Kelly, but the difference between the Eagles (and Redskins) and the Texans in those back-to-back Monday night games was startling. But, it was lessened by the fact that the Texans went with quicker tempo in the second half which led directly to their comeback. It wasn't exactly the read option, but the so-called sugar huddle was affective. With so many teams employing a faster approach, the Texans should make liberal use of it this season. Oh, and how about a fake punt at the right time? Well done, Kubes.
Runner up: The truth is, Andre Johnson will remain the same because he is the most consistent Texan, well, ever.
What did we learn from the game?
The Texans have never been good at adapting to in-game changes by the opposition. Kubiak has often been criticized for his lack of imagination during the game despite being one of the brightest minds in offensive scheming in the NFL. Employing the sugar huddle and pushing the tempo in general was a game changer and it came after the half. He must continue that kind of outside the box thinking if the Texans are going to match up with the best of the best in this league. And make no mistake, the Chargers are not one of those teams.
What do we never want to see/hear again?
I never want to hear Trent Dilfer discussing how the Texans will never win a Super Bowl because of their inability to defend elite quarterbacks as a means of praising Philip Rivers. He's got talent, but let's not lump him in with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, please.
Key Moment of the Game
The Texans were still down 7 with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter when Rivers dropped back to pass deep in his own end of the field. When he tried to dump it in the flat, Brian Cushing, who had been quiet most of the night, made a leaping catch, sprung to his feet and rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown tying the game at 28. The Texans were already playing well and the momentum had swung in their direction, but the big play by Cushing all but sealed the deal.
Game Ball: Matt Schaub
There's really no argument. For as much criticism as he has taken, Schaub was money virtually the entire night. He even showed some mobility out there and made great decisions at all the right times.
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