If you want the Houston Texans' 2017 season summed up in about ten seconds of football, look no further than D'Onta Foreman's game clinching 34-yard touchdown run to put the Texans up 31-21 on the Arizona Cardinals in a game they would eventually win by that score.
The first nine seconds of the play were tremendous, with Foreman accelerating to the outside and finding an extra gear up the sideline. It was the final second or two that was equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating, if you're a Texans fan, because as he crossed the goal line, Foreman crumpled into a heap holding his left ankle. It would turn out Foreman tore his Achilles tendon, ending his rookie season prematurely.
So on the same play, the Texans get a long, explosive touchdown from a rookie running back for whom they have high hopes, AND said rookie shreds his Achilles. That's 2017 for the Texans in a nutshell. The football gods won't allow us sustained joy. Here's hoping they make it up to us in 2018.
For now, we will have to settle for a win on Sunday in what was easily Tom Savage's best start as a pro. Let's find a few winners and losers from yesterday....
4. DeAndre Hopkins
In my appearance on "Texans Extra Points" on Saturday night on Channel 13, one of my two keys to a Texans win was Hopkins winning the one on one battle with Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. With just four catches for 76 yards, it wasn't a classic DeAndre Hopkins stat fest, but Hopkins did enough to play a big role in the victory. In particular, on the first drive of the second half, with the Texans trailing 14-10, Hopkins had three of his four catches for 65 of his 76 yards, including two third down conversions and a touchdown in which he beat Peterson one on one. With Julio Jones' touchdown numbers down and with Odell Beckham out for the season, Hopkins has a real chance at getting first-team All Pro honors if he can get to about 1,400 yards receiving, about 85 yards a game the rest of the way.
3. Bruce Ellington
Speaking of receivers, the leading receiver on the afternoon for the Texans (in terms of number of catches, six total) was Ellington, who has carved out a nice niche on this team as the third receiver when Will Fuller is healthy. Ellington has shown a real knack for getting yards after the catch, and he plays a big role in this offense when it's a at full steam with Deshaun Watson, providing a lot of the backfield motion and misdirection that makes this offense so difficult to defend with Watson under center. Ellington was a guy the Texans signed off the street in the preseason, and I'd be shocked if he wasn't back with the team next season. (NOTE: Ellington is a restricted free agent after the season.)
2. Tom Savage, the good
This was easily Savage's best start as a pro, which is saying something considering he turned the ball over twice in Texans territory to set up 14 of Arizona's 21 points. For the afternoon, Savage finished 22 of 32 passing the ball for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Above and beyond that, Savage actually had a couple of plays where he was able to buy time, escape the pass rush, and make plays down the field, most notably on a 3rd and 8 from the Arizona 25 yard line in which he found tight end Stephen Anderson at the three yard line to set up Foreman's first touchdown of the game, a score that gave the Texans the lead for good at 24-21. Savage was good enough to beat a bad team at home today, which is something he was not in his last home start against the Colts. That's progress, I suppose.
1. Andre Johnson
While the win was nice, the reason most Texan fans were in attendance on Sunday was to see Andre Johnson inducted as the first member of the Texans' Ring of Honor. To me, there were four things that stood out about the halftime ceremony. First, none of the video packages the team put together included Johnson's beatdown of Cortland Finnegan back in 2010. Big mistake. They need to make that moment a statue outside the stadium. Second, the red blazer that Andre gets is pretty bad ass....
Third, it was incredible how many of Andre's former teammates came in for the weekend. There had to be about 80 to 100 of them in all. I know many of them live here, but many of them don't. True respect. Finally, the fourth thing that stood out from the ceremony....
4. Rick Smith
..... Texan fans couldn't wait to boo the ever loving hell out of Rick Smith. It's very clear that trading up for Deshaun Watson hasn't made people forget about Brock Osweiler nor the string of failed third round draft picks. In retrospect, I'm a little surprised they didn't see that reaction coming when they chose to introduce Smith. (Or maybe they did, and didn't really care.)
3. Johnathan Joseph
Five weeks ago, after the 33-16 win over the Browns in which he had two interceptions (including a pick six), Joseph was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Since then, he has slid into the abyss defensively, giving up big plays galore in the Seattle, Indianapolis, Los Angeles losses. On Sunday, Joseph didn't give up any long plays down the field, but he did allow four catches on four targets for 43 yards, and allowed a touchdown by Larry Fitzgerald. With Joseph and Kareem Jackson starting to look their respective ages, and with Kevin Johnson unable to stay on the field medically — he left Sunday's game with a concussion — the secondary is reaching a heavy concern level as the Texans head toward the 2018 offseason.
2. Tom Savage, the bad
Here's the thing — Savage's Sunday was good enough to beat a mediocre Arizona team quarterbacked by the not-even-mediocre Blaine Gabbert at home, but turning the ball over deep in your own territory twice in a game will get the Texans beat against about three fourths of the league, regardless of what else they do the rest of the game. While Savage showed improvement on Sunday, it's still incredible to think that he hasn't made it through a start this season WITHOUT fumbling the football on a strip sack. Even worse, his six strip sack fumbles have led to 30 points for Texan opponents. Savage's proclivity for coughing up the football is no less a concern now than it was before Sunday's game, something to remember as they head to Baltimore next Monday to face a relentless Raven defense.
Still, as careless as Savage can be with the football, nothing he has done or will do can ever approach....
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1. Nathan Peterman
FIVE picks. There are no words. Thanks for playing, Nate.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.