Neither the fans nor most of the 49ers team showed up for this game. The stadium had more empty seats than full ones for the entirety of the game.
The Texans approached this game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. While the starters planned to play three quarters of the game, the Texans’ commanding lead at the end of the first half, as well as a few injuries, permitted the backups to take over at halftime.
Much can be learned from this game. The following six slides show the most important of the lessons.
Texans’ Defense Can Play
Nobody saw this coming…the Houston Texans have one of the best defenses in the NFL this preseason.
The Texans have allowed the third-fewest points per game (12.3), the second fewest yards per game (248.7), and have forced the third most fumbles (8) of all teams in the NFL. They have allowed offenses only 27 minutes and 30 seconds of possession total, good for the league’s sixth best average.
After last night’s game, it seems Wade Phillips has turned around the defense, which allowed zero points in their game against the 49ers. For a team that was being scored against by every offense they faced last season, this was a night-and-day difference.
Connor Barwin, Tim Jamison, and Antonio Smith each had sacks last night which combined to set the 49ers back 19 yards. The defense also had five tackles for a loss and deflected six passes in routing the Niners.
Most impressive from last night’s game was the constant pressure that the Texans brought against the 49ers offense. J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith, and Mario Williams constantly pushed the offensive line back and came around the edge to apply pressure to the QB. Bad throws, hurried throws, and sacks kept coming all night long.
Johnathan Joseph, the Texans’ off-season acquisition meant to help Kareem Jackson, was phenomenal last night. He had his receiver on lock-down and appeared to be ready for the season.
A newly dominant defense reared its head last night.
Texans’ Starters Need to Rest
Fantasy football owners everywhere gasped last night when Texans’ RB Arian Foster hobbled off the field; fortunately, his injury is only a minor hamstring issue.
Still, it is evident that the Texans’ starters need some rest and recovery after last night’s game.
Foster looked frustrated about the injury when he left the game last night. He was seen on the bench with a towel draped over his head in anguish.
Unfortunately, his injury was not the only one for the Texans.
RB Ben Tate and LB Xavier Adibi both sat momentarily with stingers (nerve injuries) but were able to play most of the game.
The Texans just need time to recover. Most of the second-string offensive line is injured. The Texans are quickly losing depth. There are two weeks remaining before the season starts and they will need that time to get their players healthy.
Texans Are Deep at Running Back
The Texans appear to have great depth at RB in Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Derrick Ward, and Chris Ogbonnaya. They are going to need that depth if the injuries continue.
So far this preseason the Texans’ RB corps have amassed 77 points off 422 yards of rushing, Both totals rank third in the league. They have the second most TDs by rushing (five) and their 26 first downs rushing is third in the league.
It is obvious that the Texans are trying to establish the run game this season.
Last year’s league-leading rusher Arian Foster has looked great in the preseason but needs to rehab his hamstring to full strength.
Ben Tate, who was supposed to break out last season, has proven that he still has was it takes to be a great rusher for the team. Both Ward and Ogbonnaya have shown great spurts of talent that will most likely keep them both on the roster.
Assuming that Foster can recover in a timely manner, the Texans will have a two-headed monster in him and Ben Tate.
And even if Foster cannot recover in time, I do not believe that Texans fans should worry. Tate is more than capable of carrying the rushing load for the team.
Texans Commit Too Many Penalties
FB James Casey has done a great job of filling in the void left by the departure of Vonta Leach, but his two penalties last night – one for holding and another for an illegal block above the waist – are steps in the wrong direction.
As of right now, the Texans are ranked 15th in the league in penalty yardage. Their 18 penalties for 160 yards have not cost them any games…yet.
Last night, however, it became obvious that the team needs to take a look at what it can do to prevent all of their penalties. They finished the game with eight penalties for 75 yards; this could have costs them points on the board.
If the Texans wish to remain serious contenders in the AFC South, they will have to clean up their act.
Texans Pile Up Takeaways and Giveaways
First, Troy Nolan intercepted a pass from Colin Kaepernick and returned it 73 yards for a TD. Later in the game, Dominique Barber picked off Alex Smith and returned the ball 16 yards. The Texans also forced two fumbles, recovering one.
But the Texans fumbled three times, lost two, and threw an interception on the first play of the game which the 49ers returned to the end zone for their only points in the game.
Finishing a game with a negative turnover rate is never a good thing. If the Texans wish to maintain their +3 turnover rate, they will need to play smarter than they did last night and protect the ball better.
Kubiak is a Better Play-Caller and Clock Manager
Coach Kubiak was everyone’s favorite scapegoat for last season’s disastrous results.
This preseason has shown us that he has learned a thing or two about clock management and play-calling.
Last night, he mixed bootlegs, draw plays, screens, and play-action passes very effectively.
More important was his effective use of clock management. He kept the team firing away up until the last few seconds of the quarter and even converted a fourth down to keep the offense on the field.
He had the QB take a knee when the clock was dwindling late in the game and corrected players who did made errors in clock management.
Coach Kubiak’s play-calling and clock management looks better and should contribute to the team’s success this season.