I'm still struggling for the right words to truly encapsulate what we all saw at NRG Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
What a memorable game! Let's dive into the big plays from this game and there were a ton of them.
1st Quarter - 9:15 remaining - Texans Ball
1st and ten
Tampa Bay leading 3-0
The Texans came out in 21 personnel (counting Andrew Beck as the FB). QB C.J. Stroud was in the pistol with Beck to his left and Singletary behind him. WR Nico Collins was in a WIDE split in man coverage against Bucs CB Jamel Dean to the left of the formation. Stroud made a quick play action fake to Singletary to the right to draw attention in that direction. Then, he spun around and threw a LASER to Nico on the backside on a quick slant. The Texans star receiver made a beeline inside Dean and then got vertical so any help S Antoine Winfield Jr could provide was moot. Collins caught it clean and sped into the end zone with the Texans first touchdown on the day.
3rd quarter - 13:47 remaining - Bucs ball
1st and ten
Tampa Bay leading 17-10
The Bucs got the second half kickoff and moved into Texans territory in just over a minute. The Bucs came out in 11 personnel in a 2x2 set. Bucs QB Baker Mayfield sent his TE Cade Otton in motion into a slot position on the right side. With the two WR on the left side, the inside receiver Trey Palmer ran a deep over route and given the coverage, Jalen Pitre was forced to match up with a rookie who runs in the 4.3 range. So, Palmer ran all the way over to the other side of the field and Pitre had NO help. Palmer sped across and Pitre got in his hip pocket and ran as fast as he could to stay with Palmer. Then, Pitre EXTENDED with all that he had and got three fingers on it to knock it away. If he doesn't, it's a walk in touchdown. Instead, the Bucs had to settle for a field goal a few plays later.
**A funny aside…as soon as Pitre hit the ground, a fully intact Burt's Bees' Lip balm came flying out of Jalen Pitre…could've been his pants, his helmet, I don't know but as soon as he hit the ground, it came flying out. I couldn't remember seeing anything like that…ever. But, if that's what Pitre's gotta do to stop passes like that, man, go get all the Burt's Bees you can handle, my man.
View the best photos from the Week 9 matchup between the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
3rd quarter - 12:32 remaining - Texans Ball
1st and ten
-25 yard line
1st Texans offensive play of the second half
Tampa Bay leading 20-10
C.J. Stroud brought his guys out in 21 personnel. FB Andrew Beck started out wide with WR Noah Brown on the right side of the formation. WR Tank Dell was in a tight split to the left side of the formation. Stroud was in the gun with Devin Singletary as new TE Eric Saubert went into motion to create a loose bunch to the right side. Then, Beck came back in motion the other way to help in pass protection on the left side of the formation. This play essentially turned into a two man route. Tank cleared out the left side with a clear out route. Noah ran a deep over route from right to left. Stroud had all day to throw and threw a tremendous ball to Brown who caught it on the dead run. It looked like the Bucs were in a cover three and the LBs didn't get deep enough. Right as Noah caught the ball, CB Zyon McCollum saw it the whole way. He started to break on Noah, but as he did, Tank threw all of his 165 lb into the Bucs defender to clear him out and Noah sped for the end zone. At the ten yard line, Brown threw a stiff arm into DB Carlton Davis and fought through his tackle attempt for a much needed one play drive and 75-yard TD!
3rd quarter - 6:43 remaining - Texans Ball
3rd and 11
-45 yard line
Tampa Bay leading 23-16
The Texans' defense gave up just two field goals early in the third quarter so when the Texans got the ball back, they trailed by just seven. But, the drive bogged down after a nine yard gain on first down and a penalty on second down which brought up a KEY 3rd and 11. The Texans came out in 11 personnel and badly needed a conversion. Tank Dell motioned to the left side where Dalton Schultz was in a slot position and WR Noah Brown was out wide to that side. Nico Collins was in a tight split to the right side. When the ball was snapped, Brown ran a crossing route from left to right, Tank took off down the field and Nico did the same. Even RB Mike Boone ran a wheel route up the far sideline. C.J. got some heat and started making defenders miss. As he did, Schultz, who was originally blocking, floated downfield and put his hand up for Stroud. After shaking everyone in the backfield, Stroud found Schultz and delivered, taking a hit from Bucs DT Calijah Kancey and two other Bucs closing in. Schultz caught the ball EIGHT yards short of the first down. As soon as he caught the ball, Bucs star LB Lavonte David hit Schultz. But, the star TE stiff-armed him to the ground and then had room to run. After running for the first down, Schutlz ran FLAT OVER LB Devin White before stepping out of bounds at the Bucs 30-yard line. I mean, WHAT?!? Stroud's escape. Schultz's smarts to know to get open after blocking. Then, the stiff arm and running over White?!? That got me charged up!
The very next play…
The Texans came out in another loose bunch to the right on first down from the 29-yard line. Schultz ran to the flat as Noah Brown cleared out up the field, running the over route to the other side of the field. Tank, though, ran a stutter-and-go double move and he absolutely roasted Carlton Davis into the end zone. Stroud lofted one over Davis' head into the waiting arms of his fellow rookie wide receiver…AND THE PLACE WENT NUTS!! Dell caught the TD and I'm telling you I haven't seen NRG Stadium like that in years. Eruption of noise and joy and screaming and MAN that was incredible!!
*I would put Dare Ogunbowale's field goal in here too, but there wasn't much to diagram - he just nailed the damn kick like a field goal kicking boss!!
Final Drive, here we go!!
4th quarter - 0:16 seconds - Texans ball
1st and ten
Tampa Bay leads 37-33
Stroud had just completed a pass to Noah Brown to get into Tampa territory, followed by a spike to stop the clock at 0:16 seconds. The Texans then put Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz to the left side of the formation. The Bucs were playing Tampa two coverage, so Schultz ran to the left flat to draw the attention of CB Zyon McCollum. Dell ran a deep corner route/sail route behind McCollum and in front of the safety to that side of the field. But, Tank did a great job staying vertical as long as he could to keep the safety from jumping his route. Tank turned his route to outside and Stroud delivered an absolute DIME! The void against Tampa two is in that hole and Stroud threw right into it. Dell snatched the rock, got one foot in and then dragged the back foot for the catch!! Dell's catch put the ball at the 16-yard line AND stopped the clock.
Final play, here we go!!
4th quarter - 0:10 seconds - Texans ball
1st and ten
Tampa Bay leads…for now 37-33
Now, the Texans had a couple of shots at the end zone. They would need just one.
RB Mike Boone shifted out wide, leaving Stroud in empty with trips to his right (Schultz, Brown and Dell) and Boone and Nico to the left side. The Bucs looked to be playing quarters with four DBs across the field at about the four yard line. Schultz ran a speed out to the bottom to draw two underneath defenders. Brown ran a vertical route that bent back to the inside to draw the safety and keep him from making a play on…
…the post route from Tank Dell. Brown's route pulled the S out of the middle and Dell ran right into that void on his route and Stroud stuck it on him for a touchdown all of us will remember. My gosh, what a TD!!
What a game! What a finish!