The Houston Texans were nearly upset on Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium by the Chargers, that's if Matt Schaub and the rest of the offense hadn't come to the rescue and mustered 24 unanswered points and a last second field goal to head back to Reliant Stadium with a win in their pocket.
What lead the Texans to such a scary point during their season opener was in large part thanks to some inexperience, and in particular two new rookies who have assumed big time roles on both offense and defense.
On one side DeAndre Hopkins has been thrown into an offense that is already loaded with stars. His main role is to get defenders off of Andre Johnson's back and to also give Schaub that extra target, while also displaying the speed and athleticism he was drafted for.
On the other there's D.J. Swearinger, a safety that was brought in to learn from Ed Reed and others, and to use his physicality to lay big hits on defenders and stop the running game.
Monday Night Football saw both Hopkins and Swearinger on the field a lot. Gary Kubiak always assumed Hopkins would be a starter, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips gave Swearinger the tough job of covering Antonio Gates in his first-ever gig that counts.
Here's a look at how the two panned out.
Hopkins didn't have a ton of yards—he only wound up with 66, but he was one of the most crucial players on the field when the Texans finally decided they wanted to play the game.
By my count Hopkins was involved in three consecutive scoring drives, and caught a pass on 3rd-and-13 down field which eventually lead to a Garrett Graham touchdown. More importantly, he took the focus off of Johnson and kept the Chargers defense honest.
One of the perks of Hopkins' game is his route running, something that showed on Monday night. Kubiak's play calling was a mystery for most of the game with a good mix of run and pass, and even though Chargers safety Eric Weddle had seven tackles to his name, Hopkins still found himself down field with the ball.
Hopkins' longest reception was 30 yards, and it appears he might be the favored guy to come onto the field when the offense is in need of some energy. Of course, Schaub was careful to target Johnson on just about every pass he threw during the final two minutes leading up to the field goal, but for Hopkins this was a solid regular season debut which probably deserved a touchdown.
Things weren't quite so peachy for Swearinger in his first prime-time game. On a couple of separate occasions he gave up yards to tight end Antonio Gates, which secured momentum for the Chargers heading into half time.
As a unit the Texans' secondary was caught playing deep in the red zone on multiple occasions. It made life easy for Philip Rivers, who dumped the ball off to Ronnie Brown or Ryan Matthews on short screen passes to gain some ground.
It's likely that Wade Phillips is pretty disappointed with his defense's performance in the red zone, as it allowed the Chargers to convert chances into points on every occasion. Luckily, Brian Cushing came up with a huge pick six to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but honestly, Swearinger will need to improve quickly on his future assignments if he stands any chance of remaining a starter.
To be fair facing a veteran like Gates in your first week of real football will always be a daunting task for a young rookie. And while cornerback Brice McCain also struggled, it appeared that the Texans were lacking a veteran like Reed to show them the way forward.
Unfortunately, things don't get any easier for Swearinger or the defense, as they face the Tennessee Titans next week, a team that just smashed the Pittsburgh Steelers for 70 yards on the ground and 125 in the air.
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