The Texans rolled into FedExField (what the hell…it’s actually one word…), home of the Washington Redskins, on a six-game win streak. It’s no secret to Texans fans that Houston has gotten a few lucky breaks along the way, but nonetheless, 6-3 is 6-3.
The Redskins are the best team Houston has played yet this season. Yes, I know they played New England, but even New England doesn’t look like themselves at times this year. Washington, also 6-3, has beaten far more impressive teams than Houston—okay, the Panthers are it—so maybe Washington has a padded record like Houston.
So, there was a battle: two good defenses, and two offenses that have just as many strengths as weaknesses. It was no secret to the Texans that if they lost, and the Titans beat the Colts, they would no longer be the only team in first place in the division. Both the Colts and Titans have improved greatly with each game, along with Houston, and this division was going to be won by the team that could piece together the unit that continued to improve each week.
The Texans kicked off, deferring to the second half. I expected Washington to come out and work the field in chunks: consistent runs and short passes. The first play of the game was just that, a screen that went incomplete due to Kareem Jackson laying out the receiver before he could control the ball. Jackson is having a career year in coverage and tackling, and I expected him to have a strong game against Washington’s short game.
After a Redskins three-and-out, a punt delivered the ball to the Texan offense for the first time. Rookie Keke Coutee returned to action for the first time since Buffalo, and I expected him to play a heavy role in the early downs if Houston was unable to run with the underwhelming Lamar Miller.
On a third and short, rookie Jordan Akins picked up 28 yards on a well-designed play to get him open along the sidelines. I’m extremely impressed with how the rookie tight end and wide receivers have been able to contribute to the offense on third down and in the red zone. Houston has options as far as Watson’s vision allows.
A strike to Coutee picked up a first down after a run that netted -3 yards, followed by another first down run that went for -2 yards. The Houston run game was getting blown up at the line.
On a 3rd and 3 near the goal line, Watson overthrew Deandre Hopkins (good coverage by Josh Norman), and the Texans settled for a 23-yard field goal by shaky kicker, Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a “Ka'imi” Fairbairn.
Texans 3 Reskins 0
The Texans lost guard Zach Fulton on the drive with a shoulder injury, replaced by Greg Mancz.
The second Houston drive started well: a 16-yard pass to Hopkins over the middle off play-action (why anyone would ever bite on a Houston play-action is beyond me.)
Something I noticed during this drive was Watson’s ability to quickly read the field and make a decision. The ball was leaving his hands quickly, often to his second or third read, and connecting with the target in stride. With each completed pass, backs Miller and Alfred Blue continued to rip off more yards. Everything Houston wanted to do was being done on this drive.
On first down and 10 from the 16, Watson connected with Hopkins who plucked the ball from the hands of a defender for the touchdown.
Texans 10 Redskins 0
The Redskins started to move the ball through the air on their third drive, which ended at the beginning of the second quarter with an Adrian Peterson touchdown.
In 10 plays, the Redskins went 75 yards in a little over four minutes.
Texans 10 Redskins 7
The following drive ended quickly with a tipped Watson interception, and Washington took over at mid-field but were unable to get the ball in scoring range thanks to a sack on third down by Tyrann Mathieu.
After a Texans punt, a combination of foolish defensive penalties and blown coverage had Washington looking to take the lead. But rookie safety Justin Reid picked off the third down pass in the end zone and ran it back 101 yards for a Houston touchdown and his first touchdown as a professional.
Texans 17 Redskins 7
On the following drive, linebacker Brennan Scarlett, who had a very solid game, intercepted Alex Smith. Houston took over with a little under 30 yards to score, but only moved back, and elected to kick, AND MISS, a field goal.
Washington did very little to get into field goal range, and the score remained 17 to 7 at halftime.
The third quarter started with the same game plan: quick passes and runs up the gut while Watson continued to use the pool of talented rookies at his disposal to pick up first downs. Blue continued his all-or-nothing consistency, ripping off runs for 0, 10, and, again, 0. Watson hit Hopkins over the middle, which Hopkins fumbled (horrible call—he never had possession of the ball to fumble it.)
