The Texans are now almost universally considered to be the best team in the NFL after a quality road win in Denver. Houston started slowly after a safety on their first offensive play of the game, but soon after jumped all over the Broncos on both sides of the ball.
Schaub, Kubiak excelled
Matt Schaub had one of his best games as a Texan. He was on point all game long, leading receivers with the deep ball, and distributing the ball effortlessly to eight different receivers. He kept getting hit, and he kept getting up. Schaub has never gotten enough credit for his toughness, but he showed it once again in this game. One game where Schaub suddenly is leading receivers with near-perfection doesn’t mean he’s going to be able to do that going forward, but on Sunday Schaub was simply ON.
Another knock on Schaub has always been “if you rattle him early, you get in his head and he doesn’t stay strong in the pocket.” That has always been exaggerated, but Schaub certainly was not rattled despite a couple of vicious hits. Were they dirty? I don’t know. In the heat of the game I thought a couple of them were, but the day after I’m just not sure. I’m going to have to watch the game again.
Gary Kubiak is a winning head coach in the NFL for the second time in his career (he was briefly over .500 after the division-clinching win in Cincinnati last year as was pointed out to me on Twitter). For his 50th win as Texans’ head coach, Kubiak called an absolute masterpiece of a game. He mixed the run with the pass artfully, and dialed up the play action bombs at the right moments.
Sure is nice having an elite defense
On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans simply dominated for most of the game until Peyton Manning did what Peyton Manning does. Every defensive coordinator wants to get a good push on the quarterback with just four men rushing, but that wasn’t working out especially well for the Texans. Wade Phillips dialed up some blitzes, and the Texans got better pressure. When that happened, the secondary stepped up yet again, despite some big yardage numbers from Manning.
Though the defense left some turnovers on the field in the form of dropped interceptions, the front seven just DOMINATED the Broncos for the most part. The Texans did a good job busting through and containing screens, played well sideline to sideline to limit big plays, and came up huge in some short yardage situations.
I called this game a heart-stopper in the headline, but a fluke touchdown catch by ex-Texan TE Joel Dreessen is the only thing that kept this from being a more convincing win. Those things happen in the NFL, though. You have to throw stats out the window sometimes, especially against a Hall of Fame quarterback on the road.
The return of big plays
The Texans haven’t made, and haven’t needed a lot of big plays on offense to this point in the season – but all of a sudden the big plays were coming from all over the place yesterday. Andre Johnson scored on a 60-yard touchdown pass. Kevin Walter pulled in a 52-yarder. Lestar Jean had a 46-yard catch and run. Garrett Graham had a 27-yard reception. Arian Foster and Keshawn Martin each had rushes just over 20 yards.
Player of the game – Offense – No doubt, it’s Matt Schaub. He had some great stats but throw those out the window. I give it to him for his toughness, his leadership, and his fearless ability to step up strong in the pocket despite some very spotty pass protection.
Player of the game – Defense – Who else could it be but JJ Watt? 2.5 sacks, seven tackles, four tackles for a loss. I’m sick and tired of the overuse of the word “beast” to describe players, which is no problem because the word “beast” isn’t nearly enough to describe Watt at this point. He’s a freaking JUGGERNAUT.
Play of the game – Texans have the ball and lead 31-25 with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter. It’s 3rd & 5 from the Houston 25 yard-line, and the Broncos are out of time outs. Another first down from the Texans doesn’t end the game, but it allows you to take snaps and time away from Peyton Manning. Schaub hits Andre Johnson from the shotgun on a 12-yard out route. Champ Bailey was a fingernail away from knocking it away, but the Texans converted. This ultimately allowed the Texans to run the clock from 2:49 left, to :20 left by the time the ball was back in Manning’s hands.
Looking ahead – and yes, the Titans are BAD
Houston is now the only undefeated team in the AFC, and matched only in the NFC by Arizona and Atlanta, who also sit at 3-0. The Texans’ big challenge now is to not get complacent, and keep from having an emotional letdown against the Titans. For some early flavor, the Titans are 31st in the NFL in total defense, 30th against the pass, and 29th against the run. That said – they’re a divisional opponent, and coming off a rousing (and fluky) win against Detroit in Dirty, Meth-Addicted Hillbilly Town.
In no UNIVERSE should the Texans lose this game, but it’s at least worth noting that the Titans have had a pretty tough schedule so far. But nothing tougher than Sunday. Reliant is going to be on FIRE.