Houston Texans

Watson Watch Volume 14: Houston Texans vs Kansas City Chiefs

WE ARE BACK EVERYBODY! After taking some much needed weeks off, this series is back in action for the 2020 season. If you haven't checked it out, here at Texans Unfiltered, I have rewatched and broken down every single Deshaun Watson game in a Houston Texans uniform.

You can find it all, ever since his first game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, up until the most recent Kansas City Chiefs playoff game. All his greatness is documented for you to enjoy! But now, let's get into the breakdown of our Week 1 matchup with the Chiefs. Watson finished 20/32 for 253 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT. That's what the stats say about his performance; let's see what the film says.

First Quarter

One of the biggest themes that all Houston Texans Twitter wanted to get answered, was who was at fault for the lackluster performance from the passing offense? Was it our highly paid, speedy receivers who couldn't separate against backup Chiefs cornerbacks? Or was Watson off his game and missing open options? It's hard to find an answer to this, simply watching the game live. When the receivers run farther than 10 yards, we can't see the full picture of what they are running. Is it a Go route? Post? Corner? Post-Corner? Dig? Deep out? WHO KNOWS? Well, the All-22 Film knows. This is why I don't like to jump to conclusions just based on the live game, we just simply don't have enough to accurately evaluate the game. Instead, wait the extra few days for the film to drop, and then we are free to judge, hate, or praise our Texans.

So with that rant out of the way, let's get into the game. After a 5 yard gain by David Johnson to start the game, we wanted to attack early. Both Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks run deep and Watson likes the leverage Will has on the CB. He tosses up the back shoulder fade and puts it outside and away from the CB, where only Fuller can get it. This is a beautiful ball placement by Deshaun, and a throw he excels at making. Unfortunately, Fuller doesn't exactly excel at catching this ball, and this, coupled with a Tytus Howard false start, really killed any chance of us starting this game out hot.

OR SO I THOUGHT. After a three and out, the Houston Texans would sustain arguably their most impressive drive of the game. Going 9 plays with no incompletions or loss of yards. The play I want to highlight on this drive is one that shows signs of promise, and also helps answer as to why the offense went stale.

The Houston Texans put Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller on the same (left) side of the field. Certainly drawing a lot of attention from the defense. Then, they have Darren Fells, Duke Johnson, and David Johnson on the right side of the field, with Deshaun empty in the backfield. Duke and David run a common Texans concept called smash, where the slot (Duke) runs a slot fade, and the outside WR (David) runs a curl route.

The idea is to attack the outside CB and force him into making a decision on who to guard (Duke or David). However, vs this specific coverage from the Chiefs, Duke is used as a distraction to get Fells open. Since he is running vertical, he holds linebacker Anthony Hitchens (#53) in place, and farther away from Fells, in the middle of the field.

Fells is running a simple curl and is finding the space between both linebacker zones. It's an easy pitch and catch for Watson, and it amazes me why we didn't attack the LBs over the middle of the field more often.

Texans beat them in 2019 because the offense attacked their linebackers in space, and it seemed like that was the plan early. However, we seemed to do this less and less throughout the game, specifically seeing a drop off when Duke got injured (TAKE MY LEG DUKE). Nonetheless, the offense looked good early, getting guys open and finding the end zone as David Johnson impressed.

Second Quarter

The Chiefs responded with a long touchdown drive of their own, and our first play of the drive was very promising, to me. We've seen last year how our RPO game has been successful, and I've been screaming for us to build off of it, instead of that same look we always use. Here, it starts all the same, with a slot receiver motioning across the formation, and an H-Back (this time Akins) running out to block. Instead of just dumping it off to the tight end, Watson sees Fuller wide open in the middle of the field. It really can't get much easier than this and Fuller picks up 19 yards on a basic play. MORE PLEASE.

