With a streak of futility at home that dates back to last season's wild card round playoff game, a stretch in which the Texans have only scored one touchdown in each of their last three home games, the Houston Texans not only broke that streak on Sunday, but they took it out back, smashed it against the wall, and lit the broken pieces on fire.
On the scoreboard, the Texans beat the Atlanta Falcons by a quirky final score of 53-32, but in the box score and the record book, they scribbled all sorts of crazy new numbers, as a team and some individuals. Specifically, the Texans accomplished the following (courtesy of Texans PR):
* Scored the second-most points in a game (53) in franchise history and scored over 50 points for just the second time (57 points in Week 4 of 2017 vs. Tennessee)
* Scored on every possession after the first drive of the game besides a 22-second drive to end the first half
* Posted the second-most total net yards (592) in a game in franchise history and most since Week 11 of the 2012 season vs. Jacksonville (653)
* Notched the third-most net passing yards (426) in a game in team history trailing Week 11 of 2012 vs. Jacksonville (504) and Week 2 of 2010 at Washington (468)
* Tallied 31 total first downs (11 rushing, 18 passing, two by penalty), which marks the third-most first downs gained in a game in team history trailing Week 4 of 2017 vs. Tennessee (33) and Week 11 of 2012 vs. Jacksonville (39)
* Did not allow a sack in the game for the second time in QB Deshaun Watson’s career (Week 8 of 2018 vs. Miami)
* Converted 10-of-13 third-down attempts (77 percent), 4-of-5 redzone attempts (80 percent) and 3-of-3 goal-to-go attempts (100 percent)
And all of this on the first ever Founder's Day, in which the late Bob McNair was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. Good times! Let's examine some winners and losers from yesterday's Texans victory....
4. Will Fuller fantasy owners
Yes, I am one of them! I own Will Fuller in one of my fantasy leagues, and you'll probably be surprised not at all that I decided this week to bench him, after a paltry three catches for 23 yards last week. So naturally, Fuller went off for one of the three best days any Texans wide receiver has had in the history of the team, maybe THE best when you consider that he scored three touchdowns while going for 217 yards on 14 grabs. This game was s classic example of why this offense is so next-level dangerous when he is healthy, and why I am 100 percent certain that Fuller is as big, if not a bigger, priority to extend this offseason as any free agent on the roster. (NOTE: Fuller could still play next season under the fifth year option of his rookie deal.)
3. D.J. Reader
Yeah, this was the highest scoring game between both teams (85 points) in Texans history, but let's make sure to give the Texans' defense a little bit of love. Truth be told, if DeAndre Carter fields the Atlanta punt cleanly on the first play of the fourth quarter, with the Texans up 33-17 at the time, I think the Texans' defensive yardage and points numbers wind up far more impressive, as the Texans likely go up 40-17 and the game is done. As for a player to rep the defensive "winner" representation, Reader is as good as any. He's had a tremendous season, and on Sunday, once again added some nice pass rushing stats and plays (1 sack, 1 QB hit) to go with his usual clogging of the opposition's run game (20 carries, 57 yards).
2. Bob McNair, Ring of Honor Inductee
For the second time in team history, the Houston Texans conducted a halftime ceremony to add an inductee into the team's Ring of Honor, this time with the late Bob McNair, the original founder of the team, joining Andre Johnson as the only two ring members. With Johnson alongside, Janice and Cal McNair unveiled a framed red jacket, symbolic of the honor. Bob McNair's importance to this city cannot be overstated, for as much as we express frustration with the Texans' difficulties in elevating their on-field achievement to championship heights, the effect of merely HAVING football in the city, for social and charitable purposes, is undeniable.
1. Bill O'Brien
Look, I host the Texans' postgame show on the radio, so I know this as well as anybody, having plowed through hundreds of phone calls from Texan fans through the years —- when the team loses, Bill O'Brien takes the brunt of the blame, and the they win, it's mostly about the players and how great they were. So I will give Bill O'Brien some credit here. The Texans went out there on Sunday and took care of business. They had a great defensive game plan for the explosive Falcon passing offense, and offensively, they put the game in the hands of Deshaun Watson (and if you believe internet chatter, the play calling in the hands of Tim Kelly) and went to work. After the game, O'Brien still seemed pretty salty, vowing that their only goal for the upcoming weeks is weekly improvement. Whatever the case, this much is certain — this is as tough and as crucial a five game stretch as O'Brien has coached in his career, with four of the next five on the road, starting with this coming weekend in Kansas City.
4. Texans opening drives
If there is one area that O'Brien needs to improve, it's coming out with a better game plan, or a more focused offensive unit, or both, in the first drive of the game. The first drive of the game on Sunday was abysmal, with a one yard run by Carlos Hyde, followed by a Hyde fumble for a 15 yard loss, and a dump off to Duke Johnson before a punt. The previous four games saw the first drives combine for 22 plays for 34 yards, three punts, and one fumble lost. They can't afford empty drives against the Chiefs this weekend, especially soul crushing ones that they've had a week to script and prepare for.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars' secondary
The picture below is from Sunday afternoon. On the right is Jacksonville Jaguar cornerback Jalen Ramsey, whose team was PLAYING this afternoon in Charlotte. Ramsey was obviously listed as inactive (with a back injury, for what it's worth), but he seems active enough in that picture, doesn't he?
Let the rumor mill grind away!
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2. DeAndre Carter
It was a rough afternoon for Carter, whose one kickoff return was an ill advised 22 yard tote from out of the end zone (back to the 19 yard line), whose four punt returns went for a paltry 22 yards, and most importantly, whose muffed punt on the first play of the fourth quarter allowed the Falcons to hang around in a game that the Texans were one drive away blowing wide open, had Carter held onto a simple punt.
1. Dan Quinn
Heading into this weekend's games, Washington's Jay Gruden was literally the odds-on favorite to be the first NFL head coach to get fired this season, and he did nothing to dissuade the oddsmakers from leaving him at the top of the board. Amazingly, Bill O'Brien was tied with Atlanta's Quinn for second on the list, both at 4/1 odds to be the first head coach relieved of duty. So I guess in the battle to leave us with a clear number two to Gruden, O'Brien won. Had the Texans lost, I still don't think O'Brien's seat would have been at "pending termination" levels of heat. That said, Quinn's seat may be that hot, now at 1-4 on the season, and with the side of the ball where Quinn is supposedly the expert, the defense, giving up almost 600 yards on Sunday. With the Rams and the Seahawks among the next three opponents, Quinn might be done when the bye week arrives in Week 9.