Tue, 27 Oct 2020

Week 2 | The Harris Hits

Houston Texans
22 Sep 2020, 04:02 GMT+10

John Harris

Sunday afternoon was unkind for the Texans as the Baltimore Ravens came to Houston to get a win for the first time since 2010. The Ravens' win kept their regular season winning streak alive at 14 games as the Texans fell to 0-2 through two weeks of the 2020 season. All is not lost and the Texans have gotten out of worse holes in the recent past but it won't get any easier when the Texans fly to Pittsburgh next Saturday for week three of the season. Here are my Harris Hits from Sunday afternoon's loss to the powerful Ravens.

I used that word powerful to describe the Ravens because that's where that team has established its identity. Playing the Ravens is going to put a lot of guys in the cold tub on Monday, nursing bumps and bruises, more so than probably any team in the league. For a good majority of that game, the Texans swapped punches, proverbially speaking, with the Ravens, but mistakes earlier in the game cost them in the fourth quarter.

In that fourth quarter, the Ravens had a six play drive for a touchdown and a 13 play drive for a field goal that made this a three score game. On the 13 play drive, that milked 4:29 off the clock, the Ravens ran the ball 13 times. Every play was a run and it forced the Texans to call all three time outs as a result. It was the manifestation of the physical nature of the game. The Texans defense finally started to tire, just a bit, and the Ravens put their physical stamp on the game.

That said, the Texans defense had some brilliant moments on Sunday. 14 points that the Texans gave up really weren't "on" the defense. Ravens linebacker L.J. Fort returned a fumble for a touchdown and the Ravens scored on a short field after a failed fourth down conversion. After hardly touching Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson last year, the Texans sacked Jackson four times and pressured him multiple more times.

After Marcus Peters' interception near the end of the first half that squelched a drive that had possibilities, the defense forced a three and out. That was one of the best aspects of the day; there's no better response to a turnover than for the sudden change defense to stuff the offense on a three and out. Defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver's Texans defense did that. In so doing, the Texans defense forced a punt and Deshaun Watson led the Texans down for a field goal before the end of the half to cut the Ravens lead to ten points prior to halftime.

Defensive end J.J. Watt did a little of everything on the day, registering two sacks, three quarterback hits and one pass batted down. He didn't play last year against Jackson due to his pectoral muscle injury and he made a massive difference in the game on Sunday. He was in the backfield throughout the game, creating issues for Jackson and the Ravens' offense.

Linebacker Zach Cunningham registered 15 tackles, a sack, one TFL and a quarterback hit on the day and would tell you he probably left four or five tackles on the field as well. There were at least two times where he ran down Jackson from the middle, not allowing the Ravens dynamic quarterback to turn the corner and head up field as he typically does. It was not a perfect day for the inside linebacker duo (Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney - 25 combined tackles), but it was clear that they were going to make Jackson and company feel their presence.

In my estimation, defensive linemen Brandon Dunn and P.J. Hall did some good things in the middle of the defense as well. Those two were under constant double team stress all day, but were able to fight off blocks and make tackles as well. Through the first two weeks of the season, Hall, claimed on waivers in early August, has made a positive impact on this defensive line.

Deshaun Watson has made some unbelievable plays in his career and he made another one in this game that won't be remembered as such due to the result of this game. The Texans trailed by 13 late in the third quarter but were driving for a touchdown that could've cut the Ravens lead to six. The drive stalled after a sack and a penalty which put the Texans in a third and 15 situation. Watson went back to pass as a couple of Ravens defenders worked free and looked to sack him. With two Ravens nastily striking him as he cocked his arm, Watson threw the ball to an open spot on the field about 35 yards downfield. Somehow, some way, Watson threw Brandin Cooks into that open area and the veteran receiver ran into the catch for a key first down. I mean, Deshaun took a wicked shot from two defenders and threw an absolute dime to Cooks to keep that drive alive. It won't be remembered by many but man, that was impressive.

One play that will stick with me from this game, well, actually two of them involved running back David Johnson. There was really no room to run the ball for Johnson on Sunday, but he didn't pout or whine when he was asked to pass protect, that's for sure. On one of Watson's passes in the second half, the Texan running back chipped on Ravens outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and by chipped, I mean he knocked Bowser straight onto his wallet. He NAILED him. Then, he released out into the flat and caught a pass for a seven yard gain.

Then, on a later drive, the Ravens brought a blitzer off the edge that Johnson had to pick up. He stoned the blitzing linebacker on arrival and stayed with him as you'd want to see from an offensive lineman. Talk about impressive; that was a wow moment to say the least. He probably latched onto that block for about three to four seconds to allow Watson time to throw. I've seen every Texans running back pass protect over the past seven years since I've been on the sideline and I can't remember one that pass protected like that.

Johnson nearly ended up with the longest pass reception in the game as well. He lined up wide and had a linebacker on him 1-on-1. That's not going to go well for the defense. He beat rookie linebacker Patrick Queen badly and was two yards or more behind him down the field but Watson couldn't make the connection. That would've been one of the longest running back receptions in the history of the Texans but it missed by just a bit.

Safety Justin Reid finished the game with ten tackles and he made a couple of plays that were just extraordinary. He made a tackle for no gain on Lamar Jackson in the fourth quarter that was unreal. He was being blocked by tight end Nick Boyle but when Jackson tried to turn the corner, Reid was able to release from the block and snatched Jackson down on the Texans' sideline. On the very next play, he was being blocked again by the other Texans tight end Mark Andrews out in space. There wasn't another Texans defender in the vicinity that could've stopped Jackson short of the first down. Somehow, Reid got enough of the Ravens speedy quarterback and brought him down short of the first down.

I think Marc Vandermeer said it best..."There are plenty of good aspects to take out of this game, but there were too many mistakes to overcome them." There were just missed opportunities that the Texans have to capitalize on next time. As such, it must change next week in Pittsburgh. See ya' then, everyone.

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