Deshaun Waston once again puts his beleaguered teammates on his back and hooks up with TE Darren Fells late on a number of crucial and mesmerising plays to edge past Oakland after trailing for 50 plus minutes. But further injuries threaten this team’s season on defence, leaving many questions on that side of the ball. How they will be answered in the final 8 games, remains to be a challenge for the coaching staff.
Another afternoon, another slow start. This team continues to be hindered by its inability to start games fast. When Deshaun and the offence get into gear, we’ve seen how rapidly points appear on the board. This 2019’s team quest for consistency is one that confines its ceiling to a level of underachievement based on its offensive talent. Now leading the league in pre-snap penalties, it appears early in games the Texans can’t get out from under their own feet and are creating a habit of trailing early. A touchdown to the pass catching tail back, Duke Johnson was the only highlight of a 1st half to forget. This was to be overcome by Deshaun and the offence late-on but against the AFC’s elite this may not be quite as easy as flicking the switch when needed.
The biggest story bar the result on Sunday was the loss of the unofficial mayor of Houston, Justin James Watt. The star D-End’s season has once again been prematurely ended and leaving a gaping hole in Romeo Crennel’s unit. It’s clear at this stage of JJ’s career the team can no longer rely on him to be healthy, the run of injuries has now seen him miss more than 30 games overs last 4 seasons. His loss to an already muted pass rush is colossal. JJ’s year to date, was one that saw him lead the league in QB hits, despite only notching four sacks he was playing at a high level. It remains to be seen how such a void can be filled and what impact will this have on the team. Will this just further expose an already porous pass defence? The answers will be stark in the coming weeks but after an innocuous tackle for loss, Watt on the next play knew something wasn’t quite right and headed up the tunnel.
This team was already constrained by injuries particularly in the secondary. Starting Safety Teshaun Gipson, and long serving Cornerback Johnathan Jospeh were both respectively held out of this game. This was already against a back drop of free agent signing, Bradly Roby out with a hamstring injury & rookie second round-pick, Lonnie Johnson Jr, left the field with a suspected concussion in the second quarter. This would have appeared to open the door for an Oakland passing attack which lead 21-13 in the third quarter. A Raiders unit lead by the Quarterback in question by his own fanbase: Derek Carr. A familiar name in Houston sports folklore as his older brother, Derek, infamously dawned the Texans uniform as its first ever quarterback as an expansion franchise in 2002. An arrangement for a variety of reasons that didn’t work out and remains to this day an example of not putting the talent around a passer that a franchise has greatly invested in.
This would have been the criticism of your current Houston Texans prior to last season. The influx of talent, after parting with significant draft capital, had created offensive line that looked to be a strong and gelling unit. However, injuries once again impacted Deshaun’s first line of protection. Tytus Howard, this years 1st round pick, missed his second consecutive game with a strained MCL. Late in the 4th quarter, Laremy Tunsil left with a shoulder ailment that was later described as minor.
Having Watson’s two cornerstone’s on either side of the line missing, is what makes the final two drives all the more special. Street free agent Chris Clarke and recently signed from New England Practice squad, Dan Skipper, were the protection on the edges. The go-ahead TD isn’t something we haven’t seen from Waston before. But the ability to escape pressure in the pocket and to spin away from the clutches of a would be sack-artist is unique. To evade two defensive lineman, be kicked in the eye with a trailing leg, adjust his helmet, throw a 12-yard pass to his tight end with only sight in one eye was a sequence that defines Watson and who he is as a QB.
The defence then made a stand on Oakland final two drives of the ball game, a sure-fire pick-six was dropped by linebacker Dylan Cole but that lead to the introduction of the Raiders field-goal unit for the first time in the game. The following Oakland possession was then blown up by D-Tackle come D-End, DJ Reader who continues to flourish in the pass rush as he drew a hold from the Raiders stand-in centre. A ten yard holding penalty was issued by the officiating crew. Then after giving up a first down pass on the final drives first play, newly acquired Gareon Conley rose when needed. Acquired for a third round pick from Oakland earlier in the week, facing his old teammates, broke up a pass intended for Tyrell Williams and forced the punt.
The offence were able then to kneel this one out after the two-minute warning. Again Darren Fells, an ever reliable target for Waston, grabbed a one-handed snag and to get the first down. This ones in the books the Texans who walked out 27-24 winners after not reaching their potential for much of the afternoon and the injuries continue to pile up.
The transatlantic trip against the Jags in an early kick (8.30am Central) at the home of English soccer, Wembley Stadium, awaits in a must win game prior to the much needed bye week.