The Houston Texans opened their preseason home debut against the San Francisco 49ers which was considered a good barometer to see where they are in terms of progress this year. The 49ers are a big physical team with the same offensive philosophy as the Texans as a run heavy team, and a team that runs a stout 3-4 defense ranking ahead of the Texans against the run. This was one of the stingiest defenses in the red zone and they proved that Saturday. The Texans went into the game ready for a scrap and came out of the battle on the gridiron with a 20-9 victory over the 49ers. Here is the breakdown and summary.
Final Score: Texans 20, 49ers 9
Texans Preseason Record: 2-0
Total Yards: 279
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Pass Yards: 160
Rush Yards: 119
The most enjoyable thing about this preseason game was the emergence of Trindon Holliday as a productive and consistent punt and kickoff returner. Over the last two preseason games, Holliday has averaged a total of 33 yards for punt returns and a total of 83 yards per kickoff return. He is definitely making a stronger case for head coach Gary Kubiak to keep him on the final 53. On another note, the two young receivers Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin looked good in their second preseason game. Both receivers made plays and Jean caught his first touchdown pass of his young career. Jean’s 9 yard touchdown reception helped put the Texans out in front right before halftime.
There were a few things that the Texans need to work on and polish up before the regular season starting with the run defense in the “A” and “B” gaps. The Texans were gashed a few times up the middle and in the interior of their defense by the 49ers. What was considered a soft spot last year seems to have crept back onto their list of things that need to be reinforced. Part of this issue is due to two of their starting defensive linemen missing in Shaun Cody and JJ Watt. Not a major concern now because its preseason and these two pieces were missing, but if they return and the same thing continues then the Texans will need to address this immediately. The single most alarming thing about the game was the ineffectiveness of the run game. In this game against a bigger and aggressive defensive line, the Texans struggled mightily to get their rushing attack going. The Texans played this same defensive front last year in San Francisco and rushed for over 100 yards, but this was with Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston manning the right side of the line. This year with virtually the same teams meeting up with no real differences other than the right side of the Texans offensive line, the Texans didn’t have anywhere near the same success on the ground against the 49ers as they did last season.
The worst part of the game came on the defensive side of the ball. Texans cornerback Alan Ball continues to show no reason why the Texans should keep him on the roster. I would be extremely surprised if he makes the first round of cuts to get down to 75. Ball shows no awareness of the wide receiver or skill to track the ball when in the air. I will admit I was one who thought he would come in and make a difference in the slot for the Texans when they go against the larger premier tight ends of the league, but he hasn’t been able to show any ball skills against lower rated wide receivers. Ball was burned a couple of times against 49er receivers, but luckily the receiver was unable to catch the ball. Secondly, the Texans secondary failed to capitalize on turnover opportunities when presented to them. Glover Quin failed to intercept a pass by Alex Smith in the first quarter that could have given the Texans the ball with a short field. Quintin Demps had an opportunity to intercept a pass but hesitated initially and broke a second too late on the ball. If Demps had broken on it early, he would have taken it in for a touchdown. Another interception opportunity came to Shiloh Keo after a pass was tipped. If Keo would have recognized the tipped ball a second or so earlier, he would have had the interception and given the Texans' offense another opportunity to put up points.
Brian Cushing left the game with what appeared to be bruised ribs, but afterwards said it was nothing to be concerned about.