Texans vs. Lions Take Two: J.J. Watt Feasts on Lions for Turkey Day

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

Andre Johnson torched the Lions for nearly 200 yards.
Andre Johnson torched the Lions for nearly 200 yards.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Thanksgiving was full of controversy, low blows, people losing their cool, lapses in judgement and a lot of folks going home angry.

Ah, family.

Oh, and there was the Houston Texans' 34-31 victory over the Detroit Lions.

A second look at the tape tells you everything you need to know about the wild win for the 10-1 Texans.

The Real Story

How did the Detroit Lions lose this ball game?

Despite soundly outplaying Houston at nearly every turn, the Lions' inability to finish drives proved their undoing.

Houston's defense played most of the game back on their heels as if they were waiting for J.J. Watt to save them.

Fortunately for the Texans, Watt did save them time and time again, repeatedly ending promising Detroit drives with sacks and hits on Matt Stafford to disrupt what appeared to be sure scoring drives.

The Texans survived a myriad of mistakes from Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak to grind out an exhausting win in overtime.

There are two ways to view the win for Houston.

On an emotional level, it was a Herculean effort to pull out a second straight overtime victory in less than a week. There's no question that this one was off the charts on the intestinal fortitude meter. Seen in that light, this was a remarkable win.

However, from a strictly technical standpoint, Houston was not the better team. They were aided by some terrible officiating, terrible coaching and terrible decisions by Stafford.

While it's fun to win a game you have no business winning, it is troubling to recognize that the Texans had no business beating a mediocre Lions team.

The glass-half-full crowd will see this as evidence of a team that has the heart of a champion.

The glass-half-empty crowd will see a team with mounting injuries, eroding performance and questionable coaching.


This section has already been dedicated to Watt too many times to count this season, but he was the best player on the field once again on Thanksgiving.

Watt's three sacks will get the most notice, but he was everywhere. He was generating tackles for a loss, clogging passing lanes and knocking down Stafford at key moments.

It may not be possible for a 3-4 end getting little help from his teammates to play a better overall game than Watt played.

For the second consecutive week, Andre Johnson proved why he alone may be all the passing game the Texans need.

Johnson put up 188 yards receiving, and the rest of the Texans combined for just 127.

Arian Foster and Justin Forsett had nice games, though obviously Forsett's effort was tainted by an inexcusable call on his 81-yard touchdown run.


Matt Schaub did not have an effective game. The Lions dropped several passes that should have been intercepted before finally picking Schaub off on what should have led to the game-winning score.

Alan Ball spent most of the afternoon getting abused by the likes of Calvin Johnson, though it's hard to fault him for it. Johnson does that to a lot of guys.

Secret Play

The Lions' inability to score when they got into Houston territory bordered on the comedic by the end of the afternoon.

They came up empty on their final six drives of the game, all of which crossed the midfield stripe.

Most of the blame for that falls on Stafford, who acted as if he had no idea what the term "field-goal range" means.

Late in regulation, the Lions faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Houston 45. Almost any underneath pass would have at least given Detroit the option of thinking about a potential game-winning field goal.

Instead of trying to pick up a chunk of yardage to keep the drive alive or give the Lions options, Stafford wound up and chucked the ball 40 yards downfield.

The low-percentage pass to Johnson was incomplete, and Detroit punted, playing for overtime.

Coaching Notes

Both coaches put an absolute clinic on how to lose a football game, but Kubiak ultimately got the win thanks to superior players.

Kubiak had at least four separate brain-locks that would have surely resulted in a Texans' loss had he faced any coach more competent than Jim Schwartz on the other sideline.

The mistakes began early for Kubiak, who ordered a punt on 4th-and-1 from the Detroit 56 late in the first half.

Detroit quickly got a first down out to the 22, but committed two penalties. Kubiak's effort to play field position ultimately resulted in Houston getting the ball back at their own 26-yard line. He traded a chance to extend the drive for a loss of 28 yards of field position.

With 1:49 in the half, Kubiak called two time-wasting plays from the Detroit 20 in order to try to run the clock out on the first half despite having three timeouts. Essentially, he was content to waste a possession in a game that he trailed 21-14.

Fortunately, he woke up from his stupor in time to go for it on 4th-and-7 from the Detroit 41. Schaub converted the first down to Andre Johnson. He could have considered punting, but it would have been the wrong call.

His mistakes weren't done, however. On 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Kubiak let the Lions run a play on the wrong side of the two-minute warning. The run was unsuccessful, but had he let the clock run out, the Lions would have ultimately had less time to try to win the game.

Finally, he repeated past mistakes from the Jaguars game by calling three consecutive runs from the Detroit 32 in overtime. The runs netted a loss of one, and Shayne Graham missed the winning field goal from 51 yards out.

This was easily one of the worst jobs by a head coach in Week 12.

Keep An Eye On...

Is the Texans' recent defensive bobble merely a fluke, the result of a compressed schedule? Or is it something worse?

The next two games should give a lot of answers. If the Texans are beginning to regress on defense, the Tennessee Titans are a good bet to expose it.

Tennessee has talented offensive players without actually having a good offense. They are exactly the kind of team that hang 30 points on a defense that is slipping.

After that comes a trip to Foxborough, MA, to take on the New England Patriots, who possess one of the best offenses in history.

We will find out soon whether Houston is still an elite defense or if injuries have finally caught up with them.


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