I knew the Texans had it in them.
I knew it.
I saw it in training camp. I saw it in joint practices. I knew what this team COULD do.
Sunday, this team did even more than I expected. That was as fun a Sunday as I've spent on the sidelines in the ten years I've been there. Answers all day long. Counter punches. Lead jabs. Overhand rights. Sorry for the boxing analogies but the Jaguars had a video to start the second half with Jaxson de Ville Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots against an animated C.J. Stroud. The Texans QB saw it coming on the field after halftime and had a wry smile on his face. He knew what was coming.
He was the one landing haymakers all day, just like his team. He was not alone. Let's dive into my Harris Hits from this one.
I'm going to start all the way at the end, in the locker room. Joy. Euphoria. Relief. Every emotion that could come out, POURED out. It's one of those moments that I wish every Texans fan on earth could've been there to share in that moment. The only people that really believed a win like Sunday's could happen sat in that locker room. When DeMeco said they had a really good week of practice, MANY scoffed. "What's it going to matter, Coach", MANY said openly. The Texans had six full-time starters out of this one, in addition to many key players. The secondary had three starters out. We hoped that Laremy Tunsil would return after missing week two but he didn't make the flight to Jacksonville. So, the OL was without as many as four starters. Yet, there, in that locker room, the Texans were celebrating a 20-point win over the HEAVY favorite to win the AFC South in their own building.
What a day. What a freakin' day and it might not have happened without 'Crazy Legs' Andrew Beck.
On the field, it might have been one of the most improbable touchdowns in Texans' history, perhaps THE most improbable. During the game, I asked Marc and Andre, considering they've seen them ALL, what was the most improbable TD ever. Was it Andrew Beck's 85-yard kickoff return on Sunday? I mean, when the ball was in the air and I could see that it was short, I screamed out "FAIR CATCH IT, AB!!" Then, he dropped it. I can't print what I said at that point, but he picked it up and then went Incredible Hulk on the first three Jaguars that hit him. Once he broke out of those tackles, he stiff armed another guy and I looked down the field. There was no Jaguar defender on our sideline and he was running like Forrest Gump down the field. I could see McManus trying to get there. He couldn't. I remember thinking, oh, man, this is giving the Texans GREAT field position. Then, he kept running. Jaguar RB D'Ernest Johnson took a deep angle to catch Beck and Johnson dove at his feet to stop Beck. The Texans newest Weapon X kickoff returner/FB/TE leapt over him and it was clear sailing to the end zone.
I was stuck on the other end of the field where Beck's return started and lost my mind, but the sideline did even more so. Players started jumping off the bench the more yards that Beck picked up. Once he cleared Johnson, oh my gosh, it set off bedlam. TE Brevin Jordan cut off the last Jaguars threat and was the first Texan to celebrate with an exhausted Beck.
I started thinking of all the players that have scored TD for the Texans and I couldn't answer my own question. One last item with this one…after the Jaguars scored to make it 17-10, Marc threw it down to me just before the kickoff and I said "I don't care if the Texans throw a backward lateral to RT George Fant for a 95-yard touchdown, they MUST score on this drive." An Andrew Beck dropped kickoff return for 85 yards was almost as impossible as a Fant TD (no offense big George, you played your guts out). I've never seen a play in Texans history from the sideline have that kind of reaction. Never.
That was incredible.
View the best photos from the Week 3 matchup between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Texans first three and out of the game had me REALLY worried, though. Jacksonville looked fresh and ready on defense and stuffed the Texans right out of the chute. But, the defense held and Jaguars K Brandon McManus pushed a field goal attempt wide right. When he missed, the Texans had GREAT field position and I remember thinking that was a key play to remember. If the Texans could score any points after McManus's missed field goal attempt, that would be a six or ten point swing for the good guys.
It was on that drive that the Texans DID answer in the AFFIRMATIVE. After Texans RB Dameon Pierce picked up a first down, he rumbled for three yards to set up a second and seven.
Big Play Alert!!!
The Texans came out in 21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE) and put FB Andrew Beck out wide to the right side of the formation. WR Robert Woods was in a condensed split (tight to the line) on the left side and Tank Dell was nearly the same distance in tight out to the right side. Beck went in motion, then circled back while QB C.J. Stroud took the snap. Stroud gave a quick play action fake to RB Dameon Pierce to draw LBs to the LOS. The Texans knew they would get post safety coverage so Tank ran a deep post from one side and Woods ran a deep dig from the other side. The problem was that Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins stayed too low to the LOS and never got back to his deep coverage. As he sprinted back into position, Tank ran right by everyone else. Stroud saw no one in the middle of the field and launched for the end zone. Dell, all 5-9, 165 of him, boxed out the defender trailing him and reeled in the pass before Jenkins could get back to him. That put the ball on the one yard line and RB Dameon Pierce plowed through two plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Ten point swing. Missed three for the Jaguars, seven for the Texans. Huge swing early in this game.
