EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – They blew a 13-point lead and needed a 14-yard touchdown grab by receiver DeAndre Hopkins to move back ahead, but the Houston Texans – for the moment – slid into the No. 2 spot in the AFC playoff picture with their 29-22 victory Saturday night against the New York Jets.
Hopkins finished with 10 catches for 170 yards and two scores in what proved to be the game's key performance.
Houston (10-4) now will closely watch what happens in Sunday’s New England Patriots-Pittsburgh Steelers game. If New England (9-4) loses, then the Texans will hold that second seed entering Week 16. But first things first: here are three things we learned from Saturday’s game.
1. Deshaun Watson needs to get rid of the ball quicker
After yielding six sacks against the Jets, the Texans now rank last with 52 sacks allowed on the season. Watson now has four games in which he has taken five or more sacks, most in the NFL.
On Saturday, three sacks came on third down and two occurred when Houston was in the red zone. One ended the first half and prevented the Texans from getting into field goal range. Houston can't afford those kind of plays and will need Watson to have a quicker trigger in the face of pressure.
2. Red zone issues continue to persist for Texans
Houston came into Saturday’s game ranked 25th in red zone offense, converting just 52.1 percent of their trips into touchdowns. Against the Jets, things only got worse as the Texans finished the game just one of four.
The good news is that the conversion was the eventual game-winning score.
But two of those missed chances came on the first possessions of the game. In the first series, it was a third-down sack after the Texans had marched all the way down to the New York 9-yard line that killed the drive. Then on the second possession, unimaginative play-calling hindered Houston. Later in the third quarter, another third-down sack ended a trip inside the 20.
Another concern? Houston converted just one of nine of its third-down attempts.
3. Houston’s secondary has some work to do
A troubling trend for the Texans continued for the third-straight week. First it was Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield who threw for 397 yards (thought he also tossed three interceptions). Then, one week ago, Andrew Luck of the Colts went for 399 through the air. On Saturday, Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold posted an ultra-efficient performance, steadily moving the ball down the field and capitalizing no chances for big plays when they showed up.
Darnold completed 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
Darnold is improving and has a bright future, but he’s not one of the league’s best passers. Once the Texans secure a spot into the postseason (they can clinch the AFC South with some help from other teams this weekend), their secondary will need to make strides if Houston is to make any type of run.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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