This drive, however, wouldn't last much longer. After a David Johnson run set up 2nd and 6, Chris Jones would abuse right guard Zach Fulton (#73) and sack Deshaun. So, who was at fault here? If you guessed Fulton, you're correct! But, when looking back at this play, Watson was able to hit the top of his drop, and you can see no one is open (David Johnson has some space in the flat, but not super promising). The biggest issue here in my opinion isn't Fulton being demolished by an All-Pro interior defensive lineman, but rather NO ONE BEING ABLE TO BEAT MAN COVERAGE. That's a huge issue and something I pray does not continue.

Now at 3rd and 10, the Texans tried to run a screen to David Johnson, but it was sniffed out, forcing Watson to scramble for what he could - 6 yards, but no 1st down. This was Bill O'Brien's biggest mistake in the game in my opinion. It was 4th and 4, at the 50-yard line and he decided to punt.

The game was tied, but there is no time to ever be conservative against the Chiefs. O'Brien couldn't give them the ball back, taking more time off the clock. Now was the time to strike, but he whimpered out. Instead of trusting Deshaun, he punted, the Chiefs took 10 minutes off the clock and scored another TD.

We got the ball back with 2:22 in the second quarter and needed to pick up the pace. One pass and two runs later, it was 1:26 when we used our first time out. A whole minute off the clock and we had moved 12 yards... not great. It seemed like Deshaun noticed that too, and wanted to pick up a chunk play. With Cooks isolated on the right side, Watson wanted to go his way. The Chiefs were playing Cover One Man, with a spy, and the cornerback guarding Cooks was pressing him.

As Cooks wins on the release, he accelerates downfield creating space. Watson sees it and floats up the ball, getting it to Cooks before the safety can interfere. The problem here wasn't Cooks' lack of separation, there was enough to fit a perfect throw in for a completion. The problem was Watson's ball placement.

The ball was inside where the cornerback can make a play on it, instead of outside and away, like the first throw we looked at this game, that Fuller dropped. Maybe Deshaun was discouraged that his WRs couldn't catch back-shoulder passes, but that's where it needed to be placed. Inside placement and Cooks never has a chance.

Now the Texans were getting in a rhythm, as Deshaun found David underneath for 15 yards. He made the first defender miss and picked up a much needed first down. In the next play, Jones obliterated Fulton again, forcing Watson to step up in the pocket and rush the throw to Cooks, leaving it incomplete.

Again, not Watson's fault, and not the receiver's fault. THE OFFENSIVE LINE IS A PROBLEM SO FAR OR NOT??? We rebounded after that play to find Jordan Akins for 20 yards. This play highlights Watson's quick decision making, and that if you are open, he will find you.

Akins runs a crisp out route (basically the only route he ran all day) and after the catch, he ducks under the defender and embarrasses him. This drive was all about YAC, an element that hasn't been present in previous Texans teams.

So far, when the Texans had options open, Watson would find them. When no one was open, and there was pressure, Watson predictably couldn't get anything going. Now, the next big question that most want to be answered, is "Why didn't we go deep enough?"

Well, I'm here to explain the answer to that conundrum. There's us trying to go deep, and failing, trying to go deep and being successful, and not even trying to go deep. In this Chiefs game, we took that first route. We tried to rev up our NASCAR engines and take off downfield, but there were a couple reasons why we couldn't find any success.

First, let's look at quantity, the Texans had at least one WR running deep on 23 of the 36 passing plays. They had at least two WRs running deep on 11/36. So they definitely tried to attack deep, but here's why it didn't work. The first Fuller deep pass was a drop, the second one went to Cooks but Watson placed it inside, the third one went back to Fuller, but Watson overthrew the ball.

In this play, you can see that nobody (should be Tytus Howard) blocks Frank Clark (#55) off the edge. This forces Watson to step up in the pocket and make the throw tougher for himself. You can see that there is a hole in the defense, for Watson to squeak that throw in, something he's certainly capable of doing, but again, the line lets him down.

This was a HUGE swing in the game, not the deciding swing but huge nonetheless. As we couldn't tack on any extra yards, Fairbairn was forced into a 51-yard field goal, which kicks as much longer in Arrowhead stadium, plus the slightly inclement weather. Fairbairn missed it, leaving the Chiefs the ball at their own 41-yard line. This helped set them up to score their own field goal, taking a 10 point lead into the half, and getting the ball back.

