By HCR Staff | Nov. 22, 2019
The Houston Texans prevailed 20-17 over the Indianapolis Colts in a well played Thursday Night football game. Here are our observations.
The Colts have a fast, very young defense primed to be a top-five unit in 2020. When New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar after having accepted the head coaching job, he did leave behind a valuable resource in his chosen defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Eberflus may be a head coaching candidate after this season, but if he does return in his current position for 2020, he will be spearheading a talented young defensive unit that we believe will be one of the best in the league. They’re fast and disciplined, and by next season, the on-field communication between this group of young players should be at a peak.
Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has his unit playing well, even though they have lost DE J.J. Watt and are trying to incorporate new secondary members Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves. This unit is one of the better defensive units in football, and it’s a good mix of ascending young players such as DL D.J. Reader and LB Brennan Scarlett, veteran CB Jonathan Joseph and veteran LB Bernardrick McKinney. The strength of the unit is discipline, as Crennel has them playing with good situational football awareness. If this squad qualifies for the playoffs, this unit will make them a tough out.
Even though Colts RB Marlon Mack was injured, Colts head coach Frank Reich did a good job staying patient with backup running backs Nyhiem Hines and Jonathan Williams. We were impressed with how Reich used his running backs in this game–he stayed very patient with them and the running game overall, and by doing so, was able to stay balanced throughout the game. When you’re the road team on a short week game, just having a chance to win in the fourth quarter is a win, and by staying with his running game, Reich gave his team that opportunity. Balance wins championships in our view, and we like Reich’s play calling in this game.
If there is anything Texans QB DeShaun Watson must improve on, it’s his management of the pocket. All of us know that Watson is an elite athlete, and he also possesses superior instincts. However, one area that we bet Texans head coach Bill O’Brien would like to see him improve on for the rest of this season and into the future, is his pocket management. On several occasions last night, Watson actually had a clean pocket, and if he would have stayed patient and waited just a beat longer, some plays would have come open downfield in our view. Even when presented with a clean pocket, Watson appears to have an internal clock in his head that goes off under all circumstances, and this causes him to bail out too early sometimes and it can negatively influence the outcome of a play. For example, on one play in the third quarter, Watson had a clean pocket in the middle of the field, but he decided to dart for the left sideline, thereby cutting off half of the field, and resulting in an incomplete pass.
Reich continues to have his ups and downs with clock management. The Colts faced a 4th and 7 from the Texans’ 48-yard line with three minutes left to play in the fourth quarter and trailing by three. The Colts also had all three of their timeouts left. The choice presented here was whether to punt or go for the first down. Reich chose to call a timeout before the play. The Colts ultimately opted to try to convert the first down, which resulted in a QB Jacoby Brissett run that fell short. We felt the better decision here was to simply run the play without burning the time out. Every 4th and 7 play is risky–the chances of any staff dialing up a successful play call in this down in distance is minimal anyway. If they would not have burned this time out, they might have been able to get the ball back with 30 seconds or so left to go in the game. The Colts probably would not have tied the game anyway, but we still felt the better call was to preserve the time out.