28 observations from Texans vs. Buccaneers

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It wasn't the prettiest looking win, but the fact that the Texans walked out of NRG Stadium victorious was all that mattered. The 19-9 win over Tampa Bay was flush with drama all the way throughout, until Kyle Brindza's fourth quarter field goal attempt with 0:24 seconds remaining went wide left. Here are my observations from Sunday's win.

  1. When Bill O'Brien said there was going to be more focus on the run game, he wasn't kidding. The ability to stick to the run game paid off as he noted in his press conference after the game. It paid massive dividends in the fourth quarter when it mattered the most.
  1. Rookie Benardrick McKinney got the start at the linebacker position opposite Brian Cushing. He was amped up, seriously jacked up but he settled in as he got his tackle for a loss on the season with some help from Cushing and J.J. Watt on the play. Speaking of Watt...
  1. ...on that same play, he did something I'm just, well, speechless. The Bucs doubled him on the play, but he tried to initially split the double with a swim move. When he realized that his swim move wasn't going to get him free, he immediately dropped to a knee to split the double team the way most defensive linemen are taught. The fact that he tried to get free one way and then quickly transitioned and created a pile right in the hole was just awesome.
  1. Safety Quintin Demps was adamant that he picked off Jameis Winston's first pass. As Marc Vandermeer said on the broadcast, it was a "tie goes to the runner" or offensive player, it appeared. Watching back on replay, I'm not totally sure he was wrong. Demps had one, could've actually had three.
  1. Early on Tampa Bay's first drive of the game, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel showed the Buccaneers a few different looks. The one that really caught my attention was when he placed Jadeveon Clowney inside on the same side as J.J. Watt. Tampa decided to run away from them. That didn't work. The way that Clowney situated himself, he looked like he was an old school, Mean Joe Greene slanted nose. On the snap, he just drove right guard Ali Marpet directly into the backfield to create chaos in the blocking scheme. Then, he wrapped up Doug Martin for the tackle for a loss. Highly, HIGHLY impressive.
  1. On the Texans scoring drive, holy cow, the Texans interior line combo of Oday Aboushi, Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks completely obliterated the Bucs interior defenders. I mean, they drove dudes way off the ball.
  1. Ironically, the one play where the three are driving Bucs five yards downfield, RB Alfred Blue ended up being tackled for no gain.
  1. While I'm here, any of you non-believers in Derek Newton, it's time to get on board. Tackle or guard, there aren't many players in this league that can not only bounce back and forth, but then excel at both spot. Newton buried DTs in the run game at guard and provided a few wow plays in the process as I looked back on the game.
  1. Also, got this note from a buddy of mine in reference to left guard Oday Aboushi after the game "Oday was (bad word) good. You may be surprised at just how well he played all things considered." Honestly, I had my eyes on him throughout the second half, in particular. I'm not ready to put him in the Hall of Fame, as Bill O'Brien is famous for saying, but the turnstile at left guard may stop for the time being with Oday in that spot.
  1. Last week, I did a Texans Telestrator on 's one handed TD catch in the back of the end zone. That was on a third and two play. On 3rd and three on Sunday, the Texans came back to what appeared to be the same exact play. This time, though, Jonathan Grimes didn't shoot to the flat as the linebacker Lavonte David expected; Grimes pivoted back inside on the circle/angle route for the first down.
  1. Ryan Mallett to DeAndre Hopkins on the inside slant for a touchdown was picture perfect. Hop told me after the game that it was easy - defensive back had outside leverage, Hop used his hands to get free inside easily and then he slid into the dart from Mallett for a touchdown.
  1. On that drive, the Texans averaged nearly nine yards per first down play. I haven't completely studied every drive, but it's clear when the Texans pile up a solid number on first down they put points on the board.
  1. I saw J.J. Watt use rookie offensive lineman Ali Marpet to tackle a Bucs RB. I saw Rahim Moore make a tackle with his back. I'm not totally sure which one was more impressive.
  1. Clowney's inside move is ridiculous. Two years ago when I studied him as a next level prospect, that inside move was lethal. He threw one on left tackle Donovan Smith that got him to Jameis Winston just as Winston let fly with a pass downfield. I mean, it's as if the game tape was in fast forward watching Clowney explode to the quarterback and it's ridiculous.
