Now, that’s a Thursday night game that will be remembered for a while, for a number of reasons, good and bad.
But, the Texans moved to 5-3 and a game and a half up in the AFC South. Again, I don’t really need to remind you that’s after starting the season 0-3. Here are my observations from the 42-23 win over the Miami Dolphins.
1. I’ll get to some specific thoughts on the game itself, but I wanted to start with the TEAM. Yes, the TEAM. I’ve been around teams my entire life. I’ve been around Texans squads since 2007 and been in the building since 2014. I’ve not seen a team like this one. The way it’s meshed and gelled together. The way they fight for each other, offense, defense and special teams warms my heart. The dynamic of “good teammate” is something many in the media and fans have joked about, but this locker room truly has bought into that. You can see it in the dual press conference with Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins last week. The bus ride that no one will ever forget. Safeties playing cornerback. Backups stepping into leading roles. Rookies finding their niche/role. Whatever it takes. This locker room just doesn’t give it lip service; it’s all the way in. The way guys celebrate the success of each other. The way the “new” guys have blended in and even lead the locker room. I see it because I get to see them every day, I’m in the locker room after games. I’m in the cafeteria when they’re in there. I’m lucky and it’s evident that camaraderie and togetherness are hallmarks of this team and are hugely valuable to this squad.
2. I think one great example of this was in the second quarter when the Dolphins completed a third down pass to Devante Parker. Linebacker Josh Keyes had stepped outside when he needed to step inside, in front of Parker. After the play, Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Reid both looked at Keyes wondering what he was doing. Then, they both walked over to Keyes, patted him on the head and encouraged him. Here was Keyes, a guy that had been on the couch, figuratively speaking, last Sunday afternoon and was now having to play some important moments four days later. The two safeties recognized that and tried to help and encourage him. A few plays later Keyes made one of the hits of the year on Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler that should’ve been a scoop-and-score touchdown.
3. Another great example of The TEAM occurred during that same first half drive when there was a time out. I looked out on the field and there was Dylan Cole and Brian Peters talking to Keyes and Kalambayi to make sure they were certain of their linebacker assignments. As much as I want Peters on the field, he prowls the sidelines, aiding linebackers and talking to the special teams unit every time off the field and Cole is right there next to him.
4. Okay, there are so many things to hit right off the top, but The Catch will go down as one of the most amazing athletic feats I’ve ever seen. And, I’ve seen DeAndre Hopkins do some insane you-know-what over the past six years. However, that one hand, between the legs, pin the ball to your hamstring defied description. There really are no words for what he did. No adjective has been created to adequately describe that catch. The fact that he was penalized on that play was ridiculous, pure and simple. Again, what a joy it’s been to watch him become the best receiver in the league over these past six seasons.
5. Quarterback Deshaun Watson drove on a bus 12 and a half hours last Saturday to Jacksonville, led the team to a decisive win over a tough divisional opponent, got home at dark thirty on Monday morning after another 12 and a half hours on the road and three nights later had one of the best nights any Texans quarterback has ever had. He had five touchdowns and four incompletions. That’s not interceptions, INCOMPLETIONS. He had time to throw. He threw short when needed. He delivered dimes on intermediate routes. He threw angelic parabolas deep down the field. He threaded the needle. He was brilliant. Can we all take the bus to Denver?
6. The 73-yard touchdown throw to Will Fuller V was an incredible toss and showed the full gamut of Watson’s accuracy and Fuller’s speed. That said, I’m sick to my stomach knowing that Fuller’s lost for the year to a torn ACL. He had become not only a trusted asset on offense, but one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL. Guys have stepped up into the void at other positions this year and now it’s time for the receivers to do just that in Fuller’s stead.
7. Lamar Miller wanted this one. That’s actually an understatement, really. He’s a south Florida guy to his core. Went to The U. Played for the Dolphins. He hadn’t faced the Dolphins since he arrived in Houston in 2016 and he wanted to make a statement, or so it seemed. He was outstanding on the ground, rushing for 133 yards on 18 carries. What he does, though, is exploit defenses with his patience, vision and speed. His long 58-yard run was a perfect example of that. The Texans ran a power play to the RIGHT side. Senio Kelemte pulled to that RIGHT side. But, Lamar saw a hole behind Julien Davenport on the LEFT. So, he “improvised” and went left, shot through an open hole and an arm tackle and took off for the end zone.
8. Rookie safety Justin Reid has established himself as one of the top players on this squad. He and Tyrann Mathieu are working very well together and it’s fun to watch that safety duo. Reid had a pick and one pass breakup. He should’ve had another pass breakup but after he laid waste to Dolphins receiver Jakeem Grant as the ball arrived, the ball ricocheted off Natrell Jamerson’s helmet into the hands of DeVante Parker for a significant first down gain. Either way, Reid has flourished playing the run, playing in coverage and doing all the little things, including contributing on special teams.
