The Steelers came in like the Grinch that stole Christmas and ripped off a 34-6 win to end the Texans home regular season schedule. It was a tough day with a few gigantic bright spots. Here are a few observations.
- DeAndre Hopkins is __. I’ve been looking for the proper adjective from the day that I set foot in this building. Outstanding. Freaky. Unreal. Scintillating. None of them really do him justice, to be honest. Try this as exercise, rank the best catches you’ve seen him make. Dare ya to try to figure out that list. I’ve seen every one of them up front and in person for the past four seasons and I know for a fact that I couldn’t do that; it’s way too hard. But, I’d like to take a crack at it, though…
TD catch on Christmas day v. Steelers (2017)
Helmet catch @ Jacksonville (2015)
One hand wizardry @ New York Giants (2014)
Game-winning catch @ Cincinnati on Monday Night Football (2015)
One hand sideline catch v. Darrelle Revis and the Jets (2015)
Pick a touchdown catch in 2017 - beating Pat Pete, diving catch v. San Fran
Any of his toe-tapping genius 2014 - 2017.
I see him work every day and do things that mere mortal receivers couldn’t even dream of doing on their best day. There’s not a better catch in the NFL in 2017 than the one he made for the touchdown yesterday. He backhand-tipped a T.J. Yates pass in the air to keep Steelers defensive back Joe Haden from making the interception and then snatched it with the other hand. Oh, then he got his feet in bounds, both of them, nailing his left foot into the turf to ensure he made the catch with both feet in bounds. Honestly, there’s no apt adjective to finish that sentence other than to say that DeAndre Hopkins is a Texan... and I’m DAMN glad for that.
Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham continued his excellent second half of the season. He led the Texans in tackles, yet again, posting 10 on the afternoon. He now has 78 tackles, which places him in second behind Benardrick McKinney. Even more impressive, though, was Cunningham in pass coverage, for the most part, especially so in man coverage on Le’Veon Bell. When Bell shifted to a perimeter receiving position, Cunningham tracked him to the outside. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wanted to throw that way, given the matchup he had with the rookie on one of the best receiving running backs in all of football. Unfortunately for Ben and Bell, Cunningham was in Bell’s hip pocket and seemingly easily knocked the ball away from Bell. That was just one of Cunningham’s three passes defensed on the day, which also led the Texans defense. He’s playing as well as any player on this roster at this point of the season, offense, defense or special teams.
If you had told me coming in that the Texans were going to run for 176 yards or post a 6.3 yards-per-carry average, I’d have told you that this would’ve been a game the Texans could and should win. That didn’t happen, obviously, but the run game was excellent for the most part. The dam really broke on Alfred Blue’s 48-yard run in the second quarter. The fourth-year back topped 100 yards for the first time since 2015. Dude ran his butt off - short yardage, 1st-and-10, 2nd-and-long - no matter the situation, Blue pounded the rock as well and effectively as I’ve seen in a while. His yards-per-carry average is higher than it’s been in his career, just slightly over last year.
- Keep this in mind, too. The Texans started Chad Slade at one guard position, Greg Mancz at center and Julien Davenport at left tackle. The only two starters that were in their regular position were Breno Giacomini and Xavier Su’a-Filo. Yet, they ran 28 times for 176 yards. Even without Blue’s run, the Texans ran 27 times for 128 yards, which would’ve been the most yards since the win over Arizona. As it was, the 176 yards on the ground were a season high for the Texans. That was done against a Steelers defense that was 8th in the league, yielding only 101.1 yards per game. The Texans topped that mark before the end of the first half.
- One of the contributors to that offensive line on Saturday was THE story of the day - David Quessenberry. Prior to the game, during my pregame radio hit, I mentioned the fact that he was back on the field after four years of waiting. And rehabbing. And getting chemo treatment. And running the hill. And 15 weeks on the practice squad. He never wavered on his desire to play in the NFL. He was the team’s captain, walking out to midfield with Shane Lechler, and I shed a tear or three, not going to lie. He was used as a sixth offensive lineman, aligning as an attached tight end throughout the day, and he made some key blocks in the run game too. He wasn’t just a good story before the game, either, as he opened some holes with key blocks out on the edge. After the game when I interviewed him, he was so disappointed that the Texans didn’t win, but that moment of finally getting on the field was not lost on him at all. Quite honestly, he should serve as inspiration for anyone in any field in any walk of life. He should be a hero to anyone reading this and beyond. I know, no matter what happens in my life, I’ll never forget his fight and his battle... and on Christmas Day 2017, he celebrated that victory by playing the game he loves, and he did it well, too.
Well, that’s about it - there’s not much more to get excited about in this one. So, we’ll go to Indianapolis next week and look for a third straight in Lucas Oil Stadium and a fifth victory on the season. See ya then, everyone.