I'll never say that a second half of football is meaningless ever again, regardless of what the margin is heading into said half, and here's why...
I think you could make an argument that the second half of the Atlanta game, down 42-0, was where Brian Hoyer rediscovered his mojo, replacing Ryan Mallett and throwing for three touchdowns. Hoyer would replace Mallett for good a few days later in the Indianapolis game. Hoyer will be a key for the Texans over the final six games, T.J. Yates stellar performance on Sunday notwithstanding.
Then came the Miami game a few weeks ago, when the Texans fell behind 41-0 by halftime. They came out in the second half and only gave up three points. You could say that Miami took their foot off the gas pedal and cruised to a 44-28 victory, but many Texans players on Sunday cited that game as the turning point, particularly on defense. Since halftime of that Miami game, the Texans went twelve quarters without giving up a touchdown before giving up two in the second half of Sunday's 24-17 win over the New York Jets.
Hey, if Vince Wilfork says the Miami game provided the moment this team looked in the mirror and found itself again, who am I to argue? On Sunday, the Texans stayed atop the AFC South, evening their record at 5-5 and getting back to .500 for the first this season. Let's see how they got it done….
4. DeAndre Hopkins
All week long, Hopkins heard about how treacherous "Revis Island" was, and quite frankly he'd heard enough. On Sunday, Hopkins truly validated his place on the Pro Bowl landscape, taking the last decade's best cornerback and beating him every which way — deep, one handed, in tight coverage, everything. Five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. To be the man, you got to beat the man, and Hopkins beat the man on Sunday, and in the process found the people of Revis Island to be very pleasant and hospitable.
3. Xavier Su'a-Filo
For the second game in a row, the Texans started the same combination along the offensive line, and it showed in pass protection and run blocking, neither of which was superb, but both of which were more than serviceable. (Truth be told, the running numbers were bumped up a bit thanks to the use of the wildcat. Conventional runs still are an issue for this team.) A big part of that was Su'a-Filo, who may finally be rounding into shape at left guard. If he were to all of a sudden find himself after a bumpy beginning, he wouldn't be the first Texans offensive lineman to have his path to reliability be a tad jagged. Ask Chris Myers, Duane Brown, or Derek Newton. And don't look now, but the Texans have both of their last two second round picks starting and contributing, Su'a-Filo and Bernardrick McKinney.
2. Cecil Shorts
It was a rough start to the game for Shorts, who dropped two passes in the first quarter. However, in the most important drive of the season so far, the response to the Jets' first touchdown, Shorts actually impacted it running, catching, and throwing the football. In a five play span, Shorts was involved in four of them as he 1) caught a 16 yard pass on 3rd and 13 (and got drilled in the process), 2) had a catch and run of 35 yards, 3) had a five yard run out of the wildcat formation, and 4) threw a 21 yard pass to Alfred Blue. The wildcat formation worked for the Texans, with Shorts getting 26 yards on four carries. Shorts' best game as a Texan came at the perfect time.
1. Bill O'Brien
There is no denying that, over the last three games, the Texans are exhibiting characteristics of a well coached team — better special teams, fewer penalties (just three on Sunday), proficiency on third down both offensively and defensively, just overall cleaner play. Then there are the wrinkles that O'Brien added offensively Sunday that had New York completely guessing — wildcat with Grimes, zone read with Shorts, double pass trick play. Above all else, O'Brien won an NFL game with his fifth different starting QB in his 26 game head coaching career. That's truly remarkable. Kudos to O'Brien for pulling this team out of a tailspin that had everyone burying them after seven weeks.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Hey Texan fans, remember that nauseous feeling of dread you got last season watching Fitzpatrick drop back at crucial times in a game when a play needed to be made by your quarterback, and you had no idea where the ball was going when it left Fitzy's right hand? Yeah, not your problem anymore! How did it feel to be on the other side of that Sunday? Pretty good, right? 19-39 with two crucial fourth quarter picks, exactly the Fitzy performance that the doctor ordered.
3. Case Keenum
Speaking of former Texan quarterbacks, how about the Rams leaving Case Keenum in the game after this….
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Any surprise he fumbled two plays later? Rams, your sideline doctors should be ashamed.
2. Alfred Blue
I have to admit, I don't get what this coaching staff sees in Blue, to the extent that he is carrying the ball 21 times in an NFL game. For most of the first half, the Texans were conceding 2nd and long by giving the ball to Blue on first down. He finished with 21 carries for 58 yards. Blue is just way too hesitant in his running style. I'd like to see Jonathan Grimes get a few more touches, as he just shows more juice when he runs and squeezes more yards out of plays.
1. Dan Quinn
Remember when Quinn was all the rage, with his hell, fire and brimstone approach carrying the Falcons to a 5-0 start? Yeah, well, Quinn is a big fraud, as it turns out. Since that start, Atlanta is 1-4 with their only win a 10-7 over the Titans, and on Sunday, they screwed the Texans by coughing up a 21-7 lead to the Colts. Three Matt Ryan interceptions helped the Colts steal a game they had no business winning.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.