  1. Mallett helped fix a bit of a receiver drop problem. He decided to just stick the ball right in between the numbers with some sauce. In particular, he made the throw for a first down to Nate Washington on 2nd and ten late in the first quarter. If Nate didn't catch it, the ball would've been impaled in his gut.
  1. Shane Lechler wasn't real happy after his punt scooted into the end zone near the start of the second quarter. Watching the TV copy, the camera was focused on him and I'll just say that he wasn't happy.
  1. One of Alfred Blue's best runs of the day should've never happened. On an outside zone run in the second quarter, the Texans completely left Clinton McDonald unblocked. Blue slipped initially but didn't lose his feet. When he dipped down after slipping, McDonald flew right over the top and burst through for a seven yard gain. It was a Houdini move to say the least.
  1. After last year when we were all jipped out of Watt-Clowney nirvana, it was a welcome sight to see Watt and Clowney hit Winston on an incompletion with five minutes left in the second quarter. Party at the quarterback.
  1. Mallett's interception was my fault, y'all. I had just completed a sideline hit remarking about Kwon Alexander being a rookie to watch this season. The very next play? Pick. Alexander. That one's on me.
  1. Just prior to halftime, Mallett looked up Hopkins on the fade down the Texans sideline. Bucs CB Mike Jenkins had fallen but Hop couldn't hang on to the throw. I saw him then look at the sideline and roll his hand in circular motion - the universal signal to do the same thing over again. The Texans offensive staff obliged but Hop got flipped upside down on another incompletion. Had Hop held on to the first one, he would've walked into the end zone for a key score.
  1. The Demps interception was a direct result of Clowney providing pressure with a spin move-converted-to-power right into the lap of Jameis Winston. Furthermore, because Tampa was so concerned with the Texans pass rush, it max protected on the play which allowed Demps to play underneath trail technique to undercut WR Mike Evans route for the pick.
  1. Tampa Bay G Logan Mankins had beef with John Simon, Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt but, obviously, not concurrently. Every time I looked up he was in someone's face, especially when it came to protecting his rookie gunglinging quarterback.
  1. He didn't get a ton of reps yesterday, but one that A.J. Bouye did get was hugely important. On a key third down in the third quarter, Bouye stripped the ball away from Mike Evans to force an incompletion. It was initially called a catch but replay overturned it. Bouye could've easily given up on it after it appeared Evans had the ball secure, but he didn't and it forced a Tampa Bay punt.
  1. The Tampa Bay touchdown that wasn't...the play J Jo made just an outstanding play. Luckily, the "carry out" rule was eliminated a few years ago. J Jo had a tremendous day, period.
  1. Mallett made a few tremendous throws. His best one was the 30 yard gun shot he threw in the middle of the field to DeAndre Hopkins. But, an underrated one was the throw he made to Jonathan Grimes on 3rd and eight near the end of the third quarter. For one rare instance on the day, the pocket collapsed around him as he had to throw the ball, falling away and wearing a Buc DL. He delivered a dime to Grimes for a key first down.
  1. The fourth quarter hit chart looked like this Blue, Blue, Prosch, Blue, Blue. Or, so it seemed. The touchdown run was all that you'd want on a run play. Perfectly blocked. Speed to and through the hole. Determination to get in the end zone. Early season frustration seemed to evaporate on that one run.
  1. The final drive for the Texans was Mash City. See the above point; it was plenty of Blue, Prosch and the offensive line for 76 yards on 14 plays. The perfect way to end the day, other than the fact that the offense came up one yard short of the end zone. It ran nearly seven minutes off the clock that ended in a Randy Bullock game clinching field goal.
  1. Speaking of field goals and kicking, it may have been the weirdest day of kicking I've ever seen in a professional football game. Tampa's Kyle Brindza hits a 58-yarder that could've been good from 70. Then can't make another one the rest of the day. Randy Bullock hit the upright. Brindza hit the upright. It. Was. Weird.

But, weird is okay as long as it's followed by a Texans win. This one was. Atlanta is next. We'll see you from the Dirty Dirty next Sunday, everyone!

View photos from Sunday's Texans-Buccaneers game at NRG Stadium.

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