The Houston Texans are 5-0.
The 23-17 win may or may not have impressed a national television audience, but it makes little difference. Against a determined, desperate opponents, the Texans made just enough plays to fly home with another W.
After a second look at the game, here's what stands out for Houston.
The Real Story
The narrative forming around this game is that Houston was unimpressive and that they should have beaten the Jets by more.
That's utterly ridiculous.
A second watching of the tape shows that Houston took a very conservative approach to the game. It served to keep the score close, but also left them firmly in control for most of the game.
There were some execution issues in close to the goal line, but for the most part, the Texans were just as dominant against the Jets as they have been against other teams.
What this game showed was how important aggression is within a game. Rex Ryan pulled out every possible stop and trick, and it did help to keep the Jets close. Without his attempts to coach outside the lines of conventional wisdom, this game is probably a blowout.
The Jets are an odd team, because they aren't devoid of talent, but don't play particularly well together. There were moments where individuals made big plays for New York, but there isn't a cohesive whole there good enough to topple the Texans.
Arian Foster looked like a Hall of Famer against the Jets.
Specifically, he looked like Eric Dickerson.
Foster is generally good, but against New York, he was spectacular. He looked fast, big and powerful. He was the best player on the field whenever he was in the game.
It was truly a difference-making performance.
People may be tired of seeing J.J. Watt's name here each week, but he made two mammoth plays down the stretch that preserved the win for the Texans. The sack of Matt Sanchez on third down late was one, and the second will be discussed in the Secret Play feature.
Watt is simply the most dominant football player in the game on either side of the ball right now.
Brice McCain has taken criticism in this space in recent weeks, but he made two big plays against the Jets. Both his interception and sack were more "right place, right time" plays rather than displays of pure talent, but he did show off his speed on both.
It's difficult to come up with anyone to put here, but Andre Johnson was completely shut down by the Jets. He had one catch, but also followed it up with a huge drop.
On 2nd-and-goal from the three-yard line, Sanchez dropped back to throw for the endzone. He had a man open.
Watt soared into the night and smacked down the pass, and the Jets eventually settled for a field goal.
Had the pass made it through for a score, the Texans' lead would have been trimmed to 23-21, and the rest of the game would have played out very differently.
Typically "trust your defense to get the stop" is the path to losing in the NFL. It worked out on Monday for Gary Kubiak, but he set a dangerous precedent.
With about four minutes to play, he elected to punt on 4th-and-1 from his own 41, giving the Jets the chance to drive for the lead.
While he did choose the low-percentage option in punting, the decision wasn't as obnoxious in this case as it could have been.
While he does have an elite running team and a back having a career night, Kubiak also has a terrific defensive unit. The quality of the corresponding offense and defense make the call not as bad as it otherwise would have been.
Keep an Eye On
Obviously, the injury to Brian Cushing will be a huge story to watch as the weeks unfold, but just as big will be the next two games for Houston.
The Packers come to Reliant Stadium in Week 6, and they are reeling. Right now, Houston is the better team, and nothing will convince the world of their status as contenders like a big victory over Green Bay.
The showdown with Baltimore in two weeks will also be closely watched. If Houston can successfully navigate both challenges, they'll be a veritable lock for the top overall seed in the AFC.
Bradie James will have to carry a big load for the defense without Cushing. There's not much time for the Texans to adjust to their new reality, but the unit is strong enough that they shouldn't miss a beat.
Injuries have always been the biggest red flag for Houston, and while the team can survive one high-profile loss, if they lose another key player, it could spell serious trouble for a team with Super Bowl dreams.
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