The old saying goes: "A Win is a win is a win." The thought is that any win is the same, but that's not really the case. Not for me. Not for a lot of people that had to listen and read some of the most inane stuff said or written about this team this offseason. Sure, it's just one win but, then again, a regular season win hasn't happened in a while, actually. The Texans haven't won since last Thanksgiving. They haven't won at home since they beat the Patriots in November. So, yeah, it's just one win, but Vegas thought they were going to lose. Nearly everyone in the national media thought they were going to lose. Not only did they not lose, they took over the game early and never let up. So, revel in it, Texans fans. I am. Well, you know, 24 hour rule and all. Here are my Harris Hits from the 37-21 win over the Jaguars.
There are some numbers that stand out first and foremost. Let's start with the number three, which is going to be both good and bad. The good was three interceptions, one each from Justin Reid, Vernon Hargreaves III and Christian Kirksey. That equals the interception total from the entire 2020 season. Yes, the entire season. The bad as it relates to the interceptions is that the Texans only scored three points off of those takeaways. The Jaguars' sudden change defense was stellar, unfortunately, keeping another ten plus possible points off the board. Regardless, the Texans offense generated 34 points without any takeaway assistance.
QB Tyrod Taylor was magnificent. The drive before the end of the half was not only exciting, it was executed extremely well. With about :30 seconds left in the half, he made a throw to the sideline to RB David Johnson and he was slow to get up. I didn't exactly see what happened other than he appeared to take a hit on his upper body. But, he got back to the line in a hurry and did his best Houdini, errr, David Blaine escape and dropped a deep dime on WR Brandin Cooks to set up the Texans inside the Jaguars ten yard line. He didn't seem to have any ill effects after that throw to Cooks and, one play later, he drilled one to new WR Danny Amendola over the middle for a touchdown.
Taylor had a couple of excellent escapes, one that resulted in the Texans longest run of the day - a 29 yarder in which he burst through the line with the Jaguars in man coverage and their backs turned to the Texans quarterback. But, most of the day he was protected well. He also made quick decisions when there weren't enough Texans to block the Jaguars blitzers. During and after the game, everyone and their brother wanted to talk about TE Pharaoh Brown's one handed grab down the field but it happened because Taylor threw that ball just before he was hit by a free rusher. The Texans just didn't have enough guys to account for the blitzer and Taylor knew it. So, he flipped it deep and let his talented tight end go get it.
Brown was outstanding as a pass catcher and then as a ball carrier after the catch, carrying dudes down the field as he did last year against the Patriots. But, I got to talk with him after the game and I told him his blocking was even better. He took a Jaguars linebacker into the Texans bench on a zone run early in the first half. He had a number of blocks as a puller or on split flow where he had to take on an edge run defender. He handled that so well, which helped open holes for all his running backs.
Speaking of running backs, the Texans had four active and each one of them made an impact for this offense. I think the best part was when one running back handed the ball off to another running back for a touchdown. Seeing Mark Ingram II in the Wildcat, as he used to be at Alabama, handing it off on a PERFECT read to Phillip Lindsay for a touchdown was just, well, it did my heart some good. A lot of good, actually. OC Tim Kelly didn't get nutty with the offensive scheme, but he showed just enough different looks and used his backs adroitly. One of his best calls was that Wildcat, but I LOVED the third down and four call he made with the Texans up seven to nothing. He caught the Jaguars in man coverage and sent TE Jordan Akins up the field to "rub" through the LB that was assigned to RB David Johnson. The LB was caught in the Akins/defender chaos and as Johnson shot to the flat, he was wide open. Taylor delivered a strike for a touchdown, the third receiving touchdown for Johnson as a Texan and his first in 2021.
Ingram II was the hammer on this day. The numbers weren't obsese - 26 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, but he kept picking up positive yardage all day long. That was the key and he exacted a physical toll on the Jaguars defense. Every time he ran the rock, I kept having to tell myself that he's actually a Texan; it's still a bit surreal to see him in a Texans jersey. He ran with some juice. He ran behind his pads. He also had a little shake too. The sick move he put on S Andrew Wingard in the first half? Oh man, he just left Wingard holding, well, nothing.
I saw C Justin Britt after the game and just thanked him for being in Houston. I don't know how I can encapsulate how important he is for this team and for the interior of that offensive line. Now, he's not afraid to step in to defend anyone wearing the same colored jersey as he does. But, his wrestling background and his nastiness are so vital for that group. I love having him here.
Now, the little dustup late in the game was not his fault. Jacksonville DL Ray Robertson-Harris head butted Britt which started the whole thing. Then, Jacksonville LB Myles Jack threw a punch and got a flag but easily could've been tossed. Either way, Britt handles his own and everybody else's when needed.
So, Ingram II brought the hammer running behind this offensive line, but you want to see the ULTIMATE hammer? Check out the first play of the game and the double team block of LT Laremy Tunsil and LG Tytus Howard. My gosh! That duo just took a Jacksonville interior DL for a ride...on skates as they say six/seven yards downfield. MAN, that was just awesome.
