Last year, the Texans finished 9-7, creating expectations that they would take the next step in 2015. So far, they’ve wandered into quicksand.
Now at 1-4, high-priced and highly-talented defensive end J.J. Watt is getting frustrated. We know this because he said so after the loss to the Colts.
“Yeah, I’d say there’s frustration,” Watt told reporters.
Asked whether he was surprised by the performance of receiver Andre Johnson, the long-time face of the franchise who got the boot after last year ended, Watt’s frustration snuck through in a very tangible, fingerpointingish way.
“He’s a good football player,” Watt said. “He made some plays. I’m not sure, I don’t cover him. So I couldn’t tell you what happened.”
Here’s what apparently happened: The Texans didn’t anticipate that the Colts would feed the ball to Andre Johnson. Sure, there were problems in execution, like when cornerback Johnathan Joseph failed to tackle Johnson and a seven-yard out route became a 23-yard catch and run. But Johnson’s first touchdown showed how the Texans overlooked him.
With the Colts facing second and goal from the four and Johnson split to the left, two defenders locked onto T.Y. Hilton on the other side of the formation. The safety on Johnson’s side bit on play-action to Frank Gore, and Johnson ran past cornerback Kareem Jackson (who also seemed to be caught flat-footed by the fake handoff to Frank Gore) and had the easy touchdown catch.
On Indy’s opening drive of the second half, quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck dropped a 24-yard rainbow into Johnson’s hands, despite decent coverage from Jackson. So that wasn’t really anyone’s fault; it was a great throw and a very good catch.
Johnson’s second touchdown came on a perfectly-designed and implemented pick play, with Johnson behind Hilton and Hilton taking out both defenders, allowing Johnson to sneak behind him and make a sliding catch that took him across the goal line. The failure of either defender to get through the screen/pick/whatever suggests a failure in scouting, coaching, and/or execution — as evidenced by the way the Patriots dealt with a similar formation and strategy in the Super Bowl.
The bottom line is that the Texans underestimated Johnson’s remaining skills and the Colts’ willingness to get him the ball during his first game back in Houston. It was brilliant by the Colts to feature Johnson, and it was foolish by the Texans to not account for him. Regardless of his struggles over the first month of the season with a new team, Johnson’s best was going to shine through last night.
The Texans mistakenly believed his best wasn’t enough for them to worry about.