- While both teams are out of the playoffs, both head coaches had their teams playing hard and with a lot of energy. The 49ers were starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo for a 2nd consecutive game, and once again, they managed him well against a depleted Texans defense, resulting in another road victory.
- 49ers: Even though the Texans have a number of starters out with injuries, they still present a lot of exotic looks and they aren’t afraid to mix up their blitz packages; this isn’t a defense that is going to sit back and simply play coverage. The 49ers mixed in a few RPO packages in this game to try and stall the rush a bit, but QB Jimmy Garoppolo still was hit nine times in this game.
- The 49ers best play calling in this game was on the defensive side of the ball. Down early 3-0, the Texans had three straight possessions where they could have turned the game into a two-score game; and for the 49ers, that’s not a good way to start a game on the road.
- A key play came on the Texans’ second offensive possession. They faced a 4th and 1 on the 49ers 40, leading 3-0. 49er DT Earl Mitchell and S Eric Reid met RB Lamar Miller behind the line, however, and stopped him for a two-yard loss. This play was a key tone-setter for the game, and the 49er defense came up with two more stops on subsequent Texans possessions before the 49er offense could get their first points on the board.
- Texans: The Texans have lost many of their key offensive players over the last month, and in this game, they also lost backup QB Tom Savage. But we liked how they showed confidence in veteran backup QB TJ Yates by continuing to run their offense. Yates played well, and that is a credit to the Texans’ staff.
- A key play of the game came on defense for the Texans. Tied at 16 deep into the 3rdquarter, the Texans defense had the 49ers pinned on a 3rd & 6 at the 49ers’ 19. The Texans decided to sell out on a blitz call, but the 49ers caught them with a 61-yard completion to TE Garrett Celek. The play ultimately led to a TD and a 23-16 49ers lead. Today, the Texans just didn’t want to play coverage, and this time it hurt them.
- 49ers: The 49ers made FB Kyle Juszyczk the highest paid fullback in football this off-season. One reason is that he possesses outstanding athleticism for the position, and he can be dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. He did that today on an outstanding wheel route, and made a critical grab for 29 yards that led to a 10-3 49ers lead.
- Texans: As we mentioned above, we like how the Texans move Clowney around on the defensive front. He’s as disruptive of a player in football, and the Texans allow him to play to his strengths and instincts. While they only recorded two sacks, the Texans notched nine QB hits, and they had Garoppolo on his heels all game.
- Texans head coach Bill O’Brien’s staff did as well as they could have utilizing 3rd string QB TJ Yates, who played well.
- 49ers: Offensively, we like how 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan always wants to run a balanced offense. They largely accomplished this today, gaining over 400 yards, and mixing run and pass well. All of their offensive players contributed for the second week in a row.
- Texans: Offensively, it appears they were really intent on getting the ball to WR DeAndre Hopkins. He had a big day, and caused problems for the 49ers defense all day long. Defensively, the Texans chose to blitz often today, and if they would have played against a lesser QB, they may have won this game as they applied pressure all game long, but Garoppolo hung in the pocket and made some throws while absorbing some hits.
- 49ers: Defensively, the 49ers did what they could to stop WR Hopkins. They changed some coverages on him, and even changed the personnel assigned to Hopkins, switching from DB Dontae Johnson to undrafted 2017 free agent Greg Mabin. Hopkins still had his success, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by the 49ers.
- Texans: The 49ers burned the Texans on a few blitz calls today, particularly on one of the key plays of the game, a 61-yard pass completion to TE Garret Celek. The Texans just didn’t want to seem to adjust today and play coverage, even after watching Garoppolo catch them in blitzes more than once.
- Nothing egregious of note here, except the 49ers burned a couple of time outs early in the 2nd half – something we don’t like to see in a close road game.
What We Liked:
- Kyle Shanahan’s handling of the game clinching sequence. Ahead 23-16 with just under six minutes left in the game, the 49ers took over after a Texans fumble with a 1st & 10 on the Texans’ 32. With his next 3 play calls, he made sure to protect the FG opportunity – which he did – and the 49ers converted for an insurmountable 10-point lead.
What We Didn’t Like:
- The Texans’ refusal to play coverage in some key defensive situations. It felt as if the Texans decided to try and frazzle Garoppolo as it was only his 4th career start, but he is a four-year veteran. We can understand the Texans’ reasoning (e.g., the 49ers offensive line struggles at times), but at times, their strategy felt forced.