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Put the Film on, Bro: Texans vs. Falcons, II

As I mentioned in Part One of Put the Film on, Bro: Texans v. Falcons, I broke down each and every play in the Texans 32-7 win. Here's the second half.

1st Drive - Texans Offense

Play 1 - 1st and 10

Case Keenum at QB, started with a power play to the left. Falcons OLB Jacques Smith who's become a Hard Knocks star put on a stack and shed clinic. He stood up TE Zach Potter, shed him and slowed RB Alfred Blue until his help could arrive.

Result: No gain, Texans holding penalty.

Play 2 - 1st and 20

Straight dropback, excellent pass protection, excellent coverage. There was nowhere to throw the ball

so Keenum found a seam in the front and took it. Massive DT Ra'Shede Hageman saw Keenum split and the former Minnesota Golden Gopher snapped the Texans QB up in two steps. That's an enormous man that covered some serious ground.

Result: Three yard gain, penalty (declined)

Play 3 - 2nd and 17

Play action, although fake didn't really sell the run...similar to the previous play, Falcons rushing four, coverage is excellent, so Keenum took off. This time he escaped Hageman but he nearly missed Falcons LB Tim Dobbins. The former Texan LB grabbed the top of Keenum's helmet as he tackled him. I was standing right there and saw it clear as day. The penalty got the Texans out of a hole and kick started this scoring drive.

Result: No gain but face mask penalty gave automatic 1st down.

Play 4 - 1st and 10

Outside zone/zone stretch to the left...behind LT Matt Fieler and LG Xavier Su'a-Filo, there is a massive hole in the B gap. C James Ferentz can't quite get his head and hips on the playside of the nose tackle Travian Robertson who eventually made the shoestring tackle. That wasn't an easy block for Ferentz but if he shot his outside hip through Robertson to get him turned, oh boy, it was a huge run.

Result: Four yard gain.

Play 5 - 2nd and 6

Bootleg...excellent ball handling by Keenum, a great fake. As he booted back to the right, he spied slot WR Travis Labhart who ran a corner route away from the safety. Said safety got caught watching the ball and Labhart just ran to open space. One more look at the play showed how Labhart sold the route to the safety as well. He angled his route at the linebacker which the safety bought as a run away from them. When Labhart then got past the linebacker, the safety was already on his way to

The Texans face the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Preseason Game 2.

assist on the other side of the field. Labhart took advantage of undisciplined eyes and beat the safety to the sideline. Keenum dropped a dime on him right on the sideline for one of the best executed plays of the night.

Result: 19 yard gain.

Play 6 - 1st and 10

Packaged play - inside zone/bubble screen...there's a ton going on with this play. There is a post snap read that'll determine the play to be run. The OL blocked for an inside zone/blast run, while the WR trio ran a bubble screen. If Keenum saw the safety, in this case Dezmon Southward, creeping into the box, Keenum knew that he had two blockers for two defensive backs in space and Keshawn Martin with the ball on the perimeter. If Keenum saw a two safety high look or the safety favoring the three wide receivers, he'd hand it to RB Ronnie Brown. Keenum saw single high safety and the safety closer to the box. He threw out to Martin for a big gain.

Result: 12 yard gain.

Play 7 - 1st and 10

Same play the other way. Labhart just flat out drilled Javier Arenas, driving him yards downfield. Martin burst upfield for another first down.

Result: 13 yard gain.

Play 8 - 1st and 10

Same play the other way - just zig zagging across the field. This time, Southward ran it down for a short gain.

Result: Two yard gain

Play 9 - 2nd and 8

Blast inside...Ferentz pancaked Robertson but LB Prince Shembo nearly made the play. RG Alex Kupper got caught by Robertson on the back of his legs and fell to his knees. To his credit, Kupper stayed on his block, from his knees, to keep Shembo from making the stop for no gain.

Result: Three yard gain.

Play 10 - 3rd and 5

Straight dropback...Keenum wanted TE Ryan Griffin down the seam. ILB Shembo carried Griffin down the field, staying in Griffin's hip pocket the entire way. Shembo also got some safety help over the top. Keenum tried to force the ball into Griffin, but the window was just too small. Keenum had good protection but a small window to find Griffin. Keenum really wanted this route because he came back to it in the fourth quarter - it didn't work out then either.

Result: Incomplete.

Play 11 - 4th Down

40 yard field goal by K Randy Bullock is GOOD

Texans - 16, Falcons - 7

2nd Drive - Falcons Offense

Play 1 - 1st and 10

Sean Renfree still at QB, blast inside with RB Devonta Freeman...NT Ricardo Mathews and DE Jeoffrey Pagan stoned their respective O linemen. That bought time for S Chris Clemons to make the stop for little gain.

