After a few near-misses throughout the season, Nico Collins finally caught a touchdown on Sunday.
The rookie receiver scored for the first time in his NFL career in the Texans 41-29 win at NRG Stadium over the Chargers. On 1st-and-10 at the Los Angeles 13-yard line, with Houston on top, 27-23, QB Davis Mills came to the line of scrimmage and spotted something he liked. He fired to the short right and found Collins, who crossed the goal line with 2:32 remaining in regulation.
"It was a great feeling," Collins said. "I've been waiting all year for it. It happened at the right time. It came down to the week of preparation. It just came down to the perfect timing. Mills found me on a slant, great matchup. He trusted me, coaches trusted me, and I went out and made a play for the team."
With the clock winding down and the Chargers out of timeouts, the safe and predictable play call there was a run, but Mills changed the plans a bit.
"Two plays previously we called the same play," Mills said. "It was a run play by design with kind of tagged route on the backside where if I see Nico can win on his route, I can trust him and get him the ball. We ended up coming back to that same play on Nico's touchdown. I saw the safety was kind of in the middle of the field. He had some space out there, and I don't get yelled at because it wasn't an incompletion, but we were trying to burn some clock on the four-minute there, and I trusted Nico to win on his route, and he was able to get his first touchdown. So it was pretty cool."
Cool indeed, as the touchdown and Dominik Eberle extra point after try pushed Houston's lead to nine points. The third-round pick from Michigan caught a trio of passes Sunday--all for first downs—for 33 yards. He was also targeted in the first quarter but drew a defensive pass interference call that resulted in a 24-yard gain. On the season, Collins has 28 catches for 344 yards and is showing quite a bit of progress.
"He's developing into a very, very good football player, the kind of football player we thought he was going to be," Head Coach David Culley said. "He has not had any regression at all in what we've been asking him to do. He's getting better and better. He's a willing learner. He's a hard worker, and all he wants to do is get better, and I am starting to see that with him. He's starting to feel more confident about it, and obviously, Davis is starting to feel more comfortable with him too."
Collins finally hit pay-dirt Sunday after a season of coming close. Two weeks ago, Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly described what he's seen from the rookie pass-catcher.
"He's been close a couple of times," Kelly said. "He's gotten a couple of shots where he gets the OPI in Week 1 and then the one in Tennessee where if it's called the other way, it's probably not getting reversed. Nico is doing a good job of everything we ask him to. We ask him to go in there and do some dirty work, we ask him to block. Obviously, being a bigger body down in the right area, trying to find ways to take advantage of his skill set down there. He's a guy that every week you see him when he is out there, especially since he's gotten back after the Cleveland game after the injury, he's done a good job of improving. He's a guy that's exciting to game plan for and prepare with."
Collins and the Texans take their final road trip of 2021 later this week, as they'll face the 49ers at 3:05 p.m. next Sunday.
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