There's no such thing as winning ugly.
Just stop after winning because ugly, pretty, voraciously or aggressively, a W is a W and the Texans handled business on Sunday in Jacksonville. After the Texans left Julius Thomas wide open down the seam for the go-ahead touchdown, EverBank
Stadium was jumping. However, the Texans answered and answered with authority. The 21-point fourth quarter answer was as definitive as any one the Texans delivered this season. The Jaguars have some serious young talent so getting out of their building with a victory was a good way to spend a Sunday.
Here are my observations from my spot on the sideline.
- I didn't have to be standing on the sidelines to see how dominant DeAndre Hopkins was on Sunday but it was a great place to see him do his work, yet again. He hasn't been slowed one bit this entire season. The Jaguars decided to put Davon House on Hop all over the field but that tactic didn't work all that well for the Jaguars defense. Hopkins finished with ten catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. He caught passes all over the field. He trapped one on his head. He made a sliding catch, juggled and held on for his first touchdown. He blew past House on his second TD, a 29-yard backbreaker.
- Getting on the plane to fly home, Omar Majzoub and Brett Maikowski, Texans PR superstars, told me that Hopkins is the first player in NFL history to have a minimum nine receptions and 145 yards in three straight games. IN. NFL. HISTORY. I guess someone should send a note to NFL Films/Hard Knocks and let them know that Hopkins is doing just fine as the team's number one option. I kid, I kid, but he's been nothing short of outstanding.
- Just prior to Hopkins first touchdown, I moved to the back of the end zone, anticipating a possible field goal attempt. On third down, when Brian Hoyer released the ball into the end zone, I couldn't see Hopkins. I just saw Jaguar hands and for a brief second, I thought it was picked. But, that ball found its way to Hopkins and then he juggled it a bit. My heart, again, skipped a beat while he snatched and held on before a Jaguar could knock it away from him. Then, he cradled it for the touchdown. I'm sure I looked like a fool on television (not my first time) because I lost it. That was the capper on a nine play, 81 yard, 3:45 minute…ANSWER. That made it 17-14 and sent the Texans sideline into delirium.
- J.J. Watt played his guts out. Literally. After A.J. Bouye intercepted Blake Bortles last pass of the game, Watt walked over to the sideline, squatted down a few feet from me and took a few minutes or more to gather himself before walking off the field. He may have lost his lunch but I didn't want to watch. Even though he didn't come up with any huge numbers, he was a football warrior on Sunday. He chased Bortles all over Duval. He drew a huge holding call on a third down in the fourth quarter. When you hear coaches/fans/players say, leave it all on the field, J.J. did that and then some. He'll cringe on a few plays when he got knocked up field on draws or zone runs but he was gassed from the outset. However, the second half was just, I'm not sure I have words for it. He knew his team needed him and he responded.
- The pass rush needed more than Watt to show up and Whitney Mercilus, John Simon, Jared Crick, Christian Covington and even Brandon Dunn got after Bortles throughout the game. Mercilus registered two sacks, while Simon had one with a serious rush up the middle in the second half.
- I asked Mercilus after the game if rushing the passer was a rhythm thing, sort of like a quarterback throwing the ball or a shooter in basketball. He said that it definitely was and that he sort of found that sweet spot throughout the second half when Blake Bortles was asked to throw a ton.
- Brian Hoyer took a shot in the fourth quarter on the scoring drive that led to a 17-14 lead. I mean, he got D-R-I-L-L-E-D but he eventually popped up and got back in the game one play later. He was brilliant in all phases. For the third straight game, Hoyer threw three touchdown passes, even though this was his only start of the three. He was on point with most of his throws and there were few, if any, bad decisions throwing the ball. He led a 99-yard drive for a touchdown in the first quarter. But, the nine play drive that put the Texans up 17-14 at the outset of the fourth quarter was mostly Hoyer and Hopkins.
- To wit…
Play one - Hoyer to Hopkins for 14 yards
Play four - Hoyer to Hopkins for 29 yards (the helmet catch)
Play nine - Hoyer to Hopkins for 9 yards and a touchdown
Four targets, three completions, 52 yards in passing/receiving, one helmet catch and one HUGE TD throw/catch.
- I liked the few snaps that recently signed Brandon Dunn played up front. I'd like to see him get a few more reps as the season progresses.
- Andre Hal's two interceptions may have saved this game. The first one prior to halftime, I could've kissed him because I actually had something positive to talk about with Bill O'Brien heading into the break. Kidding aside, it was massive. He read the eyes of Bortles and jumped the inside route of Julius Thomas. He knew it was a big one right away because he threw up his finger showing that he had it and that the drive was over. The pick six was just a great read, great break and finish. There's got to be nothing like that feeling, jumping that route, ball in your hands and nothing but green grass in front of you. How much confidence can a player can take out of a pair of key game-turning plays like that? I hope we see that confidence help him flourish in the near future.
