The Texans could not run the ball. They turned it over three times. They gave up a long touchdown pass on a blown coverage. In short, we saw a lot of the issues that plagued them last year in the 2-14 debacle.
But there was one key difference — The Texans did something they didn’t do last year. They grinded their way to a 23-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.
It all turned thanks to J.J. Watt, who made a remarkable interception and returned it 80 yards for a game-changing touchdown. The Texans were trailing 10-7 at that point, and the Bills were threatening to go up 17-7.
But Watt did what he does — made a great play, snatching a screen pass and taking it all the way back. Suddenly the Texans were up 14-10 and everything changed.
Watt was as amazing as always, constantly getting pressure in the backfield, even though he was being held on nearly every play. He simply dominated the Bills’ offensive line.
He also got two uncharacteristic penalties in the first quarter, which contributed to a Bills TD. But he overcame that and made the play that essentially won the game.
Still, Buffalo was moving the ball with a chance to win in the final minute. But Darryl Morris collected a game-clinching pick and that was the end of it.
The Texans did some good things, holding the Bills under 100 rushing yards. They sacked E.J. Manuel twice, pressured him countless times and held him under 50 percent completion percentage. The defense is the reason they won the game.
Offensively, Arian Foster had almost no impact, and at times looked completed disinterested. The Texans offensive line was dominated by the Bills, rushing for just 37 yards on 24 carries. The leading rusher? Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 14 yards.
Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions, but one was an aggressive shot downfield where he was trying to let DeAndre Hopkins make a play. The Bills made a better one.
He was also intercepted on the first play of the second half on a tipped ball. The Bills came up with the ball and a chance to take control, but that’s when Watt made his play and turned things around.
Other than the picks, Fitzpatrick was relatively efficient, completing 25 of 37 for 268 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice.
Kicker Randy Bullock continues to make last year’s failures a distant memory. He hit all three of his attempts, including a career long 55 yarder and a 50 yarder.
The other positives? The Texans won a game where they could not run the ball, lost the turnover battle, got little from Foster and Andre Johnson (who had a key fumble) yet they won the game.
The defense did a much better job against the run than they had in the first three games.
The negatives? The offensive line was pathetic. Defensively, there were some wide open receivers that Manuel missed on several occasions. That won’t happen moving forward, especially considering the next three quarterbacks they face are Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. (Although the Steelers had a bad loss at home to Tampa today).
But despite all that, they got it done, thanks primarily to Watt, who simply continues to amaze. Maybe they should try him at quarterback.
Most importantly, they are 3-1 with one more win than they had all last year. The schedule gets tougher from here, and they have a long way to go. But they are a long way from last year, too.
How much better they really are remains to be seen, and we will learn a lot more when they face the Cowboys, Colts and Steelers.
One thing we do know; last year, they lose this game. That much has changed. Maybe there are more changes to come.