Washington did little on their next drive, which ended with a sack by Kareem Jackson and JJ Watt. Alex Smith injured his leg on the sack and would be carted off, replaced on the next drive by Colt McCoy.
Washington intercepted Watson (another tipped pass) on the next drive and took over on the Texans 13-yard line, resulting in a Jordan Reed touchdown.
Texans 17 Redskins 14
On the next drive, Miller ran the ball to start, followed by an impressive 40-yard catch and run from Coutee. The Texans stalled later, but a roughing the passer call allowed Houston to keep moving the chains instead of settling for a field goal.
Miller was wide open for a touchdown but elected to let the ball hit him in back of the head instead of catching it. Washington really turned up the pressure, sacking Watson on the next play and forcing him to throw it away on third down. The Texans had to settle for a field goal.
Watson has been off in the second half. Losing both starting guards could have a lot to do with it, as he is constantly under pressure, but after the first drive of the third quarter, Watson has been inaccurate and making awful reads.
Texans 20 Redskins 14
McCoy continued to move the offense, even converting a 4th down with his own legs. The drive, which the Texans defense never really looked like to be on the same page, ended with Peterson’s second touchdown run of the day.
Texans 20 Redskins 21
The Texans seemed to wake up after giving Washington the lead, moving the ball via air and ground into Washington territory. Alas, the drive stalled just outside of field goal range, but the Texans attempted a 54-yard field goal and Fairbarin put just enough leg into it.
Texans 23 Redskins 21
Thanks to sacks from Watt and Clowney, McCoy was able to do nothing on the next drive, and the Redskins were forced to punt.
Houston moved the chains on a key third down when Watson found Miller on a crossing route to put the ball into Washington territory.
At the two-minute warning, I found myself wondering what conservative nonsense O’Brien was going to dial up that would result in a Houston punt with the lead by two, with two minutes left. Instead, Josh Norman held Deshaun Watson and gave Houston a free first down. While the call was questionable, I didn’t care. 7-3 is 7-3, but the Texans would need to flex on the Redskins and finish them.
Again, I found myself wondering how O’Brien was going to put this in the hands of his defense. Washington had three timeouts, so we ALL knew O’Brien was going to dial up 3 timeout-eating plays and elect for a long field goal. While this is not the worst idea—putting your team up by 5 with under a minute left in the game—it is also the safe idea. Why not run a play action, pick up the first down if it’s there, and end the game?
O’Brien did exactly what O’Brien does and ran the ball with his worst running back, Miller, for a gain of three.
Fairbarin shanked the field goal so badly, it nearly went lateral with his body. It may possibly have been the worst field goal attempt I’ve ever seen. This is why you don’t play it safe, BILL, you go for the win.
Washington moved the ball easily into Texans territory and spiked the ball with 19 seconds left—enough time for a play, maybe two.
The first play: incomplete. 16 seconds left in the game. The second play, which is third down due to the spike: an incomplete pass.
4th and 10 on the Houston 45, the Redskins either had to get a first down and get out of bounds or throw the ball to the end zone. Instead, the Redskins let their kicker attempt a 63-yard field goal, which came up short.
This is interesting, as O’Brien called the timeout that had the Redskins reconsider going for the win, and possibly forced them into attempting the long field goal. Props to O’Brien if that is what he intended.
FINAL: Texans 23 Redskins 21
Looking back on the game, I guarantee two things: reading this article was more exciting than watching the game, and Demaryius Thomas is still wondering when he’s going to get his first catch.
It seems week after week, the Texans find a way to win…or luck-out by one play, ten yards, two points, one turnover, just enough not to lose. I’m not sure if it’s making them stronger as a team, or if it is leaving them in for a rude awakening when they have to play the Titans and Colts (hah, the best two teams they play this year.)
Up next, the Titans on Monday night. Made of Glass Mariota was injured this week, so the Texans may have their chance for revenge on…gulp…Blaine Gabbert.