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VanderBlog: Learning in Atlanta 


This league is all about being at your best at noon on Sunday. There are too many good coaches and good players on each sideline to allow an opponent to be too far off its game and still win.

Such was the case in Atlanta for the Texans.

Twenty-one points is not a deluge. But the Falcons scored on their final three possessions to walk off with a victory while the Texans go home in need of shoring up the pass rush and finishing more drives earlier in the game.

The positives were that the deficit never got out of reach and that the Houston offense, led by C.J. Stroud and some determined running by Dameon Pierce, got the lead on a 75-yard drive that ended with Dalton Schultz hauling in an 18-yard touchdown pass. Had that lead held, we'd be gushing about the execution on the drive. And perhaps we should anyway. It was tremendous.

It turned out there was way too much time on the clock for second-year QB Desmond Ridder, who threw the ball way too well on the game-winning field goal march.

If you would have told me going in that the Texans would hold Atlanta to under three yards per carry and less than one hundred yards rushing, I would have been tempted to guarantee victory.

Then if you told me they'd also win the turnover battle 2-0, I would have had no problem predicting a win.

But this is the NFL, where if you don't finish drives, if you can't stop the team in crunch time, you're very often starting post game sentences with "what if…"

The Texans were 4th in the NFL in converting third downs, coming in. But at the end of the day, they were held to 30%. Meanwhile the Falcons converted at a 50% clip.

This game needs to be learned from. It's encouraging that the Texans could slow down the run against a team that was so determined to move the ball that way. But a Houston defense that handled Trevor Lawrence and Kenny Pickett had a great deal of difficulty stopping Ridder's aerial darts at the moment of truth.

Adjustments will be made as the Saints come calling next week. This staff has shown creativity and it'll be an interesting week as the squad looks to put together another winning streak.

Nothing would feel better than hitting the bye at 3-3. It's all hands on deck to make that happen and make sure that the Texans close out winnable games and play at their best in the fourth quarter, when it matters most.

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