Seeing as though I did Telestrator on Ryan Griffin's first third down reception of the day against the Lions, it was only fair to do a Football 101 breakdown on his second third down reception against the Lions, which may have been even more important.
The Texans strung together three scoring drives the Monday night prior against the Denver Broncos, but all three ended in field goal attempts. Luckily, Nick Novak knocked home all three field goals, but the difference in field goals and touchdowns is more than just the four point difference. Two of those drives came during the first quarter and the Texans were only able to squeeze out a 6-0 lead. Take a 14-0 lead after two successful early first half TOUCHDOWN drives and perhaps that Monday night game takes on a much different tone.
That brings me back to the Texans second drive of the game against the Lions. The Texans went three and out on the first drive with fantastic field position. A great Shane Lechler punt put the Lions deep in their own territory. However, Matt Stafford and the run game went to work, traveling 63 yards from their own six yard line. Fortunately, the Texans defense bowed its neck and forced a field goal attempt which Matt Prater doinked off the right upright. That miss gave the Texans the ball, again, in great field position at their own 39 yard line.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler hit DeAndre Hopkins on third down for the initial first down on that drive. Then, Brock threaded the needle to Griffin for 23 yards and another first down to put the ball on the doorstep of the red zone. After two runs netted no yards, it was third and ten from the Texans 21 yard line. Again, the Texans were staring at another field goal attempt, but it didn't happen.
Why? Good question. I have answers.
The Texans came out in an empty formation with Griffin and running back Jonathan Grimes to the right side of the formation. The Lions were in nickel and showed blitz on the defensive right side with linebacker Tahir Whitehead.
The Lions did blitz but not Whitehead; he just showed as if he were coming. As such, the Texans adjusted the protection to account for Whitehead, but on the snap, he dropped out and linebacker Josh Bynes blitzed through on the left side.
Due to the protection adjustment based on the pre-snap read, the offensive line took care of the down guys, but Bynes had a free run to the quarterback.
But, this was where blitz recognition by both Osweiler, Griffin and Grimes helped turn this into a positive play. Griffin knew he was the hot receiver and knew that Whitehead had to come from the other side of the formation to cover him. So, he hitched up at five yards to give Osweiler a quick read. The Texans quarterback got rid of the ball just before Bynes put a lick on him in the pocket.
If there was any issue to the play, it was that Grimes ran a hot route as well and both pass catchers were in the same vicinity. But, that actually worked in the Texans favor. When Grimes turned and didn't get the ball, he noticed Whitehead trailing Griffin. Grimes immediately adjusted and got a block on Whitehead, knocking him straight out of the play.
Griffin then was one-on-one with safety Rafael Bush... Six yards short of the first down. To this point, it was a great read by Osweiler to throw hot. Grimes threw an excellent block. Yet, Griffin was short of the first down marker.
The fourth-year tight end was not going to be denied, though. He ran through the tackle of Bush, carrying him for six yards and a first down. Another one as DJ Khaled would say.
The 12 yard gain set up the Texans inside the ten yard line. Three plays later on another third down, Osweiler found C.J. Fiedorowicz for a six yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. A Lamar Miller one yard touchdown on the ensuing drive gave the Texans a 14-0 lead. The Lions chased uphill the rest of the way.
Back to the original point, what happens if those drives end up in field goals again, like they did in Denver? Different ballgame, no? Perhaps not, but that early touchdown drive set the tone for the fifth win of the year. It doesn't come to fruition without the work of Ryan Griffin on that 12 yard catch and run...of course, with some help from his friends.
Check out photos of the game as the Texans took on the Lions at NRG Stadium.