Hey, a win is a win. An NFL game can be an utter atrocity, game management can be an affront to sensible thinking, and execution can be nearly nonexistent at times, and as long as there are more points on the scoreboard for your team at the end, that's all that matters.
All I need to do is harken back to Week 2 of last season, in which the Texans outgained the Tennessee Titans by 170 yards and still found a way to lose, 20-17. The Texans did more pretty things on that day than the Titans, and yet, I guarantee that Titan fans (sane ones, at least) didn't really care. Their team won. So forgive me if I'm not going to view the Texans' 13-12 win over a depleted Jacksonville Jaguar squad on Sunday at home as some sort of football atrocity.
The Texans won. They're now 1-1 on the season, along with about half the league. In the grand scheme of things, that's good enough for me. They'll need to be better this coming week against the Chargers, and knowing how the NFL works, they probably will be. We'll see. This we do know — unlike last season, the Texans will not be starting the season 0-3. Progress!
Let's examine winners and losers from yesterday's game....
4. Gardner Minshew
Normally, I wouldn't include a quarterback who engineered a total of 12 points of offense under the "WINNERS" category, but when you're a sixth round rookie making his first career start against a Romeo Crennel-coached defense (in case you were unaware, RAC normally eats rookies for lunch), the term "WINNER" is graded on a sliding scale. Minshew did enough to keep his team in the game, didn't throw any picks, and brought his team back from being down 10 points late in the fourth quarter and came within one questionable play call on the two point conversion of winning the damn game. The Jags will continue to be a tough out for the next couple months with the pesky Minshew under center. The Texans will see him again in Week 9 in London.
3. Carlos Hyde
Hyde was acquired on Swap Meet Saturday a couple weeks ago for would-be castoff Martinas Rankin, and has more than exceeded expectations two weeks into his tenure as a Texan, giving the Texans some tough inside running, and a consistent chewing up of yards. Hyde has put up 173 yards on 30 carries in two games, with a long carry of 20 yards and no carries where he has been stopped behind the line of scrimmage. If the Texans are going to move the chains in some of these crucial upcoming road games, Hyde's running style, along with improvement in the offensive line, will be a big reason why. Hyde also had the added thrill on Sunday of exacting revenge on one of the small handful of teams that age up on him over the last two years:
“I definitely was amped up a little more, just knowing that I was there last year and how things went last season while I was there. So I was definitely amped up to see these guys, but it is what it is. I moved on from that. I’m on a new team, winning team, so just keep it going. “
2. Whitney Mercilus
Through two games, Jadeveon Clonwey's exit has been Whitney Mercilus' gain. For the second straight game, Mercilus made a pivotal, turnover-causing play. Against the Saints, it was his interception on an early drive into the red zone, and on Sunday, Mercilus caused a fumble on a strip sack. The ball was recovered by J.J. Watt and set up the Texans' only touchdown drive, a short 11-yard drive that still needed a fourth down conversion by Deshaun Watson to get into the end zone. For a contract year, things could not be going better for Mercilus, who has three sacks in the first two games of the season.
1. Justin Reid
Reid's tackle of Fournette on the two point conversion attempt to try to win the game is the early leader in the clubhouse for "most important play of the season." Last week's aforementioned loss to the Titans in Week 2 was a disaster, to be sure, but this loss would have been even worse, considering the Texans were at home and had a double digit lead in the fourth quarter. Reid's play prevented that from happening, and now the team can fix the (many, many, many) things they did wrong in the wake of a win, not a loss.
4. Leonard Fournette
Fournette reportedly spent this past offseason getting into the best shape of his life, in an effort to do his part in helping the Jaguars recapture some of that magic from their 2017 season. Unfortunately, the Jags' effort to make him the centerpiece of what they're doing offensively hasn't really hit so far this season. On Sunday, running Fournette between the tackles was like sending him headfirst into a brick wall, which makes the two point conversion play call all the more curious. Unfortunately for Fournette, the one thing no amount of offseason working out can do is change the fact that Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were both on the board when the Jags made him the fourth overall selection in the 2017 draft.
3. Officiating J.J. Watt
Sunday's game was a considerable step forward from Week 1 for J.J. Watt. The Texans' All-Pro defensive end was more present, more involved out on the field, and his fumble recovery set up the Texans' only touchdown. Watt may have had an even bigger impact if the officials were calling the game correctly. Here's Watt after the game on the lack of holding calls on Jaguar offensive linemen:
“I thought I played better than last week for sure. There's a couple of holding calls out there that it's every week. The ref literally admitted to me that guy held me on one play, and he didn't throw the flag. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that when after a play, I look over at the ref, and he says, yes, I saw him hold you, but I didn't throw the flag. I mean, I'll probably get fined for this, and that's fine, but I don't know what to do with that. There are other opportunities there, but overall the defense played well.”
Holy crap, how about the balls on an official saying "Yeah, I probably should have called that hold" to Watt? I would have advocated Watt choke-slamming that official. That would have been a proportional response.
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2. Bill O'Brien game management
Man, it was so nice in 2018 not having to point out O'Brien's deficiencies in clock management on a weekly basis. He really had seemingly gotten better in that area. Then came the sequence at the end of the first half on Sunday, and all those memories just are flooding back. In this particular case, the Texans were driving at the end of the half with all three timeouts still in pocket, and after an in-bounds completion to DeAndre Hopkins for a first down with 42 seconds to go in the half, a play that took the ball to the Jaguar 39 yard line, O'Brien just let 20 seconds burn off the clock. Ultimately, the Texans were left kicking a field goal on second down inside the five yard line to close out the half. As it turned out, those 20 seconds may have come in handy. Ultimately, missing out on those four points didn't cost the Texans the game, but it easily could have. And at some point, it will, which is the disheartening part of the whole thing.
1. Seantrel Henderson
Well, that didn't take long. Last season, it was an ankle injury in Week 1 that cut Henderson's 2018 campaign short. This season, it was his own poor play in New Orleans that got him removed from the starting lineup at right tackle in favor of Roderick Johnson. At last Henderson kept his spot on the team, which is more than we can say for cornerback Aaron Colvin, who was cut during the week. I guess my question would be, if both of these guys were this close to losing their roles on the team (or in the case of Colvin, his job altogether), what were they doing starting in Week 1 at all? I like the decisiveness by O'Brien in removing the problem, but both guys came into the season suspect already.