9. Speaking of Jamerson, he almost had two touchdown opportunities. One should’ve been. One he couldn’t hang onto. He made an excellent break on a Brock Osweiler throw but couldn’t hang on for the interception and as Andre Ware pointed out on our broadcast that he just had to beat Brock to take it the distance...if he caught it. He also picked up the Osweiler “fumble” after the Josh Keyes hit and took it to the house. Why that one was overturned is beyond me and there’s no officiating/rule book legalese to explain it away, in my humble opinion. Regardless, Jamerson had to step up in a major way after not playing cornerback all season long and competed his tail off.
10. The Honey Badger got another sack last night and continues to be a leader for this team, even though he’s only been here, oh what seven months? Tyrann Mathieu’s pregame speeches are well worth the price of admission, but the players seem to love it and he’s thriving. That leadership is one thing, but he’s playing as well as I can remember at both safety and nickel.
11. Right after Johnathan Joseph was injured, secondary coach Anthony Midget called over his five guys in the secondary - Kareem Jackson, Mike Tyson, Justin Reid, Tyrann Mathieu and Natrell Jamerson. Midget got everyone on the same page and that group, not one that I, or anyone, saw coming during week eight, played some good football the rest of the game. Think about it. Those five guys are all safeties. Jamerson played safety at Wisconsin in 2017. Tyson, Mathieu and Reid were playing safety and are safeties. Jackson moved to safety in 2018, only playing cornerback due to injuries at that position. Their versatility served all of them well on Thursday night.
12. Kareem Jackson has been outstanding at either safety, nickel or corner. He delivered a couple of big-time hits, including one that flipped rookie tight end Mike Gesicki on his head. He finished with nine tackles to lead the squad and a tackle for a loss. Not many players in this league could play those three positions in a career, much less the same season, and thrive. Yet, that’s what Kareem has been doing.
13. Have I mentioned the offensive line? No? Well, shame on me. In the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans O-Line gave up a sack with a little over 11 minutes left in the first quarter. Deshaun Watson hasn’t been sacked since. That’s 116 minutes of game play and no sacks against the Jaguars and Dolphins. Furthermore, over the past two weeks, the Texans have run for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns. There’s not really more that needs to be said, but so many have verbally beat down this group this year that it needs another mention. Julien Davenport, Senio Kelemete, Nick Martin, Greg Mancz, Kendall Lamm and Martinas Rankin, plus the two rookie tight ends and the two running backs deserve a huge congratulations for the work they’re doing. I had Davenport and Lamm on with me as players of the game and they were humble and deflecting on to Deshaun and Hop and Lamar and everyone else. Their play, in particular, has allowed this offense to be balanced and effective the past few weeks.
14. J.J. Watt is again tied for the league lead in sacks. He filled up the stat sheet again and was a menace throughout the entire game. He had four tackles, a sack, two TFL, one QB hit and one swatt-down. You know, I don’t get any “Watt’s past his prime” tweets any more. Imagine that.
15. Jordan Thomas came through with two touchdown catches, the first and second of his career. When Ole Miss was here for the Advocare Texas Kickoff back in August, Thomas was on the sideline. Even though he went to Mississippi State, he was friendly with a number of Ole Miss Rebels, including ironically C.J. Moore, twin brother of Texans defensive back and special teamer extraordinaire A.J. Moore. So, I struck up a conversation with him about football, Houston, food and his life in Mississippi. One thing he kept bringing up was how loud NRG Stadium was during preseason games. I told him, wait until you score a touchdown here, this place will explode. I couldn’t help but think back to that conversation when he scored his first touchdown and then jumped into the stands with the fans. The second? He just preened for the FOX primetime camera as if he’d done that a million times before. So glad to see the big fella contribute in the passing game this week. He and Jordan Akins have done yeoman’s work run blocking for Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue as well so it was good to see one of the Jordans score on Thursday night.
16. I mentioned Josh Keyes earlier for his play at linebacker, but he made a MASSIVE play in the third quarter, recovering the surprise onside kick. The Dolphins kicked a field goal to get within eight and tried to catch the Texans napping. They didn’t because Keyes snatched it up and gave the Texans the ball near midfield. Two plays later, Watson found Hopkins WIDE open on the crossing route for a 49-yard touchdown.
17. The thing about that onside kick is that Miami was kicking deep into the end zone every time. So, those guys on the front could take an extra second to make sure it’s onside kick because there had been no threat of a return at all throughout the night.
18. The loss of Will Fuller V will sting coming out of this one and someone (or someones) will have to step up to say the least. That won’t be easy, but if any team can do it, this one can. 0-3 after week three. 5-3 after week eight. Ten days off. One game in 24 days. Time to get some much deserved weekend R&R and then dominate the second half of this 2018 season.
See ya from Denver next Sunday everyone!
The Houston Texans defeated the Miami Dolphins at NRG Stadium for Week 8 of the 2018 NFL season.