Result: One yard gain.

Play 2 - 2nd and 9

Tunnel screen, great call vs. six man pressure by the Texans...Falcons got two on two on the

perimeter which is exactly what the Falcons desired. But, Clemons made a whale of an open field tackle to keep a good play from being a great one.

Result: Seven yard gain

Play 3 - 3rd and 2

Nothing but option routes inside and Renfree found the mismatch - Jeremy Ebert on OLB Whitney Mercilus. As Mercilus had inside leverage, Ebert broke his route to the outside and Renfree hit him for the first down.

Result: Six yard gain

Play 4 - 1st and 10

Play action...OLB Quentin Groves blew up the offense's right edge. He forced Renfree to move up in the pocket. Ebert ran out and up and collided with CB AJ Bouye. Last year, it's probably not a flag; this year it is...for now.

Result: Illegal contact on the Texans

Play 5 - 1st and 10

Inside zone/blast into a bunch set...It should've been a tackle for a loss by S Eddie Pleasant. The Texan safety knifed into the backfield as soon as he read run, beating WR Julian Jones upfield. But, Josh Vaughan sidestepped him for a short gain, instead of a net loss. Another aspect of this play was the violent shock that Mercilus put on the tight end, driving him back into the hole. That's the necessary type of physical violence he needs against the run.

Result: Three yard gain.

Play 6 - 2nd and 7

Play action...Mercilus blew past LT Lamar Holmes - he slapped Holmes' hands down, then ripped past

The Houston Texans Cheerleaders and Jr. Cheerleaders perform during Preseason Game 2 at NRG Stadium.

him cleanly. His rush drew RB Vaughan, but Mercilus split the two to get his hands on Renfree. Unequivocally, it was Mercilus' best play since training camp started.

Result: Flag on Falcons.

Play 7 - 2nd and 12

Straight drop...I made a point about the OLB not giving inside receivers or tight ends a free release into a pass route. Groves did just that on this play as he collisioned the inside receiver and disrupted the route's timing. He then jumped into the passing lane which forced Renfree to pull the ball down, avoid DE Keith Browner and NT Ricardo Mathews and throw the ball away.

Result - Throwaway incompletion

Play 8 - 3rd and 12

Slant route to flexed out Y...Renfree hit TE Mickey Shuler on the numbers, but then ILB Max Bullough hit him (hard) well short of a first down.

Result: Six yard gain

Play 9 - 4th down


3rd Drive - Texans Offense

Play 1 - 1st and 10

Iso with FB Jay Prosch's not often when Prosch doesn't get a clean shot or a clearing block. But, on this play, former Colt LB Pat Angerer shed Prosch in the hole and tackled Brown for a short gain.

Result: Two yard gain

Play 2 - 2nd and 8

Straight drop out of shotgun...excellent protection, Keenum held the safeties with his eyes, then

scanned right, didn't see Labhart break free, progressed back to the other side of the field and found EZ Nwachukwu on an in route wide open. If Keenum could do that on every play...

Result: 11 yard gain.

Play 3 - 1st and 10

Zone BOB (back on backer)...Falcons OLB Tyler Starr faced up RT Mike Farrell, shocked him and shed him brilliantly. That play we'll all see on Hard Knocks this week.

Result: Two yard loss.

Play 4 - 2nd and 12

Straight dropback...Keenum wanted his TE Ryan Griffin down the seam. That was a tricky throw. He threw it behind Griffin, presumably because Shembo broke into the passing lane. Hard to tell if Keenum didn't think he throw it to Griffin's inside because of Shembo's positioning or whether it was just an off-target throw

Result: Incomplete

Play 5 - 3rd and 12

Straight dropback...3x1 set to the left. Griffin and Labhart, the two inside receivers, cleared the zone by running go routes down the field. Outside receiver Alec Lemon waited for Labhart, in particular, to clear and then darted into the void in the middle of the field. Keenum hit Lemon in stride and the former Syracuse product turned upfield for a big gain.

Result: 25 yard gain

Play 6 - 1st and 10

Outside zone...Ferentz lost his feet but still had position on Robertson inside, but for some reason

Brown cut the ball back. Unfortunately, he ran right into Ra'Shede Hageman who tackled both Farrell and Brown on the backside of the play. Had Brown stayed on the outside zone track, he could've had something as Matt Fieler completely rolled Jacques Smith.

Result: Two yard loss

Play 7 - 2nd and 12

Same play...this time Brown followed the outside path but Falcons S Kemal Ishmael blew up the play with his run support. This time, Smith beat Fieler and the two Falcons essentially eliminated any running lane to the outside.

