On Sunday, the Texans swapped punches with one of the most physically gifted teams I've seen all year. In the end, unfortunately, the dam broke with a couple of Seahawks' big plays as the Texans lost their third home game in a row 33-13. Here are my Harris Hits from Sunday afternoon.
The Texans had to play the final quarter and change without LB Kamu Grugier-Hill who was, again, having one of his best games of the 2021 season. He had two tackles for a loss and one pass breakup before he got his leg caught in the turf in pass coverage. He was down for a while and my heart sank given how much he's meant to this defense and the work he's put in to show what he can do as a consistent starter in this league. Early reports aren't as catastrophic as many of us first thought so I'm keeping fingers crossed that Grugier-Hill can get back on the field at some point this season and finish this wonderful year that he's had for this Texans defense.
Ever seen a rubber band break? That was sort of how I felt watching the Texans defense. Through three quarters or so, it seemed like the Texans defense, stretched to its limits, stepped up to make a stop or forced a field goal attempt. Sure, Seattle QB Russell Wilson hit a mega-deep ball for a touchdown just before the half, but the Texans got back within three with a record setting field goal before half. However, the Texans defense kept stretching but not breaking, sort of like a rubber band. Then, Seattle RB Rashaad Penny broke them.
Due to injuries and the sort, Penny had only registered 78 rushing yards all season long, but finally fully healthy, the former first round pick showed what he could do. Ironically, at the 2018 Senior Bowl, he was coached by the Texans coaching staff which included current RB coach Danny Barrett. Anyhow, Penny's two touchdown runs accounted for 79 yards, one more than he'd had all year. But, what was so telling was how quickly, and physically, Penny hit the holes. I stood in the end zone when the Seahawks were backed up, which I've done throughout my career. I'm telling you he hit that hole hard and fast as much so as any running back I've seen. Yet, the Texans defense wasn't completely broken…until 5:35 remained in the fourth quarter when Penny snapped the rubber band, bursting through on a 47-yard run to give the Seahawks an insurmountable 33-13 lead.
Let's say you hadn't seen the Texans play all year and were on an eight day football sightseeing mission. You saw the Texans offense against the Colts last week and the Texans offense against the Seahawks. Obviously, there was one change at quarterback (and Justin McCray back in at guard) but you would've thought there was much more of a change. Night and day difference. The offense had some pep in its step to start the game and I'm convinced that it had all to do with the start of the game. The two days that the offense has looked much different - at home v. New England and v. Seattle - the common thread was a touchdown drive to start the game. That confidence seemed to ooze through the offense throughout the first half and at times in the third quarter. But, the inability to finish with points once on the other side of the 50-yard line in the second half turned out to be the football death knell on this day.
In the first half, the Texans got into Seattle territory three times and scored all three times. In the second half, the Texans got into Seattle territory four times, one other time at the 50-yard line, and scored no points. The offense had at least two first downs on every drive in the second half, except for one drive. The offense just couldn't make the one play to break the scoring seal, not only this game, but over the three game home span. The Texans scored 27 first half points in the first half of the three game homestand, but were unable to score in the second half in any of the three games. The flip side of that is that opposing offenses put up 44 points over three games in the second half. The Texans led 14-11, trailed 14-0 and trailed 16-13 in those three games but the inability to find offensive consistency led to 10-0, 17-0 and 17-0 second halves.
QB Davis Mills looked a lot like the quarterback that played against New England in Week 5. He got confidence early, starting the game completing his first 14 passes, including the only touchdown pass of the day to Brevin Jordan.
On that play, the Seahawks completely forgot that Jordan was on the field. As soon as Jordan got near the back line of the end zone, there wasn't a white shirt anywhere near him. I saw him right away; so did all of the fans in the south end zone. Seemingly in unison, we were screaming "BREVIN'S OPEN!!" Mills had to elude some pressure first before he danced out to the right side and saw his fellow rookie in the end zone for the game's opening touchdown.
With Mills being back on the field, throwing to Brevin and Nico Collins, the three rookies hooked up nine times for 95 yards and one touchdown. Nico had a beautiful catch and run in the first half on a route that the Texans used to befuddle the Seahawks in 2017 too. Given the fact that Collins is 6-4, 215 lb. and had to cross the entire field to go get the rock, it showed the juice he has. Jordan continues to shine in the passing game at tight end as well. That trio is showing what's possible with some young juice for this offense.
The OG King Brandin Cooks had another monster game, though. Eight catches for 101 yards and a near touchdown that led to one of the most important plays on the day. I'll get to that in a second. But, in this season when it's been so hard in all three phases, Brandin shows up and balls out, every single play. EVERY PLAY. Throw him a quick screen when the Texans are down 33-13 and he's fighting and sprinting forward for every single inch he can get. Before Cooks got here, I had always been a big fan of his, but seeing how that man competes on every single play and the professional he is, he's turned into one of my favorites of all-time. Clone him 53 times in different heights, weights and sizes and the Texans record is reversed. 2-11 would turn into 11-2.
That first half play, though. Oy. In the second quarter with the score 10-7, Cooks caught a slant route on DB D.J. Reed and knifed through seemingly into the end zone. At first, the referees signaled a touchdown but I could see Brandin's knee down and wondered whether he had actually gotten in the end zone. Then, before even going over to review the play, referee Adrian Hill noted that Cooks was six inches short of the end zone. So, first down, ball at the one foot line. On first down, the Texans brought in OL Max Scharping as the sixth offensive lineman on the play. RB Rex Burkhead carried it for no gain as Seahawks monster NT Al Woods engulfed him, but there was a penalty called. For the second week in a row, the Texans lined up illegally and it cost the offense in a major way. TE Brevin Jordan lined up next to Scharping on the line of scrimmage which is illegal as Jordan covered up Scharping, who reported to the referee that he was eligible on that play. That moved the Texans to the five yard line but they were able to only pick up two yards. As such, they kicked a field goal to tie the game. That was a lost four points, even though, in all honesty, it would've been a gift of four points.
Woods hit LS Jon Weeks on a field goal attempt earlier in the drive on a Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal attempt. That personal foul penalty gave the Texans an automatic first down and new life on that drive. Eventually, the offense bogged down and Fairbairn hit his first field goal of the day. It was his second one that was the record maker.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson uncorked a 55-yard rocket to Tyler Lockett for a touchdown to give Seattle a 16-10 lead with :52 seconds in the first half. The Texans had one timeout and got an excellent return on a reverse to Tavierre Thomas. That put the ball at the Texans 42-yard line with :41 seconds remaining. After moving into Seattle territory, a third down holding penalty seemed to push the Texans out of field goal range. However, RB Rex Burkhead picked up seven yards on a post penalty reception to put the ball at the Seahawks 43-yard line. Then, Fairbairn walked on the field so I did the quick math. 61 yards. Whoa. But, with 0:04 seconds left, I didn't see the harm in Ka'imi taking a shot at the record until I saw D.K. Metcalf line up about five yards from me right under the goal post. If Fairbairn missed it short, Metcalf would've had a head of steam and is the fastest WR in the NFL. At that point, I got a little worried. But, when Fairbairn hit it, I knew he had the distance but I could see the ball start to come at me, standing just outside the uprights. Then, somehow, that ball took a turn back to the inside and cleared the crossbar beautifully. I screamed at Marc "HE MADE IT!!" and Marc's call was that much more awesome. Record. Breaker.
Tough day with some bright moments, highlighted by Fairbairn's 61-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Wilson and the Seahawks made the big plays they needed to make to leave Houston with another win. It's time to get ready for Jacksonville. See ya next week, everyone.
Check out the best photos from the Houston Texans Week 14 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.