- The run game didn't really get cranked up as we've seen in the past, but both Arian Foster and Chris Polk kept Jacksonville honest with two yards here, three yards there. The reconfiguration of the line with Brandon Brooks at left guard and Derek Newton at right guard paid dividends, mostly in pass protection. The Jaguars defense possesses one of the best run defensive groups in the NFL. They made running the ball real tough, but both Foster and Polk did it well enough. Not Hall of Fame worthy, but those yards were tough today and they picked up key gains throughout.
- Foster embarrassed Jonathan Cyprien, a safety, in pass coverage for his early touchdown catch. Foster shook the safety, went back inside, made the catch, leaving Cyprien in his wake, and sprinted for six. He's electric in the passing game and if he's embarrassing safeties 1-on-1, what linebacker can cover him? It's clear how valuable he is to this offense, even though he hasn't put up eye-popping numbers in the last three games. And, man, he's fun to watch.
- In the third quarter, when the Jaguars stopped Foster on fourth down, I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking "uh oh". Earlier in the game, Hoyer snuck it over for a first down on fourth and short. But, in the third quarter, the Jaguars had both A gaps protected, so the Texans ran lead zone to the right side. LB Dan Skuta made a brilliant play to stop Foster and that led to Thomas' touchdown catch and a Jaguars 14-10 lead. That's the loudest I've heard that building - after that fourth and one. But, the Texans offense answered. But, I was holding my breath a bit after that 4th and one stop.
- To that point, I didn't see the coverage on Thomas' touchdown as I was watching the pass rush. When I saw Blake Bortles go to throw I saw Thomas wide open and couldn't bear to look. It was a blown coverage (thanks Johnny Obvious).
- Man, Bortles' scrambling scared me to death and will continue to in the future. But, the pass rush got to him and forced him to look at the rush on a number of occasions. He lost sight of open receivers down the field, in particular Allen Hurns down the Texans sideline in the third quarter. The pressure got to him when it mattered most. But, dadgum, when he scrambled, I held my breath for certain.
- Prior the game, I walked into the Jaguars visiting interview room to plug in a recorder for any players that went to the podium after the game. There was a monitor in the back of the room and it was on pause. It sat right under a sign that read "Gus Bradley Coach's Show". It caught my attention because I recognized the paused picture. It was stopped at the end of DeAndre Hopkins' long 34-yard crossing route catch versus the Colts that led to a Jaelen Strong touchdown. I couldn't help but think that the Jaguars wouldn't let that route hurt them, but the first play of the team's final offensive scoring drive, Hopkins got open on a similar play, crossing the formation from the far right side to the opposite side for a first down.
- Well before pre-game, I was down on the field taking in the sights. As I did, I saw Shane Lechler throwing the ball with Jon Weeks, the Texans long snapper extraordinaire. At one point, Lechler flipped the ball a few times forward just seemingly playing around with different ways to throw the ball over to Weeks. I remember wondering aloud when was the last time I saw that work in a game. Then, it happened three different times during THIS game - Bortles flipped it forward for gains twice, while Hoyer flipped one forward to Arian Foster in the third quarter.
- Brian Cushing finished the game with 12 tackles and was as good as his numbers indicate. He sniffed out run plays, got himself in position and made nine solo tackles. I asked him after the game if tackling was a major focus during the week. He replied "absolutely". It's amazing how a focus on seemingly simple fundamentals can pay off, but it did for Cush and the defense.
- The Texans' defense still needs to stop letting offenses off the hook on third down with penalties. They were fairly good on third down, yielding only five of 15 but three of those (if my math is correct) were converted due to third down penalties. One offsides gave the Jaguars another shot at a third down conversion and they converted. Another was a face mask call on third down that kept that same drive alive. Those two conversions led to the Jaguars only points of the first half - a two yard TD catch by Allen Robinson.
- In fact, the Texans had ten penalties, giving them 50 on the year. But, mostly, it's been the timing of the penalties more than anything else. Oh, while I'm here, the 15-yard penalties have to stop. Three more on the day - two on the same drive in the fourth quarter that led to the Jaguars final scoring drive of the game.
- Jaguars safety Josh Evans has a long memory. In last year's game in Jacksonville, Arian Foster completely pie-faced him on a brilliant first quarter run. He was determined to "get" Foster. Early in the game, Evans helped on a tackle on Foster and was quite vociferous with Foster. Evans added a little shove for good measure. Again, he was determined to not be embarrassed again. Two plays later, he landed a huge shot on Foster, buuuut, he hit Foster with the crown of his helmet…late and was tagged a 15-yard penalty.
Well, that's about all I've got from Sunday. I'm sure there will be more to see on the game tape, but at least, there'll be a W at the end of the viewing. We'll be back in Florida, as the Texans look for a Florida sweep for the first time since 2011. See ya' then, everyone!
Check out these game photos from the Texans' Week 6 matchup with the Jaguars at EverBank Field.