Having self-awareness is kind of a big deal. It's a big deal in life, and it's certainly a big deal in the NFL. By the time Week 14 rolls around, if your team has noticeable, intrinsic flaws, it's awfully tough to fix them at that point. It's best to just understand them and work around them. I think it's safe to say that's where the Houston Texans are.
There will be no fixing Brock Osweiler this season, only (hopefully) a complete understanding of what, at this point, he can, can't and shouldn't do in order for the Texans to give themselves the best chance to win each weekend. You know there will be accuracy issues, red zone bog-downs and the occasional turnover. Managing what the Texans do well — sound defense, running the football, using Shane Lechler's leg, and the occasional Clowney/Mercilus "holy [BLEEP]" play — is the key for Bill O'Brien.
So if you run the forensics on the box score of Sunday's Colts game, there are a ton of signs that point to victory for the Texans. The play mix on offense was optimal (41 runs, 24 passes), the Texans won the turnover battle (3 to 1) and they dominated time of possession (36:05 to 23:55). Honestly, if they turn just one of those five — FIVE! — Nick Novak field goals into a touchdown, this was a two-score game, which is remarkable considering the Texans were a 6.5-point underdog.
The Texans, quite simply, are better than the Colts right now. They deserved to win. On Sunday, there were a few underrated plays in the game, a few of which were sort of nuances to overall larger plays. Let's examine a few I liked:
3rd and 5, IND 32 yard line
5:17 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Akeem Hunt 19-yard draw play, blocks by Jeff Allen and Jay Prosch
To this point, the Texans' propensity to go away from the running game on 3rd down after it had been working for multiple, consecutive plays was perplexing, to say the least. On their first field goal drive, set up by the Quintin Demps INT, they had run Alfred Blue for standard, positive yardage three straight plays, and then on 2nd and goal and 3rd and goal, they decided to throw the football from the 3 yard line, with a ton of congestion and conditions that are far from Osweiler-friendly. Thankfully, on an important 3rd and five on their only touchdown drive, they dialed up Akeem Hunt's only touch of the day on offense, a 19 yard draw play. Kudos to Jeff Allen and Jay Prosch for their blocks on this play, and to Prosch for his run blocking all afternoon.
Prosch had a good day doing dirty work ... pic.twitter.com/QuOr49r0zb— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 12, 2016
3rd and 5, IND 8 yard line
3:09 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Brock Osweiler laser pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz to IND 2 to set up 1st and goal (and eventual TD)
Here's a third down where they threw the ball, and it worked. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz settles down nicely into an open spot near the goal line, Osweiler throws an absolute rope — he knows only one speed of throw, the fastball, so on plays like this, where it's necessary, it looks good — and CJF makes a nice play on the ball to give the Texans 1st and goal. One play later, Lamar Miller walked into the end zone (behind a Jay Prosch block!).
This is a great play on both ends, throw and catch ... pic.twitter.com/Q8yA5xHZJw— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 12, 2016
3rd and 10, HOU 37 yard line
0:56 to go, 2nd quarter
PLAY: Andrew Luck pass incomplete short middle to Philip Dorsett, broken up by Andre Hal.
The last minute of the half provided a six-point swing in favor of the Texans, and it was this pass breakup on third down that triggered the sequence. Andrew Luck was looking for Dorsett and what would've been first down yardage to keep the drive alive. Instead, Andre Hal got a great break on the play, and broke up the pass, forcing Chuck Pagano to make the somewhat questionable decision of allowing 98-year-old Adam Vinatieri to try a 55-yard field goal. The kick missed badly, and the Texans only had to move the ball 22 yards, 16 of which came on a Will Fuller grab, to set up a 52 yard FG by Nick Novak. Instead of 10-6 (or maybe even 10-10, if the Colts kept moving the ball), Hal's play on Dorsett laid the groundwork for the Texans to go into the locker room up 13-3.
3rd and 2, IND 35 yard line
14:11 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Andre Hal interception on first Colts possession of 2nd half, Clowney with the QB hit
There are two great things about this play, other than the interception itself — first, Jadeveon Clowney's unending effort to hit Andrew Luck was just one in a number of impactful plays the 2014 first overall pick made on the day. Clowney was, quite simply, the best player on the field on Sunday. The other fantastic part of this play, more for comic relief, is Vince Wilfork
waddling running in the open field after the sudden change. We need a Vince-cam every week, please.
My favorite part about Hal's INT is Vince Wilfork running in the open field after the sudden change .... pic.twitter.com/gGNJSAF677— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 12, 2016
3rd and goal, HOU 3 yard line
2:36 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Clowney strip sack and fumble caused, Mercilus hustle to recover fumble
This was a totally horrific ten seconds for Colts TE Dwayne Allen — first, he gets owned by Clowney off the edge, then, for some reason, he tries to daintily scoop the ball in traffic, and Whitney Mercilus's hustle allows him to sweep the ball out from under Allen and complete the turnover. Without Mercilus's hustle on this play, it's just a stop on third down and the Colts kick an easy field goal. Instead, because of Clowney's causing the fumble AND Mercilus's diligence in recovering it, the Colts came up empty.
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Ok, HERE is Dwayne Allen's worst five seconds -- soul crushed by Clowney and then casual attempt to scoop ball in clutter. Turnover. Bye. pic.twitter.com/oPWzcTuNOb— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 12, 2016
3rd and 7, HOU 48 yard line
1:57 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Brian Cushing tackle of T.Y. Hilton on 6-yard catch
A small tribute to Brian Cushing, who became the leading tackler in Texans history on Sunday, surpassing DeMeco Ryans. I don't know that he's had many bigger tackles than this one, holding the shifty T.Y. Hilton short of the first down on 3rd and seven, and allowing the Texans defense one more chance to get off the field for good on 4th and one. Happily, they did just that, and swept the season series from the Colts for the first time ever...
About as big a tackle as Brian Cushing has made all season... pic.twitter.com/Tge8kEuP92— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 12, 2016
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