There is no column in the standings that differentiates between wins.
"Oh, that's a pretty win or that's an ugly win."
Sunday's WIN wasn't pretty, wasn't ugly, it was just perfect…it was a WIN. The Texans, and their fans, drove home with smiles, heading into the bye week with a 20-13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Let's dive into my Harris Hits from the WIN over the Saints.
Drew Dougherty and I spend the first half of our In the Lab Podcast discussing our Cream of the Crop players for that game. I try to hit on that Cream of the Crop player in my first Hit of the day. There was no player more deserving of that CoC honor on this Sunday than LB Blake Cashman. I don't know if I can remember a better linebacker performance in the last five to seven years. He was everywhere on Sunday. He finished the game with 15 tackles, two TFL, one QBH (that came on the last defensive play of the game) and two passes defensed.
All QB hits are important, but the one that Cashman put on Derek Carr on the final pass of the game resulted in Steven Nelson's third INT of the season. He blitzed in the A gap and got to Carr's arm just as he threw so the Saints QB couldn't follow through on the pass. Nelson was then in perfect position to make the diving interception.
On the previous Saints' drive, Cashman was instrumental on consecutive plays to end a Saints threat. On third down, the Texans were in a sub-package defense and Carr checked to a run. DT Maliek Collins burst through to slow Saints star RB Alvin Kamara and Cashman and S Jimmie Ward then teamed up to tackle Kamara for a loss. On fourth down, the Texans disguised a Tampa Two coverage and got Carr to throw into the flat to Kamara. CB Shaq Griffin was the first to arrive and he tried to wrap Kamara on his ankles. He slowed up Kamara but it looked like he was about to bust out when…WHAPPP! Cashman hit him with all he had to knock him out of bounds short of a first down.
Cashman ran with Saints Weapon X Taysom Hill all the way down the field to force a PBU on a deep throw. He was popping pads, slicing in between OL to make tackles on Kamara. That was a tremendous performance by a guy that has not only become indispensable to this defense but has become a star in this defense. In the last four weeks, he's been in man coverage and denied a catch to Calvin Ridley (Jags), George Pickens (Steelers), Kyle Pitts (Falcons) and Hill. I mean, what?!? That's incredible.
I love players who are unselfish and I'm sure S Jimmie Ward would tell you that he's just doing it for the team. One of the things that I remember about 2022 was that Ward played the nickel spot for the 49ers. He often said that he was a safety, that was his position, and wanted to play safety. That was one of the reasons why he chose to come to Houston. But, when the Texans NEEDED a nickel DB today, Ward was in that spot. It's no secret that I love what Ward brings to this team. He gave the pregame speech to the team today. He leads. He plays all out every single play. He covers well. He tackles, with some bite too. But, stepping into a role at nickel when the team needed it most speaks to his leadership that's vital for any team. He's invaluable to this team's success and his unselfishness is the same.
View the best photos from the Week 6 matchup between the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints.
A few weeks ago, I was worried about Dalton Schultz. He just wasn't in a good groove or synergy with the offense in any way, shape or form. But, against the Steelers in week four, he caught his first touchdown of the season on a throw from Devin 'Motor' Singletary. He had three catches for 42 yards in that game. Then, in Atlanta, he had seven grabs for 65 yards and the touchdown that had everyone buzzing late in the fourth quarter. On Sunday, he scored another touchdown on a beauty of a toss from QB C.J. Stroud in the south end zone. That made it three games in a row with a touchdown for Schultz. The first three games, Schultz had seven catches for 47 yards. In the last three games, he has 14 catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns. His first catch of the game was such a veteran move, running his route, seeing Stroud start to move, sliding into an open area and snatching the first down catch. He's becoming the security blanket for Stroud that we imagined him to be and will continue to be in the near future.
The Texans now have four receivers with 19 catches or more on the season - Tank Dell didn't play on Sunday but has 19, while Schultz now has 21 grabs, Nico Collins has 29 catches and Robert Woods has 22 catches and his first TD of the season.
Collins had already set a personal record for touchdowns in a season with three. On Sunday, he racked up four more catches for 80 yards. That gives him 547 yards on the season, another NEW personal season mark. He reached those marks in TD and yards in just six games. My goodness. He also may have come up with one of the best plays of the day. QB C.J. Stroud threw his first interception of the year to Saints LB Zack Baun. When Baun started back up the field, Nico chased him down and knocked the ball out. Texans OL Tytus Howard saw the rock free and jumped on it to give the Texans a new set of downs. So, Nico's stat line - four catches for 80 yards, one tackle, one forced fumble. Let's see other NFL WRs match that stat line.
I think I have SO buried the lede - the Texans ran for a season high 120 yards on 31 carries. 'Motor' ran it really well - 12 carries for 58 yards. His start-stop, hesi moves and style allow him to set up blocks and find seams in the defense. He and Dameon Pierce combined for 92 yards rushing, but they weren't alone. Mike Boone added an eleven yard run and rookie WR Xavier Hutchinson picked up 15 yards on the ground as well. That was a start for this run game against one of the best run defenses in the NFL.
QB C.J. Stroud continues to make this offense go. I knew the Texans hit a home run on draft night when Stroud's name was called, but he's been even better than I imagined. He threw two touchdowns, giving him nine on the season and he did throw his first interception for a Texans' first down. IYKYK. His numbers won't blow anyone away (13 of 27, 199 yards, two TD and one INT, 82.2 QB rating), but he's in such command of this offense, leading it and the whole team through the first six games of the season. His throw to Noah Brown heading toward the south end zone and the one to Nico Collins heading the other way were brilliant. The touch he showed on the throw to Dalton Schultz for the TD was sublime. This Texans team is 3-3 for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is the performance, leadership and brilliance of their rookie signal caller.
DE Jon Greenard was ON one all day long, especially against Saints OT Trevor Penning. It started before Penning came into the game after starting LT James Hurst was lost to injury. It seemed as if he made it his mission to indoctrinate Penning every time Derek Carr went back to pass. Penning held him at least once (that was called - it was not called five or six times). He induced a Penning tripping penalty (and there were a few more not called). He had ½ a sack and three QB hits. He embarrassed every OL he faced on Sunday. He and Will Anderson Jr combined for five QB hits of the eight that the Texans had on the day.
Oh my gosh, Anderson Jr hit Alvin Kamara so hard on a run away from him that I heard it through my headphones.Two plays later, he redirected on a screen to Kamara and disrupted the throw to help force an incompletion.
In the locker room, I made a point to find DT Sheldon Rankins because I wanted to tell him what a damn performance he put on. He registered his first sack of the season and came up with two TFLs. He's played exceptionally well the past four or five weeks, even if there aren't a ton of sexy numbers near his name. He's run down screens from behind. He's held up against double teams and played stout against the run. On his sack, he absolutely WHIPPED Saints guard Cesar Ruiz, flying past him to take Derek Carr down. He hit him with a jump through cross chop and then ripped past Ruiz and SNATCHED Carr to the ground. That was impressive, the same way that he's been playing lately.
I know I've probably missed a few things, but I can't see my computer any more tonight. It was such a tough-minded and glorious win over the Saints. Now, it's time for a little bit of rest for EVERYONE! Get some rest, y'all!