Heading into the weekend, the Texans had never won consecutive games against the New England Patriots. After 60 minutes of play on Sunday, the Texans had done just that - they beat the Patriots for the second consecutive season at NRG Stadium (and will play them next year at NRG, as well). The Texans played their best game of the season on Sunday in a 27-20 win over the Patriots. Here are my Harris Hits from the afternoon.
Deshaun Watson was awesome; I'll start with the blatantly obvious. But, man, was he fantastic. He completed 28 of 37 passes and there were a couple of throws that he absolutely RIPPED. The third down throw to Will Fuller V in the fourth quarter had as much juice as any throw he's made in 2020. Deshaun was just brilliant. 344 yards and three total touchdowns.
He should've had another touchdown pass late in the game. This one had many irate with the third group on the field. Yeah, you know...that group. Anyhow, Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly called a perfect route out of a bunch receiver group for Jordan Akins. Off the snap, tight end Akins flew up the Patriots sideline and I could see the route develop from my field side moat. I knew it was six points. Akins flew up the sideline and Patriots rookie safety Kyle Dugger was late, and lost, in coverage. As Akins ran past him, Dugger slipped down and grabbed Akins' ankle to pull him down to the turf. The third year tight end, his quarterback and the entire audience looked for a flag but one, inexplicably, never came. The Texans were forced to settle for a massively important Kaimi Fairbairn field goal, but it should have been a touchdown that answered the Patriots field goal from the drive just prior.
The run game never came together all game long, but Deshaun's touchdown run was just ridiculous. I remember a game two years ago, and you do too, against Dallas when Deshaun went time after time straight into a physical Dallas defense at the goal line. That whole game popped into my mind when I saw him lower his shoulder at the goal line. THWACK! He absolutely drilled safety Devin McCourty, putting him on his wallet as Watson scored the team's second touchdown of the day.
Then again, as I think about the run game, the Texans had more rushing yards yesterday than they did last year against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. In last year's win, the Texans ran 23 times for 52 yards, while on Sunday, the Texans ran 19 times for 55 yards. I call that progress. Slow, much-more-progress-is-needed progress but progress, nonetheless.
There's a GREAT segment on the NFL Network show Good Morning Football called Angry Runs. Host Kyle Brandt (fellow Ivy Leaguer and former running back) finds the 'angriest' runs in the league and as soon as Deshaun scored, I tweeted right at Brandt saying that if that Watson touchdown run wasn't featured this week, Brandt needed to shut down the segment.
There was another Angry Run candidate later in the game too. The Texans' two minute drive before the half was sensational. In just 2:10, Watson led the Texans 90 yards down the field for the third touchdown of the half. The third play of that drive on 1st and 15 seemed to be just an outlet throw to tight end Pharoah Brown on the Patriots sideline. Then, the fun actually started. Brown completely and totally pie-faced Jonathan Jones then ran through poor Stephon Gilmore's tackle attempt and carried Patriots a mosh pit of defenders for 18 yards and a Texans first down.
Now, one major reason why Deshaun Watson had the day that he did was that he wasn't sacked on the day and the Texans played without star left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who had been sick all week long. Rod Johnson stepped in at left tackle, next to Max Scharping, and the revised quintet kept Watson relatively clean all day long. Watson did his Houdini magic act a couple of times to escape, but there were at least eight to ten (or more) throws in which Watson stood in the pocket like he was admiring the beautiful Texas bluebonnets in the spring. The run game wasn't great, but the pass protection was pretty darn good on this day.
There were nine different players that caught a pass for the Texans (eight for the Patriots). 17 different pass catchers caught a pass in this game - that's wild. Regardless, for the Texans, each pass catcher caught at least two passes, including Randall Cobb who caught the Texans first touchdown. Unfortunately, Cobb hurt his foot on the play and missed the rest of the game.
There were so many Watson throws that charged up the NRG Stadium crowd on this day. The ones that I'll remember were the crossing routes to Jordan Akins. Man, the touch a quarterback has to have on that type throw is just so demanding because it needs to be thrown so precisely. Yet, Watson nailed at least three of those routes to Akins, who finished with five catches for 83 yards.
