Houston Texans run defense needs work following win over Colts

Since J.J. Watt was injured, the run defense of the Houston Texans has been gradually getting worse at stopping the rushing attack.

When J.J. Watt was injured in Week 8 and out for the remainder of the 2019 season, the overall play of the Houston Texans defense took a big hit. Before his injury, Watt had collected 24 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and three pass deflections. Watt was injured in Week 8 when they Texans defeated the Oakland Raiders by a 27-24 score, in which Watt suffered a pectoral injury.

Since the tackle for loss of Raiders running back Josh Jacobs — the play where Watt suffered his injury —  the run defense hasn’t looked the same, and it hasn’t been close as the rush defense has gradually declined.

In the game Watt was injured, the Texans held the Raiders running backs to 93 yards (378 total yards). Since then, the rushing yardage for opponents against the Texans have included the defense held the Jacksonville Jaguars well with them gaining only 74 yards rushing as a team.

That performance was excellent by the Texans, but next came the loss against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11 — following a bye week — where the Ravens’ ground game dominated Houston for 256 yards rushing as they held possession of the ball for 36:19. The Ravens had one 100-yard rusher with Gus Edwards going for 112 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.

On Thursday Night Football, the Texans gained a 20-17 win over the Colts, but once again the rush defense allowed 175 yards rushing, including Jonathan Williams having 26 carries for 104 yards with one touchdown.

The drive where the rush defense of the Texans made many cringe was Indianapolis’ first drive of the third quarter in what ended up being an 11-play, 66-yard drive that took up 6:09 of game time. Williams began the drive with a 12-yard rush, followed by a run of five yards, then a carry of three yards.

Indianapolis followed with a pass from Brissett, then it was back to the rushing attack with five straight runs by Nyheim Hines, where he chipped away for gains of five yards, eight yards, two yards, seven yards and two yards.

The drive continued with two more runs by Williams where he had a 2-yard rush and a 13-yard run for a touchdown. That drive was a sight to behold as a fan of hard-nosed football, but it was worrisome for Texans fans because the duo of running backs that did the damage weren’t even the top running back on the team as Marlon Mack is injured and didn’t play.

All of that said, the defense of the Texans did step up late in the fourth quarter when needed the very most when linebacker Brennan Scarlett made a tackle on Brissett to stop a first down on a fourth down play as the Colts quarterback needed a seven-yard gain but was held to a 6-yard rush to force a turnover on downs.

Going into Week 13, the Texans still have to face the following teams: New England Patriots (Dec. 1), Denver Broncos (Dec. 8), Tennessee Titans (Dec. 15/29), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Dec. 21).

The plus for the Texans is entering Week 12, the aforementioned teams aren’t in the Top 10 of rushing yardage per game as a team, with the Titans ranked 15th (113.2 ypg.), the Broncos in 16th (113.1 ypg.), Buccaneers in 21st (94.8) and the Patriots at 24th (91.0 ypg.).

Granted, Thursday night was a great win for the Texans because they are 7-4 overall, first place in the AFC South with five games left on the schedule, and now they are in the driver’s seat in terms of controlling their own destiny.

If the Texans want to make the playoffs — either as the AFC South champion for a second year in a row or as a Wild Card team — they must not allow teams to have have an average of 215.5 yards per game rushing against them because that is what has happened the past two games.

Next: Texans step up when needed in 2nd half vs. Colts

Though the Texans gained the big-time victory over the rival Colts, one must keep a close eye on the rushing defense of Houston from here on out. For the Texans to have success for the rest of the season, improvement from the past two performances must exist for them to repeat as AFC South champions.

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