The Houston Texans improved their 2011 season record to 2-0 with a hard-fought victory over the Miami Dolphins, 23-13. If wasn't a pretty game, but the Texans iced the game when needed in the last 8:03 of the game, and kept the ball out the Dolphins' offense's hands. It proved the Texans are learning how to finish games, and Sunday was a start to what looks like a promising season.
Here are 10 thoughts from Sunday's contest.
1. Brian Cushing looked good for the second week in a row, he had 10 total tackles against the Dolphins and it gives him 17 total tackles to lead the team. Even though he has lost some weight, Cushing looks faster and healthy for the first time since his rookie year of 2009. He looks primed to have a good year in his new position in the 3-4.
2. In the last 8:02 of the ball game the Texans had the ball for all but :47 seconds of that time at the end of the 4th quarter. It shows that the Texans are slowly learning how to finish games, and it was a good step for this to show in a tough environment in Miami. The Texans could have punched in a late score, but chose to kneel the ball. Texans' fans should have known this was not going to be a cakewalk of a game, but all three units, offense, defense and special teams, were solid in the victory. The Texans are rounding themselves into a complete team.
3. The Texans gave up one touchdown through the air, and it was not given up by Kareem Jackson. Jackson has made solid improvements since 2010 and has shown his maturity already through two games. He gave up a great catch to Brian Hartline, but he caused a big turnover in the 3rd quarter when the Dolphins were driving when he put a hat on Dolphins rookie Daniel Thomas causing a fumble. To me he had a questionable pass interference call where he had a hand on the jersey of wide receiver Edmund Gates, but he didn't get beat deep which is an achievement itself. Jackson has looked solid early in the season, but he will be tested against a pass happy New Orleans Saints offense.
4. Brett Hartmann proved why he was brought back to take over the kickoff and punting duties. He had a franchise record 69 yard punt and out of 12 kickoffs this season he has had 8 touchbacks. Hartmann has improved the special teams unit and is proving to be a good move taking him over Brad Maynard. Also don't forget that the special teams units,as a whole, has gotten better with coverage and returns. Jacoby Jones is averaging 25.4 yards a punt return and Danieal Manning is averaging 41.0 yards a kick return.
5. This is my normal J.J. Watt note, but can you really say anything bad about him right now? He changed the complexion of the game with his blocked 22 yard field goal by the Dolphins, also he had 4 tackles from the defensive end position. Watt is a solid player for the Texans and is proving to be a vital part of the 2011 defense and the team's success for the season.
6. Ben Tate is taking full advantage of his opportunity of Arian Foster's injury, and he has become the 11th player in NFL history to start his first two career games in the NFL with 100+ yards. Tate has done a good job running hard and making people miss, and has improved on his pass blocking too. Tate is a commodity for the Texans having two big time running backs on their roster, but the notion of getting rid of Foster because of Tate is down right crazy. Look for Tate to build on his success for the Texans and when Foster comes back healthy they will be arguably the best 1-2 punch in the league.
7. The offensive line struggled mightily against the Dolphins, and Eric Winston had a pitiful game. He had holding penalties and gave up another sack to an opposing defensive end. His lack of protection for Matt Schaub was evident, because Schaub's internal clock was causing him to rush thinking there was pressure coming when there wasn't. The offensive line looked overmatched against the strong Dolphins defensive line and kept the line of scrimmage from moving, which is not good for Houston's offense. The offensive line will have their work cut out for them when they face an even heavier and run stopping New Orleans Saints defensive line on Sunday.
8. The Texans pass defense is stellar when Johnathan Joseph is in the games, and he had his first pick courtesy of Mario Williams knocking the throwing arm of Chad Henne. Joseph also showed some courage coming back in after hurting his ankle, when Joseph was not in the game the Dolphins took advantage of Jason Allen and not Kareem Jackson. Allen was embarrassed in front of national television when Brandon Marshall walked him into the end zone for the Dolphins only touchdown of the afternoon. Joseph is proving he is one of the top defensive corners at his position in the NFL.
9. If you didn't notice but Matt Schuab was 21/29 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Schaub made some big plays and he should have had three touchdowns, but Andre Johnson let a tough touchdown catch slip through his hands. Johnson was upset with himself on the sideline afterwards and went out an caught the nail in the coffin touchdown when he was wide open in the back of the end zone. Johnson had 7 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, and he and Schaub are proving to be a top quarterback and receiver combination once again.
10. DeMeco Ryans still looks like he is a work in progress. He had only one tackle for the game, but he did fill the hole taking on some fullbacks and caused some pressure for Chad Henne in the pocket. Ryans looks like he is still trying to get used to his new position, but still looks a step slow. I still think Ryans will come around, but I don't know how quick. Texans' fans need to be careful of not being to critical on Ryans, because the Texans have faced some pass happy teams the first two weeks of the season, which would cause low stats. Plus the Saints are next on the schedule, Ryans will be tested again with his mobility on covering backs out of the backfield.