Third Quarter

The Chiefs would go on to score on their first drive, and it was nearing time to hit the panic button. We started off the drive with the same RPO look we fed Fuller on in the 1st quarter, for 19 yards. It worked yet again this time, picking up a pretty uncontested 8 yards. The next two plays were runs, which picked up 9 yards, and then Watson hit Fuller for 7 yards on a slant.

Then, since the run game was being efficient and effective, we ran the ball the NEXT THREE PLAYS IN A ROW. Totalling 2, 2, and 1 yard, on those plays. The result is one thing, but the process is poor too. It doesn't matter how effective our running game is, we can't run the ball down 3 possessions and when our defense showed no sign of stopping the Chiefs. Us running the ball is exactly what the Chiefs want, draining the clock and making it easier for them. This was the second biggest mistake by O'Brien/Tim Kelly of the game and the biggest turning point of the game.

After these 3 runs, Deshaun was left with 3rd and 7. The offensive line failed him again here, as Frank Clark bursts past Tytus Howard. Howard tries to push him past the pocket, but whiffs. Luckily Deshaun spins out of a sack and away from trouble. He escapes out the left side of the pocket, but isn't able to find anyone, and gets tackled out of bounds for a loss and technical "sack".

Looking downfield, yet again there was NO ONE OPEN for Deshaun to throw to. I'm pissed off that he's being hung out to dry with no help whatsoever.

Faced with a 4th and 9 at our own 48, O'Brien brings the punt team out. This is a less favorable position to go for it, than when it was 4th and 4, so I get the decision. The problem is we had taken 4 minutes off the clock and had nothing to show for it. The defense was able to force a stop, but the Chiefs took another 5 minutes off the clock, and the quarter was quickly closing.

After a 5 yard run to start the drive by David, Deshaun took off scrambling for 6 yards. Let's look at who's at fault for this play, to continue to explore the WR separation conundrum. Stills and Cobb were running double slants on t

4th Quarter

Although that play didn't have much of an impact on the overall game (offense get's a first down on the next play) it's important to analyze the process of this offense. Because a good process will eventually lead to good results. But like I mentioned, the Texans would attack deep (somewhat) again, this time Watson would find Fuller on a 20 yard post route, a route he would regularly connect with DeAndre Hopkins on.

It was the next play, though, that was one of the biggest of the game. The Texans do something here that I've been wanting them to do for a while. Usually, when we take our play-action deep shots, we go under center, max protect, and ONLY send out two routes. I've been wanting us to send out more routes on these shot plays, to give Watson more options, and that's exactly what we did here. (SEE WHO WAS OPEN, DID WATSON HAVE SOMEONE IF FELLS DIDN"T MESS UP BLOCK????) Unfortunately, though, Darren Fells (praised for his blocking) got embarrassed by Tyrann Mathieu and thrown to the side. This forced the errant throw by Watson, and in turn, game-breaking interception.

The turnover gave the Chiefs offense the ball back at our own 17-yard line, and from there, 7 more points where on the board. 7-31 at this point and things looked bleak. But there are still areas of the team we can pick up on, to project how this offense will look in the future.

I really liked how we looked to utilize the screen game, to get the ball into our playmaker's hands quickly. We saw they tried it three times in the first half, but then not again until 3:50 left in the 4th. On the said play, it was a quick pass to Randall Cobb, and he got 17 yards as a result.

While the impact of this play is somewhat meaningless, it's about the process, not the results at this point in the game. We NEED to consistently use the screen game throughout the Baltimore Ravens game, to nullify their pass rush and blitzes, and protect our struggling (hopefully only for now) offensive line.

Concluding Thoughts

That's gonna do it for this week's Watson Watch! General themes from the Chiefs game include:

- 2 RB sets good, need more!

- Progressions from RPO good, need more consistency and variety still

- Chiefs played the deep ball, and we tried it, but the timing and chemistry will come with more in-game rhythm

- Screens successful, MORE PLEASE

- The Offensive line was pretty horrible, all around, that can't continue with the investment we've put into them