HOUSTON – Houston’s defense came up big and the Texans evened their record at 1-1 with a 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Texans have defeated the Bengals in eight of the last nine matchups, including four straight games at Paul Brown Stadium.
It wasn’t always pretty, but no doubt Texans fans are happy to see their banged-up club go out on short rest and come away with a hard-fought victory.
Here are five takeaways from Houston’s four-point win in Week 2.
Deshaun Watson has a long way to go but can win games with his legs
Watson completed 15 of his 25 passes for only 125 yards. That 5.2 yards-per-attempt is better than Watson and Tom Savage managed in Week 1, but only four Texans caught a pass all game. Watson isn’t commanding a lot of respect as a passer and the Bengals were bringing the house on blitzes, with no fear that Watson would check down from runs to attack the vacated areas.
Watson still has a lot to learn as a passer, but that isn’t unexpected for a rookie signal-caller making his first NFL start. The positive for Watson continues to be the plays he can make with his legs, including a spectacular 49-yard touchdown that reminded many of Michael Vick and also proved to be the only touchdown of the game for either team.
Injuries continue to mount up for the Texans
Already down a starting offensive lineman, wide receiver and all three tight ends, the Texans lost both starting cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson to injuries and neither returned to the game.
Joseph injured his right shoulder in the second quarter while making a hit on TE Tyler Eifert. Joseph immediately left the game and never made it back onto the field.
Johnson was hurt in the third quarter was trying to tackle Eifert. He walked to the locker room under his own power but did not return.
Being down both cornerbacks could be another cruel blow to a Texans team that has been decimated by injuries so far in a young 2017 NFL season.
Special teams units have to get better
A problem all of 2016, the Texans special team unit once again had a poor showing, especially the coverage group.
Houston’s special teams allowed a 33-yard punt return to Adam Jones and a 26-yarder to Alex Erickson. Erickson also had kick returns of 41 and 36 yards.
Tyler Ervin, meanwhile, managed just 15 yards on three returns and a holding penalty by the blockers pinned the Texans back deep in Cincinnati territory. About the only positive was the specialist tandem of Shane Lechler and Ka’imi Fairbairn.
The offensive line was better
Bill O’Brien had eight offensive linemen active for this game and trotted out a unique formation with seven blockers on the field in the first half of the game.
As a unit, the O-line was much better, after surrendering 10 sacks in the Texans’ opener. Though Deshaun Watson’s legs undoubtedly saved him multiple times and he was pressured often, Watson was only sacked three times. There was more running room for Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman, too.
Dominant performance by the defense
J.J. Watt only registered six tackles, but Watt looked like his disruptive self, constantly putting pressure on Andy Dalton and making plays in the backfield.
Benardrick McKinney made six tackles and registered two sacks.
Slot CB Kareem Jackson made seven tackles, forced a fumble and got his first NFL sack. Jackson also moved to the outside and did a solid job in coverage.
Jadeveon Clowney got four tackles, recovered a fumble and rumbled 49 yards to set the Texans up for their first points in the game.
Even without some key pieces, the Texans kept the Bengals offense out of the end zone and secured the victory.