How did I get this far without really focusing on WR Brandin Cooks? He was brilliant. The first deep catch that he made heading into the north end zone was just will...combined with insane speed and strength too. But, Cooks wanted that ball. I was standing about 20 yards or so away and saw the ball coming down and thought he might have a chance at it. But, as the ball descended, I wasn't sure at all. Yet, Cooks went up between a couple of defenders and ripped it away from the Jaguars defensive backs. Ingram II scored a few plays later.
Cooks also made his second long catch right before the start of the first half which set up Amendola's touchdown catch.
Speaking of Amendola, seeing him catch a couple of passes early in this game was a bit annoying. Don't get me wrong, I was happy for 89, but all offseason, Marc and I did radio often opining on which receiver would lead the team in catches in 2021, which one would lead the team in receiving yards. Here comes Amendola with five catches and we never saw him coming! But, in all seriousness, I'm so glad he's here.
Okay, so have I gotten to the defense yet? I may have buried the lede because the defense was outstanding on the day. Three interceptions. Pass rush was on point all day long (other than a couple of roughing the quarterback penalties), Sure, Jaguars rookie QB Trevor Lawrence threw for 300+ yards, but for the first time in his life, Lawrence threw three interceptions in a game.
The only Texan to get a sack was Whitney Mercilus but there were plenty of dudes bringing heat. But, can I take a second to say how great it was to see Whit get that sack? Of all the great things that happened on Sunday, that might have been the best thing I saw on the day.
What stood out the most for the defense was how physical the front was in every facet. I saw a tweet from a radio pal of mine in Jacksonville Brent Martineau. He made a comment as to how if Jacksonville was struggling with the Houston front, how will it fare against Arizona or Denver? Look, I'm not going to take away from those two great defensive fronts, but I don't want anyone to think Jacksonville's OL just took a siesta against a bunch of slappies and that's why the Texans had success. We've said it all training camp long that the defensive line was perhaps the strongest unit on the team. That was evident today for sure.
Lawrence's agility and mobility out of the pocket saved him on a number of different occasions due to the impending rush/pressure. I thought Jacob Martin was chopping through and around both of the tackles. DT Ross Blacklock had a couple of superb rushes and made an excellent play v. the run in the second half. DeMarcus Walker got a hit on Lawrence, same with Charles Omenihu. There was a lot of really good stuff happening with that front.
The star, though, was, well, take your pick. CB Vernon Hargreaves III had his second pick against the Jaguars in consecutive games against Jacksonville. He had just gone back in the game after landing awkwardly on a pass breakup going the other way down the field. So, I thought Jacksonville might try to test him on his first play back in the game. They did and lost. VHIII had a pick and a couple of pass breakups.
The other one was LB Christian Kirksey. He is so well respected and watching him in training camp, preseason games and game one, I can totally understand why. His coverage ability is outstanding for a mike linebacker. He can get his hands on passes that no other linebacker I've seen in a Texans jersey could or can. His leadership on defense isn't showy or "look at me" sort of stuff but it's clear how much the defense rallies around his leadership.
My heart fell into my shoes early in the second half when S Justin Reid was rolled up on by the pile on a run by the Jaguars. As he was down on the turf, I just kept repeating in my head "get up, Justin, get up". He did and finished the game so hopefully it won't be anything that trips him up the next few weeks. He had his first interception since 2019 and the first interception of the day.
The other thing I loved watching the secondary, in particular, was the communication. It was on just about everything too. There was an instance when Jaguars return man Jamal Agnew came into the game. I didn't see him originally, but what I did see was Reid and the entire secondary pointing and gesturing at the Jaguars huddle as if they saw something. So, I looked at the huddle too to see what it was and it was Agnew. He hadn't been in the game on offense to that point and the secondary caught it immediately. They were on it all game too, with or without Agnew in the game.
Man, rookie WR Nico Collins DID make that one handed catch in the end zone. I happened to have a GREAT view and saw the push off so I didn't really focus on the catch initially. But, when I saw the replay, I'll be damned if he didn't make that catch and two toe tap. But, he did push off. It was the right call, but the non-catch showed what that young man can do with the ball in the air.
The key drive of the whole game may have been the three and out the defense forced before the end of the half. Lawrence threw three straight incompletions as he got some pressure from just the front four. 12 seconds was all Jacksonville burned which allowed Taylor the opportunity to go down and put a touchdown on the board to make it 27-7 going into the half.
Well, it's still within the 24 hour period to enjoy this win so I'm going to have a glass of milk and a couple of cookies as I think back on what an awesome day it was at NRG Stadium. Not many knew exactly what to expect from this Texans squad but it responded with one heck of a performance to get win number one...a win some thought wouldn't happen at all or happen so late in the 2021 season that it wouldn't happen until 2022. Guess the joke's on them for now. See ya next week from Cleveland as the Texans return to the City by the Lake for week two.
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