Week two of the 2023 season will be one that we'll all want to forget fairly soon. But, there's one major positive coming out of this one. I have to remind myself of that as I was watching the game back this early evening. Let's dive into my Harris Hits from the Texans' 31-20 loss to the Colts.
It's not an afternoon many will want to remember, but, oddly enough, there were a handful of big plays throughout the day in the Texans 31-20 loss to Indianapolis, especially on offense. Those plays, and that passing game, will have many people wondering aloud how good this offense could be in the future.
Here it is...C.J. Stroud was magnificent and I walked out of NRG Stadium KNOWING what I've FELT since I truly started studying him back in March 2022.
He's ABSOLUTELY LEGIT and he's our guy.
Now, there's going to be some that discount the yardage total trailing from behind, but it's not like the Colts went to slappy-ville with their defense. The starters played all the way through and he lit them up even before the game got out of hand.
After a Colts TD, the Texans offense moved the ball down to the eight yard line as Stroud ripped a big time throw to Nico Collins, who had a monster day, for the majority of that drive yardage. Once they got inside the ten yard line, Stroud threw his first NFL regular season touchdown to the same guy he threw his first NFL preseason touchdown - Collins. Ohio State to Michigan link up!!
(SIDE NOTE: During the next break, our star radio producer Robert Henslee asked "Was Stroud throwing that to Tank?" Immediately, I was like "of course, not". But, after seeing the full replay, I think C.J. WAS throwing to Tank and Collins "intercepted" it...thankfully, Nico plays for the Texans)
Stroud and Collins hooked up seven times for 146 yards and that touchdown noted above. Nico averaged over 20 yards per catch and a decent percentage of his yardage came after the catch. He also had a key play taken away by a BOGUS penalty that would've tacked on another 25 or 30 yards to his/offense/CJ's total. Most importantly, though, Collins' catch would've put the Texans at the two yard line with 1st and goal down 21-7. Now, it wouldn't have been a guaranteed touchdown as the Texans struggled from inside the five throughout the day. But, I'd have taken my chances at that point
Collins and Stroud were fantastic together, but Stroud spread the wealth. He hit Tank Dell seven times for 72 yards and his first NFL touchdown. The cagey vet Robert Woods caught six for 74 and was about two inches from seven for 125 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans came out in 11 personnel again with TE Brevin Jordan on the left side with Dell flanked out the same way. On the other side, Collins and Woods were in a twins alignment. Stroud sent Dell in orbit motion before the snap, heading toward Collins/Woods. Stroud gave a play action fake to RB Dameon Pierce and then immediately gave the impression that he was going to throw to Dell on the swing route. That drew the attention of the Colts CB. Meanwhile, Collins ran a hard inside slant to draw the attention of that DB and Woods then ran a wheel route up the sideline wide open. All Colts defenders were drawn to Dell and Collins and Woods was wide open. Stroud threw the ball on the money and Woods then sprinted for the end zone. Colts S Rodney Thomas II got JUST enough of Woods to force him to step out at the +39 yard line, even though it appeared that Woods might've scored a massive touchdown for the Texans. The refs were right on it, though, and marked Woods out of bounds, but not before Woods racked up a 25 yard gain.
Stroud to Collins, Woods and Dell was essentially the Texans offense on this day. The Texans couldn't get the run game going in the slightest and that should've slowed the passing game. Whether the Colts played man or zone, Stroud found open areas all day long.
So, back to my original point, yeah, I hated that game, but I left that building knowing the Texans have the right guy at the most important position on the field. He was questionable coming into the game with some sort of shoulder issue. He played behind just one original starter on the OL and he threw the seed as well as I've seen a Texans QB do at NRG Stadium.
Okay, now let's get to the bad news...and get it over with.
The tackling was as bad as I can remember. The run game produced nothing. Early on in the game, the defense's eye discipline cost them badly (see Anthony Richardson's naked bootleg run for a touchdown). Indianapolis killed the Texans with crossing routes. The Texans turned it over deep in their own territory. The Colts' OL was more football violent at the point of attack. A missed field goal after a blocked field goal on a false start down eleven wasn't the death knell, but it didn't help the cause. Colts QB Gardner Minshew II looked like a Peyton Manning/Andrew Luck mashup. The defense produced no sacks, no TFL and just one QB hit. The Colts defense generated six sacks, ten TFL and nine QB hits. Do I even mention the Texans' 25% TD scoring percentage in the red zone vs. the Colts 100% TD scoring on the same number of red zone trips (one out of four for the Texans, four out of four for the Colts - for all of the mistakes, perform better in those red zone trips and my Harris Hits have a completely different tone)
Ugh. I should've just stopped after my comments about Stroud and his band of merry pass catchers but that wouldn't have told the TRUE story of this game. Like the loss at Baltimore, there was plenty to be excited about, but the mistakes cost the Texans the game. That's where this one went as well. I'm stoked about Stroud's performance but the "needs improvement" column for the Texans was way too long for my liking.
It's got to get right fast as the Texans head to Jacksonville next week. See ya then, everyone.