That was a fun Thursday Night Football game! The game spluttered a little in the first half but it truly exploded into life in the third quarter. It was both a pleasant surprise and an annoying outcome all at the same time. Waking up at 4:30 on a Friday morning is always a little easier when you get to watch a fun game. However, when you have bet the under on total points and one team nearly gets over that mark themselves it is a little bitter. When the dust settled in the fourth quarter the streaking Houston Texans had prevailed 42-23 over the Miami Dolphins to ensure they will sit atop the mediocre AFC South come the end of the week.
So what were the key elements for the Texans in winning this game? Let’s take a look below.
Defensive Jump Start
The offense will get the headlines from this game but it was the defense which kick started this game for the Texans. The Texans defense came into the game ranked eighth in the NFL in turnover forced, with 13. However, that was thanks to forcing seven forced fumbles (3rd in the NFL) as they only had six interceptions, good enough to be ranked 14th.
With the score tied up at 7-7 and following two long drives from the Dolphins, rookie defensive back Justin Reid picked off Brock Osweiler, on the first play of the second quarter, and returned it to the Miami 16 yard line. You could definitely argue there was a defensive hold on the defender covering Danny Amendola which made the play happen but it was not called. It was a good play on the ball by Reid and it set the Texans up perfectly. Two plays and 36 seconds later the Texans led 14-7.
That was the highlight of a solid night from the Texans defense. They could have Miami to under 20 points had their not been a very poor flag on special teams for roughing the long snapper. In all the defense held Osweiler to 236 yards on 21-of-37 with zero touchdowns and the interception mentioned above. In all they hit Osweiler five times, with two sacks, and they deflected seven passes.
They also kept the run game in check. Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage combined for just 116 yards and a longest rush of just 12 yards. In fact they almost entirely eliminated the big plays from the Dolphins offense. It took a double pass from Amendola to Kenyan Drake to get their first play over 20 yards on the night. Their second came from a bizarre catch by Davante Parker after the ball was knocked lose from Jakeem Grant, into the head of a Texans defender and into the waiting arms of Parker five yards further down the field.
Other than those two plays the Texans defense stifled the Dolphins most of the night. After the first two drives the Dolphins never seemed to have any momentum. That defensive performance set the stage for the offense, who did not disappoint.
Splutter Start Offensively
It took a little while for Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense to break the Dolphins defense. The Texans drives in the first half read like this. Punt, touchdown (9 plays – 75 yards), touchdown (2 plays – 16 yards), punt, punt. Other than that second drive the Texans failed to find any real foot hold in the first half. Watson was efficient but outside of the touchdown drive not really effective. Miller was running hard but not making much headway. However, the effort they put in on the ground in the first half set them up for what happened in the second half.
Explosive Second Half
Coming out at half time with the score 14-10 it felt in the balance. The Texans were getting the ball but I did not really expect them to do much. Then Miller exploded through the line for 58 yards. Watson found Jordan Thomas for the second time in the game and the offense never looked back. Watson went 16-of-20 for 239 yards and five touchdowns. Miller rushed 18 times for 133 yards. The run game ground the Dolphins down and Watson took advantage with some big plays down the field when he could.
Will Fuller (5-124, 1TD) and DeAndre Hopkins (6-82, 2TDs) provided their usual deep threat. Other than them and Jordan Thomas only Tyler Ervin had a single reception. When it came to the receiving game it really was a four man effort, capably aided by the running of Miller.
Actually that is not fair. Credit must also go to all the blockers on offense. No one was hit more the first few weeks at the quarterback position than Watson. However, in the last two games they team have kept clean. In this game Watson was hit just one once and was not sacked a single time. In addition, the Texans only gave up one tackle for loss. It really was a strong offensive performance and one that sets this team up nicely going forward this season.
This game really did surprise me. I was expecting the Texans to win with the Dolphins travelling on a short week. However, I was not expecting this offensive performance, especially with Watson being kept as clean as he was. This is two weeks in a row the line has blocked well which is a good sign going forward. The defense performed really well. Then again against Osweiler and a depleted offense you should perform well. The Texans have now won five in a row and are in prime position to try and can relax this weekend knowing they will head to Week 9 leading the AFC South.
The Final Word
A few betting statistics for Thursday Night Football this season.
- The over for points has hit the last five weeks. It is also 6/8 on the season.
- The favourite has covered the spread the last six weeks. They are also 7/8 on the season.
Image credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports