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20 observations from Texans vs. Cowboys

It took playing on Sunday night, at home and scoring 19 points to beat the Dallas Cowboys, but if that’s what it takes, so be it, we’ll ALL take it. It also took an extra period, just like last week in Indianapolis, but a few of those plays in overtime will live in Texans lore forever.

It might be just one win, but man, the Texans fans have waited a while to have one over that team.

Here are my observations from a memorable Sunday night.

1. I’m going to start with DeAndre Hopkins who was just scintillating. His stat line was of the norm, well for Hopkins anyway - nine grabs for 151 yards. But, he came up with two of the most important plays of the game. The second one, chronologically that is, everyone will see for a long time - the spin-o-rama for 49 yards that put the Texans down into field goal range. Watching back the broadcast, Cris Collinsworth compared that play to “the type of play Larry Fitzgerald makes.” There are no words for that play.

2.The first play that no one will remember, but I take note every time a team throws a Hail Mary. Hopkins is always placed deep in the end zone to eliminate any opportunity a team has to catch a miracle throw. He swatted down Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s perfectly placed pass to ensure the Cowboys wouldn’t have a miracle victory in regulation. The way he vaulted himself over everyone and knocked that pass down was textbook. It’s a little thing, but to win in the NFL, those little things have to be executed perfectly. The Dude of the Night did just that.

3. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said after the game that after Hopkins fumble, Hop told him that he’d “get it back.” Yeah, I’d say that he did.

4. Quarterback Deshaun Watson will wake up sore on Monday, hopefully not to the point that he can’t play this week, but I’m telling you, he took some shots. One down on the goal line happened about ten feet from me and I just cringed when it happened. Three Cowboys arrived at the same time, including speedy rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and...POW, they smacked him all at the same instant. Yet, Watson was standing tall in the pocket delivering strikes for the rest of the game, including that outstanding touch throw to Hopkins in overtime. For all of the discussion about Deshaun’s biggest attributes, the biggest, without a doubt, is his resilient toughness.

5. While I’m here, that was one of the most physical games I can remember. There aren’t many dudes from Texas on either side, but it seemed as though both teams understood the rivalry between the two cities and took it to heart.

6. On Hopkins’ Spin-o-rama catch and run, I had started behind the offense on the South end of the field, staying with the line of scrimmage as I usually do. After he starts spinning and running down into field goal range, I ran down as quick as I could to the other side. When I got there, I can just remember seeing J.J. Watt, Johnathan Joseph, Jadeveon Clowney et. al on the field cheering like the fans in the stands were. It was a cool moment to see these guys getting hyped for one another like that.

7.There’s one play in the game that’ll get glossed over by many in this win, but I felt like it might have been one of the three most important in the game, given the situation. On 3rd and one in overtime, the Cowboys were in Texans territory and put Cole Beasley in the backfield with Ezekiel Elliott at fullback. Quarterback Dak Prescott turned and handed to Elliott and linebacker Zach Cunningham shot the gap and stoned Elliott for no gain. Because the Cowboys didn’t pick up any additional yards, in fact probably lost a little bit, and had a 4th and a long one to go, head coach Jason Garrett chose to punt and play defense. The rest is history.

8. In essence, the Texans should’ve won this game by two touchdowns, in regulation, at a minimum. They dominated on the stat sheet. They ran 18 more plays than the Cowboys. They had 170 more total yards. They had 25 first downs to 14 for the Cowboys. They just couldn’t score in the red zone or even in goal-to-go situations. I love looking at the Ball Possession and Drive chart in the gamebook after the game, yet this one was a bit gory. The Texans first half drive chart looked like this…

_1st drive - ended at Dallas 30 - Missed field goal
2nd drive - ended at Dallas 1 - Touchdown
3rd drive - ended at Dallas 2 - Field goal
4th drive - ended at Dallas 1 - Ended on Downs
_
Four drives inside the 30, three drives INSIDE THE TWO and only ten points to show for it. Furthermore, the Texans had FIVE drives inside the three-yard line and came up with only 16 points. Heck, they only punted twice all night long. If the Texans can figure that out...oh boy, look out.