The play that made me the happiest on the day other than the final play that said it was for sure over...Keke Coutee's touchdown. Every week, I see Keke in the hallway and I've just wanted to scream out "man, it's going to work out, you're going to get it back!" After just a stellar start to his career with two 11 catch games against Indianapolis as a rookie, Coutee couldn't find his footing over much of the next two years. He'd make a mistake and he would go back right to the bench. His confidence seemed shaken but he never quit working for another opportunity. With Cobb hurt early, Coutee stepped in and made a huge touchdown catch right before halftime. Andre Ware and I were on the same wavelength when he said on the broadcast just prior to the Coutee touchdown "You know, Marc, I'd really love to see Keke score a touchdown." Then, it happened! The entire sideline lit up for Coutee and he played a significant amount the rest of the game. Confidence is a wonderful thing and here's hoping Coutee's got it now and forever more.
After the game, I was stopped at a red light, thinking back to the game and I just tweeted out a note about safety Justin Reid. Since Reid arrived in Houston, he's made some unbelievable plays. The 101-yard pick six against Washington. The stop at the goal line against Jacksonville last year. The strip and punch out against Cleveland in his rookie year. Today, though, this game against New England was the best 60 minute overall performance of his career, in my opinion. The stats were ridiculous - nine tackles, one sack, three TFL and two quarterback hits. Defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver sent Reid at Patriots quarterback Cam Newton from everywhere in the second half. Reid was forceful in run support. He was consistent in his tackling and as he had said after the Browns game, he would come back to atone for what he called a rough performance against the Browns. Controlled, yet unleashed - it's an odd combination, but one that a safety must find to play the way that Reid played on Sunday. The one thing I emphasized in my tweet was that the play we saw from Reid is the type of play that can lead this defense in the future.
J.J. Watt had his own game of volleyball going on Sunday. He spiked four different throws from Cam Newton and was all over the place up front as he's used to doing. Between Watt's four and Carlos Watkins' one earlier in the game, the Texans front helped its secondary a ton with such used car blowy thing/wavy armed defense on Sunday.
Rookie Jon Greenard finally got a chance to show off the pass rush moves that I've known all along that he had. He threw a wicked long arm into left tackle Isaiah Wynn and at the exact moment necessary, he chopped over with his right arm to get clean inside for the first sack in his career. Man, I cheered like the Texans won the Super Bowl! Of course, by now, y'all know that he was the guy that I predicted the Texans would pick at No. 90 in this past draft. So, when it happened, I felt like I better be right about it. So, I really want (need?) him to succeed for multiple reasons, but mainly, I knew that he had those pass rush abilities that can really help this team. If he stays healthy, he can really be a factor for this team going forward, and into the future.
One of the major things I was majorly worried about near the end of the half was the Patriots ability, propensity to double dip. Meaning? Meaning score at the end of the half and then get the ball to start the second half and score again. At 14-10, with 2:51 left in the half, it was a perfect scenario for the Patriots to pull it off...until the Texans stopped the Patriots then went 90 yards and scored again. The big play in that drive was a perfectly executed pick route on third down to Patriots running back James White. It was perfect but for one thing; Patriots tight end Ryan Izzo had the responsibility of picking off Texans linebacker Tyrell Adams and completely missed him. That allowed Adams to sprint with White and tackle him well before the first down marker. Brilliant play by Adams and a play past iterations of Texans linebackers didn't, or couldn't, make. Adams made that play, in some part due to Izzo's complete and total missed responsibility.
The Texans run defense was as good as it's been all season long. Early on, I was worried with how Patriots running back Damien Harris rolled through the defense on the pin and pull toss play for a touchdown. But, the group up front stayed strong and played well the remainder of the game. The major thing that I had noticed in the Patriots win over Baltimore was how physical New England was. On Sunday, the Texans were the most physical team in an ultra-PHYSICAL game.
Alright, it's a short week, so on to Detroit and the Texans second Thanksgiving Day game in their history. See ya then, everyone.
Check out some photos from the Houston Texans, New England Patriots Week 11 matchup.