Lost amidst all the talk of replacement officials, blown calls, and the integrity of the game, the Houston Texans have cruised to their first ever 3-0 start to an NFL season. Texans fans know better than most that it figures that there happens to be yet another big story dominating the headlines during a time where, in any other season, the Houston Texans would likely be receiving quite a bit of publicity.
It’s always something keeping the Texans out of the public eye, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Ask the players and coaches and I’m sure they’d tell you the same thing.
The Houston Texans are one of only three undefeated teams left in the NFL, the other two being the surprising Arizona Cardinals and the Atlanta Falcons. Raise your hand if you thought the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos would all be 1-2 after three games….
That’s what I thought.
Although the Broncos were able to mount a 4th quarter surge against the Texans this past Sunday to tighten up the score, for 11 out of 12 quarters this season the Houston Texans have been absolutely dominant, with a +60 point differential. Their +46 overall point differential is tied for the best in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
A QB’s Nightmare
Oh, and how about that J.J. Watt guy? I said earlier this offseason that I believe J.J. Watt has the potential not just to be a superstar, but a Hall of Famer. He is that good, and he certainly seems to be heading in that direction. Watt is already far and away the best 5-technique defensive end in football, and it could be argued that he is the best overall defensive lineman as well.
Perhaps Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants could be slightly ahead, but Watt’s ability to get after the quarterback from where he plays on the field is simply phenomenal. Unlike outside speed rushers, Watt does not have the luxury of getting one on-one-matchups on the outside with offensive tackles. He is routinely chipped and even double-teamed, and he should expect extra blockers to come his way exponentially the more he produces.
Through three games, Watt leads the Texans in tackles (15), tackles for loss (3), sacks (5.5), and passes deflected (5). Also, in just 45 running play snaps, J.J. Watt has 10 tackles that constitute as defensive “stops”, which is defined as a “loss for the offense”.
The Real “Matty Ice”
And then there’s Matt Schaub. Still questioning his toughness and his ability to stay on the field? I didn’t think so.
After taking the lick of all lickings on Sunday from Denver Broncos linebacker Joe Mays, in which part of Matt Schaub’s ear actually got ripped off from the force of his helmet being ejected off of his head, many watching the game were sure Schaub was done for the day.
But as soon as Matt Schaub got to the sideline, the first words out of his mouth were “I’m fine” and the scowl across his face said all you needed to know about his attitude. He took one play off, as is the rule for any player who’s helmet comes off during a play, and he was back in the game.
Schaub led the Texans on one more touchdown drive, finding Owen Daniels in the end zone for his 4th touchdown pass of the game, and the Texan defense did the rest be holding on just long enough to seal the third victory of the season.
Although Schaub did throw his first interception of the season in the first half, an admittedly poor decision, he has solidified his reputation as a highly intelligent and efficient quarterback who seems to consistently make all the right reads. Schaub has a 102.4 passer rating on the season with 5 touchdown passes and just the one interception.
Schaub has also done an excellent job of getting rid of the football on time to avoid sacks. Matt has been sacked just three times on the season and he has been hit as he is throwing just twice. Part of the credit must go to the offensive line and their outstanding work in pass protection, but don’t discount Schaub’s ability to feel the pass rush and go through his progressions quicker than almost any quarterback in the NFL.
A True Lockdown Corner
Another Texan who has shined early on in the season is cornerback Jonathan Joseph. Before we talk about J-Joe, it must be mentioned that the Texans’ secondary as a whole has done a tremendous job in coverage through the first 3 games of the young season. Even Kareem Jackson, the whipping boy over the past two seasons in Houston, has come around and improved his play significantly. The stellar play of Glover Quin at safety hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, as he has been tremendous both in run support and coverage.
But Jonathan Joseph is simply taking his game to another level this season. With Jets’ CB Darrelle Revis out for the year with a torn ACL, Jonathan Joseph has now supplanted him as the top active cornerback in the NFL.
Through three games, Joseph is allowing just 42% of passes thrown his way to be completed, and opposing quarterbacks have a 34.1 QB rating when throwing Joseph’s way. Joseph has received virtually no safety help for most of his snaps, locking down opposing receivers on an island just the way a true #1 corner should.
This is a big reason the Texans have the #2 defense in the NFL to go along with their 9 sacks, which is good for 6th. With no open receivers downfield thanks to lockdown coverage from Jonathan Joseph and the rest of the secondary, J. J. Watt, Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, and Antonio Smith have more than enough time to ruin the day of an opposing quarterback.
The Texans and their stingy defense will now look to keep the momentum going as they square off against the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Obviously, were the Texans to win, it would be their first ever 4-0 start to a season and they could all but put the AFC South race to bed with a three game lead over the Titans a quarter of the way into the season.
Jake Locker is another young quarterback trying to earn his stripes in the NFL, and with Chris Johnson struggling so mightily, the Texans’ defense will no doubt be honed in on stopping the pass. If the Titans aren’t able to get Chris Johnson going, it will be a very, very long day for Jake Locker. This defense is too good to play one dimensional football against.