By Brien O’Donal
The Texans faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals on a color rush Thursday night game. I like to call myself an NFL traditionalist, but these uniforms are slowly bringing me into the modern era. I have to say, they’re pretty snazzy. The Texans went with Deep Steel Blue pants and jerseys with red numbers and shoulder highlights. With their already blue helmets they showed a dark, imposing look. The Bengals chose all white uniforms with black highlights against their orange helmets. The field looks very much good vs. evil.
The first half of this game was tough to watch. Each team started with 2, 3-and-out drives and looked really bad doing it. The Texans special teams seemed determined to give the Bengals the ball at midfield every time they punted the ball away. Finally each team finally started to get first downs, but they didn’t find a way to get very many on one drive. You can call it good defensive play if you want; there was some of that, but the offenses just looked bad. The Texans sacked Andy Dalton twice and the Bengals got Deshaun Watson 3 times.
First half scoring was low and came in different ways. The Texans drew first blood after a Cincinnati fumble was returned by Jadeveon Clowney to the 20-yard line. Despite the fortunate break they only managed a field goal. The Bengals got help from a great catch by A.J. Green for 50 yards, but they managed only 3 points as well. Then the 2-minute warning came around and it was like lightning had struck each offense. The Texans moved the ball well and Deshaun Watson flashed his running ability as he scampered 49 yards for a touchdown. Not to be outdone, the Bengals took the ball and got on the move. They had two consecutive plays that got them to the Texans 10 yard line but were held to another field goal ending a long first half with the score 10-6, Texans lead.
Halftime adjustments were made and the second half looked steadier for both teams. The Bengals came out and got a field goal after an 8 and a half minute drive. There were no more points in the 3rd quarter, but each team looked steadier and more inclined to eat up the clock. The quarter ended with the score 10-9 but much more resembling a defensive struggle than offensive ineptitude.
At the end of the day the Texans failed to really do anything. They got only 3 points in the second half. Their defense won them this game. They got lucky with a good fumble return and one great run by Watson. The running game got plenty of chances but failed to accomplish much. If you take away Watson’s 67 yards rushing, the running backs only racked up 101 yards on 30 carries, an average of 3.37 yards a carry. If you can’t get the ball down field to your receivers you need the running backs to be able to help. I don’t think they did. The offensive line failed again to keep the pressure off the quarterback and Watson finished the game 15 of 24 for 125 yards while running for his life. He was hit 8 times in this game and one of those was pretty viscous.
It didn’t help him that Deandre Hopkins was his main target who struggled with his catching at times. There were a lot of missing offensive weapons in the game for Houston. The only tight end on the roster was Evan Baylis who was on the practice squad 2 days ago. This lack of experience pretty much took that option off the table. A lack of depth at receiver didn’t help either as running backs were the second and third leading receivers on the team. As a whole the offense finished with only 266 yards of total offense. You read that right, total offense.
The defense did their part. They held the Bengals without a touchdown in their 3 trips to the red zone and managed to hold them just 82 yards rushing as a team. They did lose Jonathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson to injury, but managed to keep that from being too much of a problem. If they can continue to put out these types of performances the team might end up like last year, winning a lot of games because the defense keeps the score low.
There is still a lot of work to do, but it was good for the Texans to walk away with a 13-9 win. After last week they needed the defense to return to its 2016 form. They got that tonight and took advantage of a Bengals team unable to get their offense together. The Bengals have yet to score a touchdown in 2017 despite the weapons to do so. Deshaun Watson looked better than his week 1 debut, but he still has a long way to go. If he can get some of his offensive weapons to come alive there might be a chance the Texans have an offense that is slightly better than last year where they finished 9-7.
They travel next week to the New England Patriots. I don’t really think I need to get into that now because we all know what a challenge that will be after last year when Bill Belichick humiliated them with a 3rd string quarterback.
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