I am writing this at two in the morning after watching a World Series game that went back and forth, and back and forth, before eventually one team, the team that had the last at bat, had to win the game. In that game, Houston won, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers by a score of 13-12.
I am here to tell you about the football game that Houston played in this weekend up in Seattle. That game went back and forth, and back and forth, before eventually one team, the team that had the ball last (for all intents and purposes), won the game. Unfortunately, Houston wound up on the wrong side of that one, losing to the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 41-38, and in the process, completing and confirming the metamorphosis of this team from a defensive-oriented, blue collar squad to a high flying, pinball machine scoring offensive-centric team built around Deshaun Watson, defense be damned.
Let's look at winners and losers, since I gotta go to bed...
4. Jadeveon Clowney
The former No. 1 overall pick obviously read my Friday preview, in which I made him having a huge game the top thing to look for. It obviously didn't lead to a Texans victory, but Clowney's energy level and disruptiveness have to be encouraging for the upcoming schedule. On Sunday, he was routinely beating Seattle offensive linemen off the edge, and finished with one sack and eight QB pressures. Clowney finished as the highest-rated edge defender for the weekend by Pro Football Focus, with a score of 96.6 (out of 100). Clowney led a defensive front that yielded just 33 yards rushing on 21 carries.
3. Will Fuller/DeAndre Hopkins
He's been back for four games now, and Will Fuller's return has to have exceeded the expectations of even the closest friends and family of the second-year wide receiver from Notre Dame. In his first three games back, he had managed to get into the end zone five times, and that was largely the extent of his production. However, on Sunday, not only did he tack on two more touchdown catches, but he got it done in between the 20s as well, finishing with 125 yards on five catches. DeAndre Hopkins had a career day, finishing with eight catches for 224 yards and the go ahead TD late on a 72-yard catch and run.
2. Deshaun Watson
I'll start with the negative, because there wasn't much, but it was impactful — Watson had two very careless throws, a pick six to Earl Thomas and an interception in Texans territory to Richard Sherman, that basically gifted 10 points to the Seahawks. Aside from that, it was yet another Saturday that reminded Texan fans that against good teams, even on the road, the Texans are not only never out of the game, but now they're two bad Bill O'Brien coaching decisions from beating the Patriots and the Seahawks in their stadiums. Watson finished with nearly 500 yards in total offense, and here are the tweets containing come of the latest Watson exploits:
Watson joins Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Daunte Culpepper and Randall Cunningham as the only QBs to record a five-game stretch https://t.co/ouLV7ggKwl— Texans PR (@TexansPR) October 29, 2017
With 3 passing touchdowns, #Texans QB Deshaun Watson ties Kurt Warner with 18 touchdowns through his first seven career NFL games— Texans PR (@TexansPR) October 29, 2017
1. Bill O'Brien, first 57 minutes edition
Credit Bill O'Brien for two things — first, getting his team ready to play and standing by his team when they were clearly distracted by the leaking of Bob McNair's inadvertent use of the "inmates running the asylum" metaphor by using the word "prison" instead of "asylum." In our triggered society, this was nearly enough to turn Friday practice into a mutiny. Second, O'Brien continued for the better part of 57 minutes of game clock to direct an offense that is right now the most explosive in the league, which is nuts, when you consider that we are exactly one year removed from the Brock "throw fumble." Now, there is a BUT, and that will come below.
4. Kevin Johnson
Johnson returned to play for the first time since Week 2, when he left the Cincinnati game with a strained knee. He looked lost, giving up six completions in nine targets, including a couple huge plays down the field. I don't know what Johnson's problem is, but it goes back to the preseason. He looks like he's lost a half step. I know that he made an effort to add weight to his skinny frame this offseason, so maybe that's slowing him down. I don't know, I'm spitballing.
3. Marcus Gilchrist
Gilchrist was another one who was repeatedly picked on down the field, and on the game-winning touchdown to Jimmy Graham, Gilchrist was covering a zone in the back of the end zone, not anywhere near another player on the field. It was something to behold.
2. Jeff Allen
With nine games left in the season, as much pressure as this offensive line allows, it's basically like a raffle to see which offensive lineman allows the hit that gets Deshaun Watson killed. Jeff Allen did his best to win the raffle in Sunday, allowing two sacks and two pressures, and that was with him missing some time while nursing a knee injury. It's remarkable how Watson makes this group look serviceable, because they are God awful at protecting the passer, although admittedly Seattle will make a lot of teams look bad.
1. Bill O'Brien, end of game edition
Okay, now the bad news for O'Brien. We all remember the New England game in Week 3, when O'Brien, with a two-point lead late in the game had a chance to go for it on 4th and 1, and decided to kick a field goal to take a five-point lead when a fourth down conversion would have ended the game. We know how that ended — the Texans got Brady-ed.
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On Sunday in Seattle, after a Marcus Williams interception gave the Texans the ball with a little under three minutes to go, O'Brien just needed a couple first downs to win the game. He got one first down, but with the Seahawks still possessing three timeouts, on the next series of downs, he went conservative, including a handoff to Lamar Miller on 3rd and five that went nowhere really, just to make the Seahawks use their timeouts. As we now know, the clock wasn't ever really an issue for Seattle — they scored on an 80-yard, three-play drive. O'Brien's miscalculation was in going conservative and leaving the game in the hands of a defense that was getting massacred through the air all day long.
The right move was to run their offense with Watson, getting him on the move, allowing him to throw the ball and make plays. POSSESSION of the football was the ticket to winning that game, not trying to force the Seahawks into a clock game. The clock was irrelevant. Keeping the Texans defense on the sidelines for the rest of the day, in the most effective way possible, should have been the goal. Bottom line — Lamar Miller being the centerpiece of the game-sealing drive when Deshaun Watson is your quarterback is coaching malpractice, and I feel like I use that word with O'Brien in these nuanced situations WAY too often.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.