Result: One yard loss

Play 8 - 3rd and 13

Quick game out of shotgun...Keenum hit Labhart on the slant route. Again, subtle route running acumen got Labhart wide open. He sold the seam route to the slot corner then broke back to the inside on the slant. As he broke into the open, the ball was right on his numbers. Pitch and catch.

Result: 15 yard gain

Play 9 - 1st and 10

Empty set, quick game...Keenum hit Brown on a quick slant. The veteran's running skills are rusty, but he has an excellent pair of hands.

Result: Nine yard gain

Play 10 - 2nd and 1

Quick game...Keenum to Labhart, again. The former Aggie read zone on the option route, settled up at about five yards and the ball was on him as he turned.

Result: Five yard gain

Play 11 - 1st and 10

Shotgun...Keenum eyed Nwachkwu the entire way, unfortunately, EZ didn't. He ran the seam route but never looked back for the ball. Not sure what he saw and Keenum didn't and vice versa. But, based on looking at the open area in the coverage, Keenum appeared to be right. Either way, no dice.

Result: Incomplete

Play 12 - 2nd and 10

Blast out of shotgun...the interior OL had this play blocked perfectly. Hat on a hat and room to scoot inside. Falcons S Baker was the only hope as he took a chance that he could get to Brown sprinting off the left edge. Baker got there, if only barely, but that was enough to make a shoestring tackle.

Result: Two yard gain

Play 13 - 3rd and 8

Straight dropback...went to "the Griffin down the seam route" again, but this time Ishmael made an amazing interception to give the ball back to the Falcons


4th Drive - Falcons Offense

Play 1 - 1st and 10

TJ Yates in...couldn't tell by the broadcast what the play is, inside run of some sort

Result: Two yard gain

Play 2 - 2nd and 8

Play action...CB Josh Victorian ran the route, a deep out, for the receiver, staying in his hip pocket the entire time. It should've been a pick six but Victorian batted it away, instead of snatching it. Either way, it was brilliant coverage but could've been six.

Result: Incomplete

Play 3 - 3rd and 8

Straight dropback...Yates wanted the curl route but he ran out of time. DE Julius Warmsley beat the Falcons RT, powered through RB Devonta Freeman who had to help on OLB Lawrence Sidbury and struck Yates rib cage as he followed through on his throw. A strong series for the defense.

Result: Incomplete

Play 4 - 4th down

Punt...deflected by TE Anthony Denham but the punt rolled downfield beyond the line of scrimmage. Here's where a lesson learned a long time ago by yours truly came into play. Let me explain...1992 v. Penn, we "blocked" a punt, but the ball went on our side of the line of scrimmage. One of our guys tried to pick it up but fumbled it and Penn fell on it. No big deal, right? We had always been taught to pick up a blocked punt and do what you can with it. For years, I thought that if it a punt was blocked, tipped or touched in any way, there was no danger in trying to pick it up because it was your ball regardless. But, when the punt goes across the line of scrimmage, it's just like a short punt, no matter whether it's been tipped or not. Sounds like hindsight common sense, I know, but at the time, I was perplexed. Penn was given the ball and I learned a lesson.

How did it apply here? After Denahm tipped the ball, it went downfield about 15 yards. Jonathan Grimes saw the ball on the ground but keep in mind, it's a live ball. Had he tried to pick it up, fumbled it and had it recovered by the Falcons, it would've gone back to Atlanta. Fortunately, Grimes caught the ball on one hop, got a thunderous block from Denham on the only white jersey near him and ran in for a punt return score.

Result: TOUCHDOWN (and having to relive a painful memory)

Texans - 23, Falcons - 7

5th Drive - Falcons Offense (again)

Play 1 - 1st and 10

Crack Toss...if there was one play that the Texans consistently struggled to stop against both the Cardinals and Falcons, it was this one. The Falcons lined up in a tight bunch to the right. The bunch players "cracked" down on OLB, DE and ILB while the OT and G pulled to the outside to lead the way for the running back. It's not an easy play to defeat but there are two keys to the play. First, the OLB/DE must drive the crack block right back where it came. He/they can't take the block upfield but truly reverse its course. In addition, the secondary must, MUST, come hard on force. A buddy of mine used to tell me when he played corner in run support that he was "munching ankles", meaning that he didn't mind dirt diving to take out pulling linemen to create a pile that the running back needed to avoid in some way. None of that happened on this play. OLB and DE got turned and the secondary was slow to react and force.

Result: Seven yard gain

Play 2 - 2nd and 3

Blast...NT Austin Brown controlled the center, shed him and made the play. The numbers game may get Brown and he may not make the roster but this guy has steadily improved throughout OTAs/mini-camp/training camp.

Result: Two yard gain

Play 3 - 3rd and 1

Isolation...Vaughan with a short run for first down

Result: Two yard gain.

