Texans win state battle, some questions remain

For the first time since the Texans’ inaugural game in Week 1 of the 2002 season, the Houston Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboys in a regular season game. Granted, they’ve only played five times in the regular season, but a win over “America’s Team” is still significant.

More importantly the Texans improved their record to 2-3, winning their second consecutive game in the young season. The Texans dominated the Cowboys statistically, but it took an overtime period to beat them and questions still remain about the Texans and decision- making at critical moments in the game.

On the positive side, the Texans won back-to-back games in overtime for the first time since Weeks 11-12 of the 2012 season. On the negative side, they never should have been in that predicament. The Texans gained 462 total net yards (88 rushing and 374 passing) on 76 offensive plays (6.1 avg.), yet only had 16 points to show for their effort in regulation play.

After the game head coach Bill O’Brien had nothing but praise for his troops “Great team win. Guys hung in there,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty [and we have] a lot of work to do in the red area and things like that. Deshaun [Watson] is a great competitor. He never thinks his team is out of the game and just keeps coming back. It was a tough game.”

If there was an area of concern it had to be the amount of punishment that Watson, Houston’s second year quarterback, took when he decided to run the ball, in many cases electing to take on defenders rather than slide or run out of bounds. In the locker room following the game, he looked like a guy who had been in a UFC octagon.

“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure that maybe he doesn’t take as many [hits],” O’Brien said.

 “That’s the way he plays the game and he enjoys that part of the game, to be honest with you. I think it’s something that we continue to coach.

We don’t want [him to take] an abundance of hits, but sometimes it does happen.”

Watson believes there’s nothing to be concerned about. “I just try to do what’s best for the team,” he said.

“Sometimes what’s best for the team is protecting myself, but when we’re down there at the goal line, I’m trying to get in the end zone. That’s my mentality…if there are three dudes like it was tonight multiple times, I’m going to try to fight my a– off to get in the end zone. Whatever it takes. I’m built to take those hits, and I’m just going to give all my will and my guts and try to get the ball in the end zone.”

Give credit to the Texans’ defense for keeping the game close by throttling a potent Cowboy offense. They held the NFL’s leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott to just 54 yards on 20 carries. The previous week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, Jadeveon Clowney, explained the mindset of the Texans’ defense.

“When you’re facing adversity, show up and answer the bell,” he said. “We’ve been showing up the last two games and answering the bell. We’re improving each week. Guys are tired of losing; we’re coming out here and competing. We’ve never had any problems with competing since I’ve been here, going on five years right now. We’re coming up with wins now. We have a big one next week.”

Despite predictable play-calling and questionable decisions in the red zone, the Texans find themselves still in charge of their own destiny. They host a resurgent Buffalo team next with a chance to improve their record to .500 after beginning 0-3. It doesn’t appear that anyone in the AFC South is going to run away with the division.

The Texans have yet to play their best game offensively. If they can limit the hard hits on Watson and the defense continues to play well, it could be an interesting season.

This article originally appeared in The Defender News Network.

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