Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 3: Texans 37, Jaguars 17 — Four Winners, Four Losers

C.J. Stroud earned his first win as an NFL quarterback on Sunday in Jacksonville.
C.J. Stroud earned his first win as an NFL quarterback on Sunday in Jacksonville. Photo by Eric Sauseda
This is how you know the Houston Texans got their head coaching hire right. Last week, in their 31-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, there was a lot left to be desired in every phase for the Houston Texans. The rushing offense, everything on defense, and yes, coaching. The Colts' staff outreached the Texans' staff. With the wrong head coach, performances like that can snowball and belief can wane.

So how do I know that DeMeco Ryans was the right guy at the right time for the Houston Texans? Because in a week where very few people outside of NRG Stadium believed they could win, Ryans' team believed. They believed in his plan, they believed in their rookie quarterback (more on him in a moment), and they did to the Jacksonville Jaguars what they've done to them every year since 2017 — they beat them on their own turf.

They didn't just beat them, they thumped them. The final score was 37-17, and a record of 1-2 never felt so good. With his third straight impressive start, and now a start which ended victorious, C.J. Stroud has become the symbol of hopes for a franchise that has had none for four years now. This was a great win. Now, for the winners and losers on Sunday:


4. Blake Cashman
If you were at Texans training camp every day during the early portion of the summer session, then you already knew that Cashman showed up ready to go, making plays every day in practice. He was causing turnovers and general havoc. Then, he suffered a hamstring injury, and was gone for several weeks. On Sunday, he was back, and just in the nick of time, with Denzel Perryman out with a broken hand. Cashman had two huge plays in the game in Jacksonville. First, he recovered a fumble caused by Eric Murray to give the Texans the ball right before halftime, a turnover the Texans turned into a field goal. Then, with the Texans up 24-10, he had a diving interception that set up another drive for a field goal. Huge day for Cashman.

3. Tank Dell
It was also a huge day for rookie wide receiver Tank Dell. After notching his first career touchdown in last week's loss to the Colts, Dell had one of the most prolific days of any player in the league on Sunday, with five catches for 145 yards and a 68 yard touchdown that put the game out of reach, making the score 34-17. Dell's speed and ability to get open unlock a lot of things for this offense, and he has a unique connection with C.J. Stroud. Dell is the real deal.

2. C.J. Stroud
Normally, a quarterback of a 1-2 football team wouldn't be getting this kind of praise heaped upon them, but if you're a rookie making your first three starts, and you're doing things that put you in a stratosphere statistically with some all time greats, you will get your flowers. C.J. Stroud is getting flowers. In the first two games, he showed his ability to stay cool, organize the offense, and make throws to all areas of the field. On Sunday, though, he did all of those things within the context of making winning plays. Also, while he took 11 sacks in the first two games, he wasn't sacked on Sunday a single time. Some of that is improved offensive line play, but some of that is the awareness of Stroud to get the ball out quick, or throw the ball away, if necessary. Bottom line, Stroud has improved each week, and pretty noticeably.

1. DeMeco Ryans
I've laid out my thoughts on DeMeco Ryans above, but let's give him some love one more time, and celebrate the Texans head coach getting his first game ball!

4. All the things we thought the Texans needed to do to win
The crazy thing about Sunday's game is that, in the lead up to the game, I thought the Texans needed to (a) run the football well, and (b) attack Jags QB Trevor Lawrence and get him on the ground a few times. Well, the Texans ran the ball for a paltry 3.3 yards per carry, and they sacked Trevor Lawrence as many times as I, myself, have sacked Trevor Lawrence. ZERO. And they won by 20. I point this out, certainly, to celebrate their ability to win games in different ways, but also to remember that there is a LOT to improve upon, if they're going to win more games this season.

3. Sean Payton
Remember when the Texans reportedly interviewed Sean Payton over a Zoom call during their coaching search back in January? Then, remember how Payton's personal mouthpiece, Colin Cowherd, started leaking stories about how eccentric Texans upper management and ownership were? Cowherd left Payton's name out of the reports, but it was obvious that Payton was using the media to (a) manipulate the coaching market to his benefit, and/or (b) just pick on the Texans. Well, karma is a bitch. Payton landed the Denver job, he is now 0-3, and he lost 70-20 to the Dolphins on Sunday. You read that right — SEVENTY to twenty. You suck, Sean Payton, and it's quite glorious.

2. Heath Farwell
Who is Heath Farwell? He is the Jaguars special teams coordinator, which means that he is responsible for the 11 clowns who allowed Andrew Beck to do THIS to his kickoff coverage team:
Farewell, I hope you found a good, stiff drink on Sunday night, as that play got replayed roughly 1,000 times on SportsCenter and other highlight shows.

1. The Tennessee Titans
The Titans lost to Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns by a score of 27-3 on Sunday. They gave up 289 yards passing to Watson, who hasn't thrown for that many yards in a game since sometime back in 2020. Watson's been abysmal as a Cleveland Brown, and Tennessee made him look like the old Watson. Offensively, the Titans had 114 yards of offense FOR THE GAME. Derrick Henry had 11 carries for 20 yards. The Titans are objectively a worse team than the Texans right now, and who knows what they will look like in Weeks 15 and 17 when they play the Texans. I'm just going to enjoy the downfall of the Mike Vrabel Era. Join me if you like!

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast