Sunday afternoon's loss to the Falcons was a definite gut punch but the staff/team have to put it behind them to get ready for the Thursday tilt with the Indianapolis Colts. There's a bunch to learn though from Sunday so here are my observations from the Sunday loss.
- The defense couldn't have gotten off on a better foot with a three and out to start the game. Brian Cushing shadowed Devonta Freeman on a flat route and planted him in the turf on first down. Jadeveon Clowney knocked down a pass on second down. The pass rush forced an incompletion on third down.
- Arian Foster couldn't have had a better play to return to the field. The catch he made on the first play of the game is flat outstanding. Wow. The rest of the game was tough, but that catch, man, I'm not sure what receiver makes that catch, much less running back.
- The interception, I'll be honest, DeAndre Hopkins was mugged the entire way, but it wasn't called and we can't expect it to be called either.
- The second defensive series may be as frustrating as it gets. The 4th and one play should've been stopped but not everyone on defense did his job, as the saying goes. Devonta Freeman got that first down by inches but he should've gone nowhere. Think about how the game changes after a 4th down stop to get confidence. Maybe it doesn't change at all, but maybe it flips on the spot.
- Then, on the 3rd and six play shortly thereafter, the contain rushers lost contain badly, allowing Matt Ryan out of the pocket to complete a great throw for a first down. Contain - it's the first tenet of rushing the passer or playing defense. The inability to contain Ryan cost the Texans a key first down.
- When you don't get blocked, you HAVE to make a tackle. It's that simple. Devonta Freeman's first touchdown run was a perfect example of that. Just poor run defense all the way around.
- Falcons DT Ra'Shede Hageman just took over on Sunday. He lined up all over the line of scrimmage and just unleashed. That was University of Minnesota Hagemann and not rookie on Hard Knocks Hagemann, that's for certain.
- When everyone did their job rushing the passer, they enveloped Matt Ryan in the pocket like they did on JJ Watt's knockdown...which was negated by illegal hands to the face call.
- 2nd and 12 pass knockdown negated by penalty. 3rd and 15 incompletion on the very next set of downs negated by pass interference.
- Then later, a Cushing sack on 1st and 15 was negated by another illegal contact penalty.
- Three positive plays all negated by penalty on the second scoring drive. Then, Freeman burst up the middle untouched as the Falcons executed a perfect power gap play for six.
- I'll give the defense some credit - after getting gashed on the Freeman run for a TD, the offense went three and out again. The defense had to go right back on the field and got a three and out, highlighted by a Watt knockdown and a Watt sack. That was the best this defense played all day.
- Then, it unraveled...a blatant interference miss by the refs on first down. I'm not being a homer; it was a legitimate miss. Then, second down, the fumble, scoop and score. So, think about what happens if the Texans get the three and out, the interference is then called. The ball is in Atlanta territory and it's only 14-0. One play later and it's essentially over at 21-0. The sideline was completely deflated after that play.
- Got to give the Falcons corners - Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant - were physical and aggressive all game long. They got away with "allowed muggings" at times, but you know what, it worked and it wasn't called so power to them. The Falcons got both guys in the same draft and they have taken to this Dan Quinn system like a duck to water.
- The Falcons ran the same play that went for a Freeman TD early in the first quarter later against base defense and everyone did his job and it went for no gain. Yes, I'm making a point.
- Not sure what linebacker or defensive back had Devonta Freeman up the sideline on the wheel route on his long reception but someone, again, blew the coverage. That has to stop. Teams have hit that route on this defense way too often. It was man/pattern match coverage - a TE, a WR and a RB - ran a route and one of them got covered by two defenders.
- The Falcons TD a few plays later was the Seahawks Super Bowl play that was intercepted...with one exception. Julio Jones put a block on the DB because the ball was thrown behind the line of scrimmage so it was like a quick screen at the two yard line. Not sure if the block was by design or what, but it worked like a charm. Unfortunately.
- When the Texans won a one-on-one battle, they didn't finish...for lack of a better word. The fumble by C.J. Fiedorowicz could've been the start of something positive. It wasn't, as William Moore planted his shoulder right in Fiedorowicz's gut and forced a fumble. The Falcons didn't score but that damage was already done.
- The last drive before the half could've been a rough one but QB Ryan Mallett worked his way out of the back of his own end zone. But, it bogged down near the end before a field goal miss. Like the whole day, a glimmer of hope, but the door was slammed shut in a rude manner.
- The rest of the day went sort of the same way, to be honest.
- Brian Hoyer came in and was comfortable throwing the ball, much more than he was in his last action against Kansas City. Now, he was facing the Falcons second group but the offense needed all the confidence it could get. Not sure if that unit took anything out of that last quarter of football.
I'll leave it right there for today. Let me be clear if I wasn't already, Sunday was ugly, but it can be a footnote or it can be a sign of things to come. That's up to the staff/team to decide. As such, there's no more looking back at this point. It's on to Thursday and the Colts...we can't get there soon enough.
The Texans faced the Falcons in Atlanta during Week 4.