The Texans were a 14-point underdog against the Patriots. They ultimately lost the game, but there were a few positives to take from it. Positives that should bode well for the future of the team beyond this season.
The defense added another 5 sacks to its resume and the battered secondary was not as exposed as expected going into the game. The running game even seemed serviceable following a somewhat rough week two. After the game, an unexpected thought surfaced.
Bill O’Brien is an impressive head coach.
O’Brien called plays designed to protect his rookie quarterback. He mixed his plays well and was able to keep the Patriots defense off-balance. Deshaun Watson had his first 300-yard passing day in the NFL and led the Texans to have more total yards than New England. Watson is not a finished product and his head coach did not require him to be. The Texans offense seemingly ran more play-action passes than any game in recent memory.
At one point in the 2nd quarter it seemed that there would not be a straight drop back the rest of the game. This started by running and throwing the ball with a reverse action at the snap. This was not only intended to open running lanes, but also to provide larger throwing windows for Watson. Another play-action theme was to pull an interior lineman opposite of a quarterback bootleg to sell the run fake. The pulling lineman held the linebackers long enough to allow the receivers to get across the field on shallow crosses.
Houston frequently changed formations and position groups to shelter the lackluster offensive line. After allowing ten sacks in week 1, they only allowed two last Sunday. The Texans took advantage of the Patriots front seven with unbalanced lines and occasionally played six offensive linemen. Watson threw the ball several times from heavy sets with seven or eight blockers in front of him.
The game plan included additional bootlegs and moving pockets to keep Watson out of harm’s way. He took advantage of his quarterback’s mobility and let him get the ball in the hands of his playmakers. O’Brien’s play-calling was unpredictable and that is a good thing.
This may be the worst New England defense we have seen in years. Therefore, we should not get ahead of ourselves. Deshaun Watson may or may not be the quarterback of the future, but at least his head coach is trying to put him in situations to succeed. The Texans cannot afford a repeat of David Carr by letting him stand still behind this offensive line and it does not appear that this will be the case with Watson.