The 2018 season ended with a third AFC South Championship in four years on New Year's Eve Eve in NRG Stadium. The 20-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars went about like we expected - grimy, gritty and tough - and the Texans came out on top for win number eleven.
One year after 4-12 and a fourth place finish in the AFC South, the Texans took home the division and will host a playoff game for the fifth time in eight years. Here are my quick observations from today.
1. DeAndre Hopkins had 12 catches for 147 yards against the top corner in the league. Don't believe me? Just ask said cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The vociferous corner said after the game...
"Yeah, I would say this is my least favorite for me, this game. But yeah, I had some good coverage and he still made good catches. He got me on one long ball that was really nice. I dropped one of my opportunities. It was a good battle, but I'll chalk this one up to him. I'm the realest, so I'm going to keep it real."
2. The only thing I would disagree with Ramsey is that it was a good battle. There have been better back-and-forth with these two since they started facing each other in 2016. But, this one was certainly one-sided. Hopkins finished with 115 catches on the season, tying the Texans season record with Andre Johnson (2008). 115 catches, 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. Just brilliant.
3. Back in May, Andre Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Today, a scant seven months later, Hal intercepted his third pass of the season, which tied him for the team lead (with Justin Reid). I sent him a text back in the spring to wish him luck and that we were all cheering for him. He wrote back and said that he would be back so I could celebrate him making interceptions and key plays in due time. I didn't know that it was entirely possible, but he fought his way back and made it happen. He epitomizes what this team is all about in 2018. I could go on about this man forever; he means that much to this organization and team.
3. Boy, it was good to have Lamar Miller back in the lineup. Poor Tre Herndon, Jacksonville's rookie defensive back, realized just how fresh Miller was on Sunday after missing last week's matchup with Philly. He didn't pile up a ton of yards, but when he got a sliver of space down in the red zone in the second quarter, he didn't hold back. He ran right through Herndon at the goal line to score his fifth rushing touchdown of the year. The numbers weren't outstanding but against that defense in his first game back from the ankle injury he suffered at New York, it was a solid outing.
4. Deshaun Watson threw for 234 yards and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown. It was the first game that he didn't throw a touchdown all season long, but the rushing touchdown gave him 31 touchdowns for the season, that's the most touchdowns accounted for in a season in Texans history. He's the first quarterback in the history of the game to throw for 4,000 yards, register 25 passing touchdowns, record 500+ yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns. Yes, in his first year after tearing his ACL, that's what he did this season.
5. He was tough running the rock. He got sacked six times. He knew he was going to take a beating, just knew it and kept coming. One run, one throw, one play at a time. Jacksonville was talking some mad, well, you know what at Watson and it never phased him. In fact, he seemed to thrive in it all day long.
6. The defense was just brilliant. Sure, it was against a completely inept and beaten up offensive unit. Yet, that didn't matter. It held the Jaguars to three points on a sudden change situation early in the game and that was that.
7. J.J. Watt finished the season with 16 sacks. People, some that double as sports writers/analysts, told me in late August that Watt was washed up, that he was way past his prime and that I was foolish for what I was seeing in training camp. Yeah, good one, people. 16 sacks in 16 games. He had another strip sack that actually could've been a turnover for the Texans had Dylan Cole corralled the greasy pigskin. I even got a tweet from a friend of mine back in April asking me when Watt would be finished for the year, in week three or four. I ignored it, although I wanted to clap back in a quick minute. I didn't have to, though, because I knew Watt would ball out and he did. The rich part is said "friend" will probably ask me to get him playoff tickets this week. Ha!
8. I thought Whitney Mercilus did a great job getting pressure today as well. Whether he rushed from inside or outside, he was a menace. He shared a sack with Watt when those two and Jadeveon Clowney all hit quarterback Blake Bortles simultaneously. But, he flushed Bortles out of the pocket a few times on the day.
9. Kareem Jackson had three passes defensed and made a couple of nice sticks out in the open field. It was evident how much he was missed last week. He makes a ton of difference for this defense and it was great to have him back in the lineup.
10. It was fantastic to see second year defensive lineman Carlos Watkins get a sack. He hasn't been active much this year, but the past two weeks, he's been getting some time on the field due to some injuries in that defensive line group. On Sunday, he picked up a key sack, whipping one of the Jaguars interior lineman to get to Bortles. He looks like a different player than he was back in training camp.
11. Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone pointed out, though, that there was one player that really disrupted what the Jaguars wanted to do offensively - Jadeveon Clowney. He's just so incredibly difficult to handle when he can line up all over the formation and that was highly evident on Sunday, yet again.
There's plenty on the cutting room floor, but it's time to get ready for the Indianapolis Colts...for the third time this year. It's Playoffs time, everyone. Let's rock!
See ya next Saturday at NRG Stadium.
Check out the best photos from the Week 17 match-up with the Texans and Jaguars.