Play 4 - 1st and 10

Shotgun, quick game...Yates fired a quick out to Mickey Shuler, lined up as a slot TE/Joker. ILB Akeem Dent read his eyes, matched Shuler on his cut and broke up the pass.

Result: Incomplete

Play 5 - 2nd and 10

Similar play concept, except WR was used as interference...WR Julian Jones cleared out and Shuler cut behind Jones like a pick play in basketball. Pitch and catch was easy at that point.

Result: Ten yard gain

Play 6 - 1st and 10

Toss crack, again...this time ILB Max Bullough attempted to run through from behind, but Freeman was a step too quick for him. Safety Jawanza Starling got blocked and Victorian gave too much ground. Freeman then took care of the rest.

Result: 14 yard gain

Play 7 - 1st and 10

Stutter and go double move...Jones threw a double move at CB Andre Hal and the former Vandy CB bit hook, line and sinker. Fortunately, Yates overthrew Jones by a foot or so. Standing right there on the sideline and seeing Jones behind Hal and the ball on its, that was a sinking feeling. But, Jones couldn't catch up to it.

Result: Incomplete

Play 8 - 2nd and 10

Play action...tremendous secondary coverage, nowhere to throw the ball. Hal finished the play with a PBU. But...

Result: Illegal contact penalty on the Texans

Play 9 - 1st and 10

Fake toss, bootleg...Yates found FB Maurice Hagens in the flat for big gain.

Result: 12 yard gain

Play 10 - 1st and 10

Outside zone with FB lead...OLB Chris McAllister ended up making this play a much shorter run than it could've been. He destroyed the receiver who came to crack on him. Freeman saw that McAllister had him contained, so he was forced to turn the ball back in and get what he could.

Result: Four yard gain

Play 11 - 2nd and 6

Toss crack (AGAIN)...ILB Bullough got rolled by two defenders. Sidbury ran upfield and was out of the play from the beginning. It was a trainwreck as soon as the ball was snapped. Then, Freeman burst upfield, broke a handful of bad tackles and scored. Luckily, the Texans got bailed out due to a questionable holding call on Jones.

Result: Holding penalty, negated the touchdown.

Play 12 - 2nd and 14

Straight dropback...Sidbury won this one. He went high upfield to beat the RT and then worked his way back to Yates for the sack

Result: Two yard loss

Play 13 - 3rd and 14

Straight dropback...jailbreak blitz and Pleasant and ILB Chris Young came free and clear. Yates did all he could to run for his life. He tried to dump it off to Vaughan to no avail.

Result: Pressured Incomplete

Play 14 - 4th down

Field goal attempt...blocked by Starling, assisted by Victorian. At least, from what I could tell. They both celebrated so...someone in blue got a hand on it, how about that?


Score remained 23-7

6th Drive - Texans Offense

Play 1 - 1st and 10

Tom Savage at QB...straight dropback...Savage eyed Joe Adams but threw the ball behind him. Not sure what he saw or if there was miscommunication on the route.

Result: Incomplete

Play 2 - 2nd and 10

Outside zone...RB William Powell got his first carry and ran it hard to the right side.

Result: Four yard gain

Play 3 - 3rd and 6

Straight dropback...Savage wanted Bester on the short in cut at the sticks but pressure in his face forced a low throw. Bester couldn't get to it.

Result: Incomplete

Play 4 - 4th down


7th Drive - Falcons Offense

Play 1 - 1st and 10

Empty gun, tunnel screen...Yates threw to his right to Freeman who made a pair of Texans miss in space. Man, one of the few positives for the Falcons on this night was Freeman, the team's fourth round selection last May.

Result: 11 yard gain.

Play 2 - 1st and 10

Straight dropback, going deep...Yates fired one down the right sideline, directly in front of the Texans bench. Hal was in perfect position but instead of knocking the pass down, he only could deflect it...right into Jones hands for a big gain. Nothing more frustrating for a defensive back than to have perfect position on a pass, can't quite knock it down and the WR catches it. Just ask Georgia's former safeties about that exact situation (Auburn game, 2013). Either way, big gain for the Falcons.

Result: 29 yard gain

Play 3 - 1st and 10

Quick passing game...this time, Hal makes Yates pay. Pick six. Ball game...although it was over well before this but this was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

Result: Pick six

Texans - 29, Falcons - 7

The rest of the game? Well, not too much more to discuss, I suppose. Bullough picked off Yates on the ensuing drive to set up a Chris Boswell field goal. That made it 32-7. Chris Young dropped the hammer on a Falcons ball carrier and I got to interview Grimes for the second straight week, this time, though, under much better circumstances. 

Now, it's time to build on that performance and no better team to test said progress thus far than the Denver Broncos. I'll have plenty of updates and observations from Denver throughout the week. See you then.

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