The Rundown: Texans vs. Bills
After shaking off the bye week blues, the Houston Texans got their game rolling in the second half of the game against the Buffalo Bills. The Texans closed out the Bills 21-9 and improved to 7-1 overall but more importantly 7-0 in the AFC.
Under Head Coach Gary Kubiak, the Texans had a record of 2-4 coming out of the bye week and early in the game it looked like the Texans were treading on the brink of disaster. The danger was avoided and the Texans looked a little more like themselves in the second half, and made life difficult for the Bills.
- The special teams started off bad with two penalties on the first punt of the game. Brice McCain was called for illegal procedure for running out-of-bounds covering the punt and Barrett Ruud was called for a false start after the McCain penalty. To make matters worse, the Texans had a field goal blocked after the Bills ran through Derek Newton and Antoine Caldwell. The return game finally showed some life after Keshawn Martin had a 28 yard return to set up a short field for the offense. The Texans were supposed to have concentrated on getting their special teams squared away during the bye week, but it seems like there is a disconnect. Give credit when it is due, the coverage teams kept the Bills #1 return unit in the NFL under control and under their season average.
- Shiloh Keo had his best game of the season on special teams when he had three tackles on coverage and made a big play against punt returner Leodis McKelvin when he shedded a block to stop the deadly return man in open field before he got going.
- Don’t look now but the Texans pass rush is heating up at the right time of the season. J.J. Watt had five quarterback hits and a sack, while Connor Barwin had 4 quarterback hits of his own and chipped in another sack. Also, Whitney Mercilus caused a fumble and brought down Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for his second sack in as many games. Throw in a pass deflection from Jared Crick, the defensive line is coming into form and hitting their stride. Don’t downplay what they have done this season when it comes to the run game, they have made life tough for opposing offensive lines to block them consistently.
- Arian Foster and Owen Daniels have been touchdown scoring machines for the Texans’ offense. Foster has scored a rushing touchdown in the past 5 contests and has a total of 7 rushing touchdowns (10 on the season). They have gone away from Foster in the passing game, but he had been steady on the ground and had a quiet 111 yard day. Daniels has been nothing short of amazing for the offense and has 5 touchdown catches in the last six games. Throw in being the second option in the passing game, he has benefited the most from the return of Matt Schaub. He had his longest catch of the season on a 39 yard touchdown reception from a great designed play.
- Andre Johnson may have lost a step but he looks like he is getting some hop back into his step. Targeted 10 times on Sunday, he had 8 receptions for 118 yards and is starting to become a vital piece of the offensive success once again. Rick Dennison and Kubiak have made the effort to get Johnson involved and keep him involved in the game plan. In the last three games, Johnson has been targeted 32 times. He is still a top flight wide receiver but the Texans are using him different now than previous seasons and defenses are still wary of him.
- It is hard to believe but Kareem Jackson was targeted two times and the only pass completed on him was on a wide receiver screen pass. Jackson is playing with such confidence and him and Jonathan Joseph are making one of the top cornerback tandems in the AFC. Joseph is being thrown at more by offenses but that is expected with him covering the opposing teams best wide receiver. The cornerback play has been overall pretty good and the Bills went the safe route by keeping it underneath and attacking the linebackers of the Texans.
- Bradie James and Tim Dobbins were much better in run support and seem to be getting the idea of attacking downhill in the run game. They had their hands full covering the pass against Bills’ runningback C.J. Spiller, who was simply out running them all over the field. Linebackers in general have issues covering running backs but they seem capable of handling the duties for the remainder of the season. One thing that did stand out was James constantly adjusting the defense throughout the game when the Bills motioned to a different formations, which proves HUGE in the defensive scheme.
- The offensive line left something to be desired coming out of the bye week and hopefully it was just rust they were knocking off. Duane Brown gave up a sack when he missed on a cut block and was tossed aside by Mario Williams on a run play. Throw in a bad pass setup by Derek Newton on the Williams’ sack and Wade Smith and Ben Jones being pushed into the backfield on run plays causing Foster to have no room to run. Chris Myers had an uncharacteristic holding call, Ryan Harris looked slow in run and pass protection and Antoine Caldwell had a false start and issues in the run game. It was one of the worse games the offensive line has played this season but the Texans’ offense was still able to produce a 100 yard rusher and receiver. The offensive line looked out of sorts more times than not but did flash some when they opened up holes for Foster early in the 1st quarter and late in the 4th quarter in one of the most important drives of the game, the one to drain the clock.
- James Casey was pretty impressive catching the football and had 49 yards receiving on three catches. Casey had some issues in getting movement when lead blocking and was rejected a few times when leading the way for Foster. On Foster’s only touchdown run of the day, he did get a full head of steam and clear out the linebacker for the easy score. Casey is so valuable to the offense because he causes so many personnel decisions for the defense. He just needs to get back into that fullback mode he was in prior to the bye week.