9. Rookie wide receiver Keke Coutee had another day filled with “Dude Moments”. He caught the first touchdown of his career on a little jet flip and finished with six catches for 51 yards. The one that had the entire stadium buzzing was with :27 seconds remaining in regulation on third and six. The Texans had a potential final shot at a field goal on that final drive, but needed to get a chunk of yards and a conversion on third down. Watson got good protection and threw a strike to Coutee who skied to make the catch AND got out of bounds. Unfortunately, the Texans turned the ball over on the next play, but Coutee is a major weapon for this offense, only two weeks into his career.

10.The defense was just fantastic. It held star running back Ezekiel Elliott about 50 yards under his average. He was held to 54 yards and 2.7 yards per carry average. There were a couple of times where I held my breath as he nearly popped through a minute hole in the defense, but other than that, there wasn’t much there for #21.

11. The one thing about that performance was that it came one week after such a rough second half in Indianapolis. I can attest to the fact that the defense was gassed after about 82 plays against the Colts. Last night, they faced only 60 plays and appeared fresh all the way throughout.

12. Safety/Swiss Army Knife Kareem Jackson had another stellar ball game, coming up with five tackles, an interception, a tackle for a loss and two passes defensed. He made a few key tackles on Elliott when it appeared that the Cowboys star back had the potential of popping a big run through a small opening. He played a little corner, slot corner and mostly safety. He blitzed, played the run and made his presence known in pass coverage as well.

13.He nearly had a walk off interception too. After the game, he was happy about the win, but I know that he’ll see that one that glanced off his hands for a while. When’s the last time you’ve seen a walk off touchdown on an interception in regulation? Yeah, me neither.

14. Oh, by the way, I got JACKED up on Kareem’s interception. Johnson Bademosi ran off the sideline to meet Jackson and on the way to Jackson, he didn’t see me and nailed me (I didn’t see him, either). I stayed on my feet but I felt that one for a little bit. It was that type of night for everyone.

15. Benardrick McKinney was fabulous, so was Zach Cunningham. I knew these two HAD to play well with the Elliott challenge at hand and they were exceptional. McKinney ran down Elliott a couple of times on screens or wide runs as if he were a safety, not an inside linebacker. B-Mac leads the charge on defense and his leadership was key on a night when the offense wasn’t scoring touchdowns. Zach made that huge stop on third and one. Big night for those two.

16. Tyrann Mathieu had another strong game from his safety position. He finished with eight tackles and a massive tackle for a loss in the second half and had a key pass breakup right after that on the sideline (stat sheet didn’t give him credit, for some reason). 

17. Throw in Justin Reid’s performance and this safety trio is outstanding. Jackson and Mathieu have played in this league for a while, but Reid has stepped in and fit like a hand in glove. His interception set up a field goal in the third quarter and he finished with six tackles, an interception and a pass defensed. In total, the safeties finished with 19 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions and four passes defensed.

18.The duo of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney combined for 1.5 sacks, two tackles for a loss, four quarterback hits and five combined tackles. Man, they were a handful again and after these past two weeks the Clowney/Watt combination that we hoped to see starting back in 2014 is proving fruitful and not a moment too late.

19. If we think Deshaun Watson took some shots, Clowney and Watt each hit Dak Prescott with shots that I’m not sure a normal human would’ve gotten up off the turf. I mean, Watt ran right through Prescott on a third quarter throw and I was 100% convinced that Prescott was done, for at least a play. He never missed one. He made one of the best plays that I’ve seen on his throw to Tavon Austin. He shook off J.J. Watt, then Brandon Dunn and then took a shot from Zach Cunningham...and then completed the throw down the field. Tough dude.

20. D.J. Reader and Brandon Dunn were excellent on the inside. Andre Ware said to us that he thought it was D.J. Dunny’s best game in his career. The Cowboys have as good of an offensive line as the Texans will see this season, especially on the interior and those two won the battle.

That’ll do it for now. I’m sure I’ve got more and will have some throughout the week. But, it’s time to get ready for Buffalo. See ya next week, everyone. Savor this one, though, it doesn’t come around often.

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