The last preseason game for the NFL ended with the good guys getting a W in New Orleans. The Texans left New Orleans with a 17-13 win with a number of big plays making the difference. Let's take a look at a few of those plays in my Big Play Breakdown.
3rd and two
+37 yard line
Texans in 11 personnel
Dynamic rookie Tank Dell had just given the Texans a major boost with a 27-yard punt return into Saints territory prior to their second offensive drive of the game. After Texans RB Dameon Pierce rammed into the Saints for eight yards, C.J. Stroud and the offense faced a key third and two at the 37-yard line. The Texans came out in a tight bunch into the boundary but WR Robert Woods went in motion to create a twins set with Nico Collins. That left WR Noah Brown and TE Dalton Schultz on the boundary side (the right side of the formation). The Saints were in man coverage, so as RB Dameon Pierce swung out to the right side, Saints LB Jaylon Smith went with him. Brown flew up the sideline and took his defender with him. Schultz then ran a masterful route on Saints DB Alontae Taylor. Schultz ran hard to the flat, pivoted and returned back inside. In doing so, he left Taylor on his backside hip and Stroud threw to the spot, to a now open Schultz. He got a little pressure under his arm on the right side, so he left the ball a little high, but Schultz snagged it, got a key first down and a 13-yard gain to the 24-yard line.
1st and ten
+24 yard line
Texans in 21 personnel (Keene at FB)
Still no score
On the next play, the Texans came out in 21 personnel and lined up in a pro set to the field (left side) and fullback Dalton Keene offset to the open/weak side. OC Bobby Slowik called for a split zone - an inside zone to the right side (weakside) with Keene splitting the formation and kicking out the edge defender on the left side. If the front does its job, it opens like a gate with the OL caving in that side and the TE opening it up the other side for the RB. On this play, it couldn't have been done any better. TE Teagan Quitoriano, LT Laremy Tunsil and LG Michael Deiter caved in the left side and Keene came across and kicked out Saints LB Jaylon Smith. Keene's block was more visible, but Quitoriano took the DE and knocked him five yards downfield as he and Tunsil pinned all the Saints on that side of the pile. Those blocks opened things up for Pierce to blow through a WIDE open hole, eye S Lonnie Johnson Jr and make his greeting to the former Texans DB. Pierce picked up 14 huge yards and put the Texans in goal-to-go territory
2nd and goal
+Three yard line
Texans in 12 personnel (Keene at TE)
Still no score (but not for long)
The Texans came out in a 2x2 alignment, but in a different way. To the left, Quitoriano and Keene were in a Y wing situation, while WR Robert Woods and Nico Collins were in a stack alignment to the opposite side. Woods went in motion, creating a 3x1 situation to the field. On the snap, it turned into an old school, two man mesh route. Woods crossed back over to the opposite side, running mesh with Nico, who ran the same route to the opposite side. The key is knowing that most teams are going to be in man coverage on that play, so when the two routes "mesh" in the middle of the field, one, or both, of the defensive backs covering the WR gets picked off. And, that's exactly what happened. The Saints CB covering Collins was late and then hesitated when Woods ran interference. Stroud had plenty of time and floated one to Collins wide open for his first NFL touchdown. 7-0 Texans.
After the Saints tied the game at ten with a field goal in the third quarter, QB E.J. Perry led a drive with a ton of big plays.
3rd and six - Perry hit WR Adam Humphries who froze a DB in man coverage for a key first down
3rd and three - Perry threw a shot to Xavier Hutchinson for another big first down.
1st and ten
+11 yard line
Texans in 21 personnel (Keene at FB)
Score tied at ten
The Texans went back to old school offset I formation and this time went even more old school with an isolation play (that may not be what the Texans call it, but that's in essence what it was). Dalton Keene is a MAN. Isolation is just isolating the FB on a LB and Keene absolutely blasted the LB right in the face in the A gap. LT Tyler Beach kicked out the DE. LG Keaton Sutherland and C Jarrett Patterson comboed on the NT and the backside LB. Keene drilled the playside LB on the iso and RB Mike Boone did the rest. He sped through the hole and then started spinning out of tackles and didn't stop until he was in the end zone with the game winning score.
That'll do it from New Orleans. Yes, the defense was incredible, but the offense needed some love in a win, so I stayed offensive for this last time in the preseason. It's now on to Baltimore, baby. Let's GO!!