Houston Texans vs Los Angeles Chargers: First half observations
The Houston Texans faced a halftime deficit on the road against Chargers, but a few plays showed reason to expect things to get turned around.
They say that every play has an effect on the outcome of a game, and in the first half, there were a few plays that helped the Texans get a tough road win.
There is no question that the health of Deshaun Watson is priority number one not only for this season but for the future of the franchise. The offensive line has improved each game, and that continued against the Chargers. On this play, it’s not as relevant to focus on the outcome. It was 2nd down, and 14 after a penalty pushed the Texans back.
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Instead of just having receivers run to the sticks and hope for the best, Watson was given a quick read over the middle, and he spotted tight end Darren Fells open. Watson got rid of the ball and went untouched despite feeling the Chargers defensive line starting to close in. Fells dropped the pass, but seeing Watson make quick decisions was a welcome sight against a great pass rush.
Kenny Stills continued to produce and led the team in receiving yards even without catching a pass in the second half. Stills caught a flea-flicker for a 38-yard pass to set up the Texans first touchdown. Here, Stills gets downfield and finds an area to sit in to give Watson a chance at a chunk play.
The biggest thing wasn’t just that Stills caught these passes, but the way that he went about executing his part. On the flea-flicker, Stills slowed down to sell that Carlos Hyde would be running through the line. This allowed him to get open. On the play above, Stills seems to peek over at the sideline right around Ka’imi Fairbairn‘s career-long. Fairbairn would miss, but Stills had the awareness to get his kicker an opportunity.
The Chargers were driving for most of the first half, and Philip Rivers was able to find open receivers. After a penalty that took a touchdown off the board for Los Angeles, D.J. Reader was able to push the Chargers even further back. You’ll see Reader win a one on one matchup with the left guard and get to Rivers with some help from Whitney Mercilus. This left the Chargers with a challenging 2nd and goal scenario from the 26-yard line. This play was a sign of things to come for the Texans; the team would finish with six sacks and 12 quarterback hits.
This play likely kept any hope alive for the Texans to have an opportunity to come back on the road. J.J. Watt didn’t finish with one of his five quarterback hits or two sacks, but him being left free to rush Rivers pulled two blockers to his side. Rivers would have to step up in the pocket, and Charles Omenihu would be there to meet him and try to disrupt the throw. Keenan Allen torched the Texans all day including two first-half touchdowns.
With the pressure, Rivers had to step up and likely wasn’t able to read through progressions. It would’ve been a tough throw to make, but it does appear that there is a chance for Rivers to hit Allen over the middle. Instead, Rivers threw up a jump ball to Mike Williams. Lonnie Johnson was able to break it up and force the Chargers to settle for a field goal.
The Texans went into halftime down 17-7. These plays were a big part of keeping the game within reach, and a sign of how the Texans would turn things around.