Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 13: Texans 22, Broncos 17 — Four Winners, Four Losers

C.J,. Stroud was once again tremendous in leading the Texans to a victory.
C.J,. Stroud was once again tremendous in leading the Texans to a victory. Photo by Eric Sauseda
If you're a Houstonian who had gone through his or her life previously uninterested in the game of American football, but you'd heard how excited your Texan fan friends were after the team's Week 4 blowout win over the Steelers and decided to start following the Texans the next week, then you likely think that every NFL football game comes down to the final 30 seconds.

If you just started watching football during the Texans' Week 5 loss to Atlanta, it's a logical thing to think since literally ALL eight Texans games from Week 5 through yesterday have come down to the final plays, with a few of them coming down to literally the final play. Even in games like Sunday's 22-17 win over Denver, in which the Texans had chances to go up by three scores, you just get a feeling the Texans will find a way to make things close, and give us all a heart attack in the process.

Sunday, it was veteran safety Jimmie Ward, returning from a three week hiatus after a hamstring injury, just in the nick of time, intercepting a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone to preserve the win. The Texans are now 7-5 on the season, meaning they've won as many games in 2023, with five games remaining, as they did in 2021 and 2022 COMBINED.

Yesterday, there were winners and losers. Let's dig in, shall we?


4. Brevin Jordan
The Texans went into this game without their starting tight end, Dalton Schultz, who pulled a hamstring late in last week's loss to Jacksonville, so it was up to Jordan to pick up the slack. Jordan himself has dealt with a myriad of injuries since joining the Texans in 2021, so this was a huge opportunity for him to stake his claim to some more snaps. Jordan responded with the best game of his career, notching three catches for 64 yards, and showing some burst and playmaking ability in the open field. With Tank Dell out for the season (more on that later), the Texans may need to find different ways to attack opponents, and perhaps Jordan is some late season, found money.
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Nico Collins had another huge day with 191 yards receiving.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
3. Nico Collins
It was yet another "number one wide receiver" type game for a guy who unequivocally now becomes the Texans' number one wide receiver, with Tank Dell going down. Collins finished Sunday with 191 yards receiving, but it was the three explosive plays he was involved in — catches of 59, 52, and 39 yards — that swung this game for the Texans. All three plays led to points, and Collins added a short touchdown catch in the second half to cap off the most prolific day of his career.
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Will Anderson is rounding into form this season's and had two sacks on Sunday.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
2. Will Anderson
Speaking of "most prolific day of his career," Anderson was a terror on Sunday, chasing Broncos QB Russell Wilson all over the field all afternoon. All Anderson did was (a) tally his first multi-sack game of bis career, (b) knock Wilson down four times, (c) pressure Wilson eight times, (d) tip a pass that was intercepted by Derek Stingley, Jr., and (e) block a punt in the first quarter. The league is starting to see why Nick Caserio traded so much draft capital for Anderson on draft night.
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Derek Stingley now has four interceptions in his last three games.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
1. Derek Stingley, Jr.
Anderson was the third overall pick in 2023. in 2022, the Texans also had the first overall pick and drafted Stingley, a selection that, until a few weeks ago, and largely because of injury, had generated a thunderous thud since last year. Well, needless to say, that whole dynamic has done a 180 degree turn. Stingley had two interceptions in the second half on Sunday, and they don't win the game without him on the field. THAT is why you draft a cornerback like Stingley with the third overall pick.

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The Texans offensive line couldn't get the running game going AGAIN.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
4. Texans offensive line
At this point, I'm not really sure what to do about this team's futile attempts to run the football. Yesterday, the Texans were going against one of the worst run defenses in all of football, and the three running backs ran the ball 24 times for 78 yards. Their long run of 22 yards came on a draw play for Dameon Pierce on 1st and 25, with the defense completely loose and looking for a pass. On paper, a 22 yard run always feels nice, but not when it's against a loose front seven, and the other 23 carries go for 56 yards. Add in C.J. Stroud's getting sacked five times, and this line is a problem.
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Russell Wilson's three second half interceptions helped win the game for the Texans.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
3. Russell Wilson
I'll admit, I'd watched very little Broncos football this season. I knew they'd won five games in a row, and I knew had coach Sean Payton had kind of figured out that Russell Wilson, despite his $50 million per year salary, was at his best just kind of staying out of the way and making occasional, opportunistic throws downfield. On Sunday, what I saw was an overpaid non-threat, who is a fraction of the player he was in Seattle. His three second half interceptions thrown lost the game for Denver. Until yesterday, the Texans had never defeated Wilson. Check that off the list of to-do's.
click to enlarge Tank Dell's injury was the only down side to Sunday's win.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
2. Tank Dell fantasy owners
The Texans' overall talent level has increased significantly over the last couple seasons. That is inarguable. However, they still have very few players who are NEXT LEVEL talent, where you say "Well, if he goes down, there's just no replacement for THAT guy." Tank Dell is one of those guys, even as a rookie who'd only played in ten games. His ability to get open is mind blowing, his quickness and twitchiness are elite, and at 5-foot-8, he is tough as nails. On Sunday, that toughness may have come back to bite him, as Dell found himself in a massive scrum of large humans while blocking on Dameon Pierce's touchdown run in the first quarter. In that scrum, Dell had a Bronco roll over his left leg. He sustained a lower leg fracture, and is now done for the season. That one hurts.

1. NFL officiating
As a storyline, I don't usually complain about officiating, but Sunday was the second week in a row where the Texans were the victims of major officiating screw ups. The big one on Sunday was this strip and fumble return by Desmond King:
This is an absolutely abysmal call unto itself, but when you add in the situation, where the Texans would have gone up 23-3 and essentially ended this game, that's just inexcusable. Of course, the NFL will excuse this crew, and the poor officiating world will just keep on spinning, but stuff like this is incredibly frustrating, even after a win.

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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