Well, that was more fun, huh?
45 points. A club record?
Complementary football as Bill O'Brien calls it?
Another JJ Watt touchdown?
Six touchdown passes by a guy that was benched three weeks ago?
DeAndre Hopkins' performance?
My goodness, it was a good day at NRG Stadium and it bought the Texans a couple of days off. So what did I see? Plenty.
- 15 years ago when Cleveland Browns HBC Mike Pettine and I were head high school football coaches (I always like to mention that to show what could've been...anyhoooo), I traveled to the University of Florida to study Steve Spurrier's Fun-n-Gun passing game. One thing I wanted to learn most was the Gators' varied screen game.
The exact pass used by the Texans on Ryan Fitzpatrick's first TD throw was one I learned on that trip. Its name? Texas screen. Fitting. As such, it was good to see TE Ryan Griffin have an impact early in this game with Garrett Graham nursing a lower leg injury.
- The hit S Danieal Manning put on Titans WR Justin Hunter was brutal. I've been around the game my entire life and I've seen hits like that completely change games. In 1995, Peyton Manning's Tennessee Volunteers visited Florida and ran roughshod in Gainesville for about a quarter and a half. Then, Florida's Lawrence Wright dropped Tennessee WR Joey Kent with a ruthless hit and the game that the Vols had dominated, changed on a dime. D-Man's hit happened before momentum really had truly been established. CB Johnathan Joseph's interception was great but the hit charged up that entire sideline.
- Rookie G Xavier Su'a-Filo rotated at left guard with Ben Jones and played, unquestionably, his best game of the season. In the second quarter, on a key third down throw from Fitzpatrick to Andre Johnson, the Titans ran a twist stunt at the left side. XSF "passed off" his lineman over to left tackle
Duane Brown and slid to his right to lock up the stunting lineman. The rook stayed square and shut it down to allow Fitzpatrick an extra half-second to find Dre for a key first down.
- Later in the game, the Texans ran a power play with XSF pulling into the gap and he led RB Arian Foster into the hole for a solid gain. Many have been disappointed with the rookie not being a solid starter by now, but his progress was quite evident against the Titans.
- The offensive pass interference flag that was thrown on Griffin in the second quarter was a joke. Watching the play when it happened, I knew why the flag was thrown, but when I saw it again watching the game when I got home, I wasn't happy. I've seen that exact same play this year five or maybe six times and Texans TE C.J Fiedorowicz has blatantly blocked a defender before and it hasn't been called.
This time, Griffin ran it perfectly. He sprinted to a spot, pivoted and posted up like he was a power forward in the NBA. The Bengals complained last week about that exact play so…who knows if an NFL referee game of telephone broke out over the last week or not. But it wasn't a penalty, that much I know. I'm also a wee bit biased so take it with a grain of salt, okay?
- In the Texans tunnel just after halftime, I was getting ready to walk down the ramp to the field
when Watt broke into his best Ric Flair imitation, stoked by his personal hype man in assistant strength and conditioning Sean Hayes. Hearing Watt in the tunnel gave me the idea to ask him on the field after the game to give his best Flair imitation. "WOOOOO!" Got to admit 99 nailed it. He told me in the locker room he'd been "WOOO"-ing all game long. I can only imagine.
- The game got extremely chippy at the end of the first half and I thought there were going to be some shenanigans for sure. Titans WR Kendall Wright started it when he taunted CB Darryl Morris. WR Nate Washington then caught a pass and got in the face of A.J Bouye. DJ Swearinger then heard something he didn't like and got in Washington's face. Then, Watt and Chance Warmack continued their discussion that began in last year's Texans win at home. Luckily, no cheap shots or dirty plays took place over the next few minutes before halftime, but it was dicey for a while.
- The best answer was Fitzpatrick's 58-yard strike to Hopkins. Nothing stings more than points and the Texans seven spot to make it 24-0 shut the talking down for a while...or the end of halftime, I suppose.
- Well, that was until Wright's selfie celebration after his only touchdown made the score 24-7. I've
been a Wright fan for a while but celebrating a touchdown in that manner down 17 points more than likely made Titans HBC Ken Whisenhunt's skin crawl. It would've for me had I been Tennessee's head coach.
- Foster didn't have quite the game that he had in Nashville, but in the fourth quarter with a 31-14 lead, he got the Texans out of a 3rd and 17 hole with a winding run for 18 yards that was vintage Foster. There wasn't much there but Foster found one seam every couple of yards until he finally burst forward for the first down. Five plays later, Fitzpatrick threw a TD to Andre Johnson to essentially end the competitive phase of the game.
- But Foster caught five passes, including a touchdown when matched up one-on-one on a Tennessee linebacker. That's the value of Foster to a T: linebackers are at a distinct disadvantage covering him anywhere on the field in the passing game.
- Fitzpatrick threw six touchdown passes. The NFL record is seven by only seven different quarterbacks. Think about that. He was benched three weeks ago, never knowing if he'd play for the Texans again and when he does, he's one TD away from an NFL record. Just let that sink in.
- The Texans defense showed a number of different looks to the Titans, unlike the first matchup, and one of those was to keep a bunch of defenders moving around at the snap. It's the first time I've seen the Texans utilize a "psycho defense" look with four and five defenders moving in and out of spots at the line of scrimmage.
- One thing Texans HBC Bill O'Brien told Marc Vandermeer and myself earlier in the week was that facing a division team a second time meant constructing a whole new game plan. Defensively, the number of different zone dogs and blitz schemes were a definitive sign of a modified, advanced game plan.
- Texans CB Jumal Rolle joined the Texans on October 1, 2014 and leads the Texans with three interceptions. It'd be one thing if the Texans only had a handful of picks, but this is a team in which eleven players have at least one interception this year - Kendrick Lewis, Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Swearinger, Mike Mohamed, Justin Tuggle, Darryl Morris, A.J Bouye, Brooks Reed, Watt and Rolle. Yet, it's Catawba College's finest that leads this team. Trivia question, do you know where Catawba College is?
- Offsetting pass interference calls might be the weirdest thing I've seen this year. I have seen an illegal contact-offensive pass interference called but never offsetting pass interference calls. Strange.
- I appreciate the fact that not everyone loves the South but this whole Watt thing is ridiculous. Watt has scored every single one of his touchdowns in the North endzone.
The playoff pick six in 2011.
The interception return v. Buffalo.
The fumble return v. Indianapolis.
And, of course, his first offensive touchdown in NRG Stadium v. Tennessee.
ALL in the North end zone. The man is from Wisconsin so I get it but c'mon, JJ, spread some of that love to the South end zone, my man.
- All kidding aside, that was one heck of a catch. LB Wesley Woodyard covered it well but Fitzpatrick threw a dart and Watt snatched the rock for the TD. I was on the opposite sideline and couldn't see where Fitz threw the ball so I did something I almost never do. I watched the crowd. The reaction was amazing and unlike anything I'd seen in that stadium, perhaps ever. I know that O'Brien wanted Watt to score at home much earlier than the Sunday after Thanksgiving and THAT was why. Had the roof been closed, the reaction would've blown it clear off its hinges.
There's more football to watch, but those are my observations from the sidelines on Sunday. Thanks for reading, everyone.