In this weeks edition of Texans Turning Point, we look at the crucial moment that the Texans lost the game to the Steelers. In my opinion, that came when Deshaun Watson threw an interception in the 4th quarter AND the defense allowed a TD on the ensuing drive. Let's dive into the film and see who was at fault.
Texans Turning Point: 2020 Week 3 VS Pittsburgh Steelers
First let's start with the INT. The Texans were up 21-20 and Deshaun had gotten the offense to around midfield. But, they were faced with a 3rd and 15, after a failed toss to Brandin Cooks, and a drop by Darren Fells. Watson, put into a tough situation, tried to make magic happen, as he so often does. As he scrambles out of the pocket, his eyes are always downfield, scanning for a last minute option. He sees that Kenny Stills has space downfield, if he keeps on running, so he launches a bomb, in hope to set up his team in the opposing red zone. Instead, Stills stops running and doesn't make himself an option. The result? A momentum swinging INT.
But that moment wasn't enough to turn the game. The defense had the chance to stop any momentum. The Steelers got the ball back on their 24, and so their field position wasn't anything better than if we had kicked the ball off. However, the defense struggled to get off the field due to a multitude of issues.
1. They couldn't get off on 3rd downs - PIT was 3/3 on this drive alone
2. They couldn't stop the run, as PIT used motions to create advantages
3. They couldn't stop the pass, as PIT got creative and we couldn't make reads in time
For this article, I'm going to break down the issues we had on 3rd down, and if you want to see how we struggled in the other areas, check out this YouTube film breakdown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTyJPfxOras
Alright, so for the first 3rd down, we forced them into a 3rd and 5, which was, believe it or not, the longest 3rd down they would see this drive. The culprit on this play was purely Justin Reid. We're in a Cover-1 blitz and Reid is in man coverage on TE Eric Ebron. Ebron is running an out, and is just too physical for Reid to handle. Look how he releases inside, then creates space at the stem by using his hands. Reid just cant transition smoothly enough, and gives up the catch, one of the only catches he gave up on the day though.
The Steelers would continue to move the ball down the field at ease, and found themselves in 3rd and 1, yet another short yardage situation. The Steelers go into a heavy personnel, bringing in an extra OL, and putting two TEs on the LOS. We counter with 5 down defensive linemen, and 4 linebackers. But the Steelers offensive line makes their key blocks, and Cunningham is the slightest step slow off the snap. This allows RB Benny Snell to build up enough speed to where he can run through the tackle of Zach, for the first.
That felt like a real back breaker, and it got the Steelers into the brink of field goal position. Three plays later tho, and they were right back at it, with a 3rd and 2. Since the Texans couldn't slow down their running game, they were forced to defend these 3rd and shorts, and that is an extremely tough position to be in. The Steelers go heavy formation yet again, this time the Texans play a 4-3 Under look, not as heavy as the last 3rd down, expecting a possible pass. They guessed right, as Big Ben faked the run and rolled out to his right. Look at J Reid get physical with TE Vance McDonald (89) but then stare down Big Ben, and lose sight of his man.
It looked like he was trying to contain Big Ben from running it, but that just wasn't his job on the defense. He needed to just stick with McDonald and that play never would've happened. The defense frustrated the hell out of me on this drive, because they had so many chances to get off the field, but just couldn't execute. There were more issues to look at (check out the video!) but the defense was also just gassed at this point. We can't expect them to keep up with any offense, when our own offense is hurting them. Once (if ever) the Texans offense clicks, it's gonna make the defense look so much better. Let's hope that happens before it's too late.