HOUSTON – The Houston Texans evened their record at 1-1 with a 13-9 win in Cincinnati over the punchless Bengals. The game was more of a “which team stinks less” for the vast majority of the night, and the Texans proved they smelled a little better.
Here are the studs and duds for Houston from the important win.
Stud: DeAndre Hopkins
The highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL didn’t have a great game, but “Nuk” shined in crunch time. Hopkins caught seven passes for 73 yards, and most of that came after halftime. His physicality created a lot of opportunities, if also a deserved offensive pass interference infraction. Deshaun Watson targeted him on over half of his pass attempts (13-of-25) for the game.
Dud: Bill O’Brien
Granted he was handcuffed by starting a rookie quarterback behind an iffy line without any regular tight ends, but the play calling from the head coach, who also serves as the offensive coordinator, was somewhere between pedantic and ponderous. The offense worked best when the plays didn’t go as scripted. That’s unsustainable and O’Brien has to see it.
Stud: Benardrick McKinney
In his first game as the defensive signal caller, McKinney wore the increased responsibility well. The inside linebacker bagged two sacks, including a critical one late in the game to keep the Bengals out of the end zone.
Just for good measure, McKinney added another tackle for loss among his six total tackles. He played great without Brian Cushing next to him.
Dud: Punt and kick return blocking
Tyler Ervin had no great shakes on his returns, but it’s hard to fault the second-year return specialist when the blocking in front of him was so stupefyingly inept. This was a major problem for the team all last season, and it has not improved. There is no discipline or sense of field awareness from far too many players. The coverage units aren’t much better. Perhaps the dud here should be coach Larry Izzo.
Dud: Chris Clark
The offensive line was better overall than in the opening humiliation by Jacksonville, but that improvement is relative. Chris Clark was not, however. He got the start at left tackle and once again provided holdout Duane Brown with more leverage in his contract dispute. Clark was guilty of a bad hold, but even more unforgivable was his lack of awareness that nearly got his quarterback decapitated. His blocking mark made the tackle for loss on two separate third down runs, too.
Stud: Deshaun Watson
The film study of this game might reveal his performance to be less studly, but Watson earned the win in his first career start. He showed poise and accuracy down the stretch, grinding out precious time and moving the Texans into position for the final field goal. His 49-yard touchdown scamper was the biggest play of the game.
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