The Texans didn't run the ball exceptionally well, but all three RBs were enormous in pass protection. Devin 'Motor' Singletary led the trio with nine carries for 41 yards, while Dameon Pierce had 31 yards on 14 carries. But, BUT, those two and Mike Boone were tremendous in pass protection. Boone had a TREMENDOUS block on the final shot to Tank Dell that finished the Jaguars. It was that kind of GREAT day.
Tank was tremendous with two of his catches going for 46 yards and 68 yards. The one catch he had on the sideline near the end of the first half, though, was key on the final drive of the first half. He had one toe on the ground that helped the officials overturn the original incomplete call. That one toe caught enough Everbank Stadium grass for a key first down. That led to a Nico Collins 29-yard catch that put the ball into easy field goal range for Ka'imi Fairbairn to give the Texans a 17-0 lead at the half.
QB C.J. Stroud was brilliant and that was there for EVERYONE to see but let's give some credit to the OL. That OL that was without four starters. It's an OL that gave up six sacks, nine TFL and ten QB hits last week to Indianapolis. This week, against an even better, and deeper, Jacksonville front seven? NO sacks. Just four QB hits and those came on bootlegs/keepers. It wasn't perfect by any means but to hold them without a sack, allowing Stroud to throw two TDs and 280 yards on the road, is a major feather in the cap of Chris Strausser/Cole Popovich's unit.
I haven't gotten to the defense yet, but trust me, I haven't forgotten. Let's start with Will Anderson Jr. He tacked on another couple of QB hits and the defense got so close to having way more than five as a team, but it was Will's effort on special teams that might have been the best special teams play in quite some time. Against the Colts, he came through and oh so close to blocking a field goal. I remember saying to Marc and Andre during a break of that game that Will was so close and he'd get one soon. Well, SOON came on Sunday. His ability to knife in between the T and the TE is uncanny but he didn't get as deep toward the kicker as he did against Indianapolis. But, he fully extended and volleyball spiked McManus's kick into the turf. I was standing behind the goalpost waiting to give Marc the news on the kick so I didn't see who blocked it, but I saw Anderson nearly pick it up and house it, which would've been incredible. That said, he had already done enough. A few plays later, C.J. Stroud hit Brevin Jordan for a TD to give the Texans a 14-0 lead.
The Texans were without DB Derek Stingley Jr. and LB Denzel Perryman and I was interested to see how Shaquill Griffin and Henry To'oTo'o would step into those big shoes. That duo tied for the team lead with ten tackles each. Shaq was solid throughout the day and he was pumped that it was against THAT team, his former team. To'o To'o seemed to be in the right position all day but early on he didn't finish on some of those plays. But, in the second half, in particular, he was that much more dialed in. It felt like he really grew up as the leader of the defense on Sunday. He and S Eric Murray combined to make one of the most important tackles late in the first half. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence threw a dart to Jamal Agnew for a first down but as soon as he got past the marker, To'o To'o wrapped him up down low and Murray hammered up high. Then, the ball CAME OUT!! LB Blake Cashman dove back on the ball to give the Texans the ball with a chance to add to the 14-0 lead before the end of the half.
Cashman had one heck of a return to the lineup. He had that fumble recovery, but he made an even bigger play in the second half. Near the end of the third quarter, Lawrence went back to throw and spied a receiver over the middle of the field and fired. Cashman appeared out of nowhere and snatched the ball out of the air for the first interception of his career. That was one heck of a CATCH and it led to a Ka'imi Fairbairn FG and a 27-10 lead. Cashman had five tackles, one INT, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery and an assist on a special teams tackle.
During training camp, the Texans signed DT Khalil Davis. The former Nebraska star was fresh off of a USFL title with the Birmingham Stallions in early July and arrived to fill a massive injury hole in the DT room. At the time, there were three different interior defensive linemen out of practice, so it was natural to assume that Davis arrived to be a training camp body…or that was my initial instinct. I couldn't have been more wrong. Immediately, during one-on-ones, Davis dominated and I was intrigued. He kept it up throughout training camp and earned a spot on the practice squad. When the Texans released a DT this week, I thought there was a chance that Davis could get the PS call up. He got that call and had a strong game in his first regular season game as a Texan. He had a couple of tackles, one QB hit and one pass batted down. He held the point when he came into the game and showed even more promise than we saw in training camp.
It was GREAT to see S Jimmie Ward back on the field and the impact was felt throughout the game. He was instrumental in that win in so many ways more than the tackles that he made or plays he made. He's just a physical, PHYSICAL dude in all the good ways and this defense needed that assurance in the back end that Captain Jimmie was back and unleashing on anyone in a white jersey.
Alright, this plane is going to land in a few minutes and there's so much more to hit on the radio in the morning, so I'll leave it right there.