Head Coach Lovie Smith finally got his first win of the 2022 season when the Houston Texans left Jacksonville with a 13-6 victory and a nine-game win streak against their AFC South rival. Smith even joked about having to wait five games into the season to get his first win as head coach.
"The plane was a lot more fun being on the plane, being in the locker room yesterday," Smith said. "Had to brush up. It had been a few minutes there since we'd been in a winning locker room. That was a lot of fun."
Here are three things we learned from his Monday press conference:
1. The difference between winning and losing
Through their first four games, the Texans had been either tied or within one score in the fourth quarter but unable to put together a winning scoring drive late in the game. Smith not only liked the one-yard touchdown run by Dameon Pierce, but he also thought it was definitive of how the Texans should win games. Total effort on all sides of the ball.
"We're close, we're going to be a good football team, we just need to finish and yesterday we finished," Smith said. "Needed to have a drive to get points on the board and we did it in a way that was fitting for who we want to be as a football team. Offensive line needs to block and the ball to our tailback and let him do his thing. That run was one of the better runs we are going to see this year and that's what he's capable of doing. It's good to be undefeated in our division also.
On defense, the Texans limited Jacksonville to just six points, the fewest allowed points by the Texans defense this season and first time holding an opponent to single-digits since allowing only three points in a 26-3 victory at Jacksonville on Nov. 3, 2019.
"There's some positives that we can build upon but then when you get into the details, there's a lot of room for improvement and it's coming at the right time," Smith said.
2. Rookies have shown up and shown out
In Sunday's game, Pierce finished with 113 scrimmage yards (99 rushing, 14 receiving) plus a touchdown. DB Derek Stingley Jr. picked up his first career NFL interception when he picked off Trevor Lawrence in the end zone. With four of the Texans 2022 draft class in the starting lineup (Pierce, Stingley, OL Kenyon Green, DB Jalen Pitre), Smith has been impressed with the early contributions of the rookies.
"In order for Dameon Pierce to run like that, Kenyon Green needs to do something pretty good up front which he continues to do," Smith said. "Or in order for Dameon to run like that, (FB) Troy Hairston has to do some pretty good things. He continues to do that. In order for us to hold them to six points, a team that had been averaging I think 26 points or so, Jalen Pitre needed to do some good things. Derek Stingley needed to do some good things. It was good seeing him get his first interception as a professional athlete. So yes, our young players are getting better weekly, and they haven't reached their potential yet."
3. Linebacker rotation
Smith rotated linebackers due to the high temperatures and heat in Jacksonville on Sunday. Second-year LB Garret Wallow started the game and finished with three tackles, one TFL and one pass defensed on 18 snaps played. LBs Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Neville Hewitt also rotated into the lineup.
"We haven't been completely pleased with how we've played at the linebacker position and when that happens, guys get an opportunity to play," Smith said. "But yesterday, it was warm out there and we felt like we needed to play more guys to keep guys fresh. As you look for ways to improve and finish, you look at playing guys a little less early in the game. It worked out well. It was good to get some of our backup linebackers got double-digit reps which helped everybody."
Players had their normal day off on Monday and will be back in the building on Tuesday for meetings. After their Week 6 bye, the Texans travel to Las Vegas to face the Raiders on Oct. 23.