The Texans won the game but who stood tallest during TNF…
We might not have known it by how the game was played, but Week 8’s version of Thursday Night Football didn’t receive a ton of fanfare. Sure it boasted two winning teams, but even those in Houston weren’t excited initially.
Having won four consecutive games, the Houston Texans took on a struggling Miami Dolphins team that had lost three of its past four. From the start, this thing was pretty darn interested. In fact, there were two penalties before a play was even run from scrimmage.
In the end, Houston came out with its fifth consecutive win by the score of 42-23. Deshaun Watson compiled 253 total while throwing more touchdowns than incomplete passes. Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ pass rush came up small.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from Houston’s win over Miami on Thursday night.
Winner: J.J. Watt dominates weaker competition
Watt was back up to his old tricks right out of the gate Thursday night. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year recorded a sack and pass defended on the very first Dolphins drive, showing us that Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James was nowhere ready for the onslaught we’d see from Watt in Houston.
The Pro Bowler might not have recorded absurd numbers throughout the rest of the game, but he was a continual presence in Miami’s offensive backfield. All said, Watt put up four tackles (two for loss), one sack and two passes defended. He now has eight sacks over his past six games. Yeah, we’d say Mr. Watt is back.
Loser: Brock Osweiler still is nowhere near the answer
Osweiler headed into Thursday’s game having played pretty well in Ryan Tannehill’s stead over the past two-plus outings. That included the much-maligned veteran tallying six touchdowns compared to two interceptions while completing nearly 68 percent of his passes.
But like we’ve seen throughout his career, Osweiler was nowhere ready to step up on a prime-time stage. He threw a first half interception that led directly to seven points for the Texans. Later in the initial half, Osweiler was lucky that the officials overturned a fumble call on the field that would’ve led to another Texans touchdown.
Playing in his old stomping grounds and in front of a former head coach he’s not on great terms with, Osweiler came up small. It led to the Dolphins losing their fourth game in five outings and falling to .500 at the midway point of the season.
Winner: DeAndre Hopkins continues to dominate
We’re at the point where Nuk might very well be the best receiver in the NFL this season. He entered Week 8 on pace to record 107 receptions for north of 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Pro Bowler added to that in a big way against the Dolphins’ secondary on Thursday.
After being slowed down initially, Hopkins got going big time in the second half. That included two fourth quarter touchdown passes to pretty much put an icing on the Texans’ fifth consecutive game. Hopkins would end the night with six catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets.
Loser: Dolphins pass rush
Deshaun Watson entered this game having been hit a league-high 70 times in seven games. That included the Texans’ franchise quarterback being sacked 26 times during this span. In no way is this all on Houston’s offensive line. Watson needs to do a better job avoiding the hits. Even then, it’s a unit that’s been mired in injury and ineffectiveness throughout the season. Most expected Miami’s pass rush to take full advantage.
That just didn’t happen. The likes of Cameron Wake and Co., recorded one total quarterback hit and zero sacks in the loss. Given that this unit had put up just 11 sacks in the first seven games, it’s clear we’re looking at one of the Dolphins’ biggest weaknesses.
Winner: Lamar Miller shows out against former team
Lamar Miller was born in Miami. He went to school at the University of Miami. He was selected by the Dolphins and played his first four NFL seasons in South Beach. If you don’t think he wanted to make a statement against his former team, we’re not too sure what to tell you. What we do know is he did just that.
Being relied on more with a backup quarterback under center, Miller put up 133 yards on 18 touches with a touchdown, including a beautiful 58-yard run in the win. The veteran had struggled to the tune of 3.9 yards per rush prior to this week’s game. If he’s able to provide this type of performance on the ground moving forward, it’s going to make for a dynamic Texans offense in the second half of the season.
Loser: Officials have themselves a hard night
With the score tied at seven to start the second quarter, Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler airmailed wide receiver Danny Amendola. The pass was then picked off by rookie safety Justin Reid to set Houston up inside Miami’s 20. What was lost in all of this is that Texans safety Mike Tyson held Amendola on the play. It should have been an automatic first down for the Dolphins. Instead, it turned into a Texans touchdown two plays later. That’s just bad officiating.
Though, the zebras were having a heck of a night even before that non-call. Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader was called for hitting Miami’s long snapper in the neck/head region on a punt. It was a questionable call, to say the least. It also led directly to a touchdown for the road team.
None of this even takes into account a Texans defensive touchdown that was called back late in the second quarter when officials ruled that a defender’s presence caused an Osweiler pass to go backwards. That might be true, but it seemed the quarterback had brought the ball back, which would have led to a fumble and a touchdown. Either way, on the very same day that the NFL fired an official for multiple bad calls, this crew didn’t represent the league in the best of lights.
Winner: DeVante Parker finally joins the 2018 season
A former top-15 pick out of Louisville, Parker is pretty darn close to being known as a bust. In fact, he entered Week 8 having been active for two games this season and being squarely on the trade block heading into next week’s deadline. But with both Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills injured, the fourth-year pass catcher got his opportunity in front of a national audience.
He delivered big time, catching 6-of-9 passes for 134 yards. This repressed Parker’s first 100-yard game since November of 2016. Not only did Parker put up the numbers, he made plays at the exact rate time. That included this 46-yard catch on third and long. Maybe this injury-plagued receiver has found himself in the NFL. Whether that will be with the Dolphins following next week’s trade deadline remains to be seen.
Loser: Danny Amendola fails to step up
Without the likes of Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson on Thursday, Adam Gase was hoping that his veteran receiver would step up. Sure he tossed a touchdown pass to Kenyan Drake on a trick play. But from a receiving standpoint, Amendola did very little against what had been a questionable Texans pass defense.
All said, the 32-year-old receiver hauled in five passes on six targets for 43 yards. That’s certainly not what Miami wanted to see from its primary slot receiver, especially when it was starting a backup quarterback for a third consecutive week.
Winner: Deshaun Watson turns it around
Despite having seen his Texans run off a four-game winning streak heading into Thursday’s game, Watson himself has not played great football recently. The banged-up quarterback tallied five total touchdown passes compared to four interceptions during that streak. Injuries certainly played a role here. But his inability to be consistent was a growing issue for head coach Bill O’Brien and Co.
That changed in a big way in Houston’s Week 8 win over Miami. Including scores of 73 and 49 yards, Watson tallied more touchdowns (five) than incomplete passes (four) while throwing for 239 yards. He also didn’t throw an interception for the first just the second time in eight starts this season. If Watson continues to play at this level, the Texans’ offense is going to be scary good.
Loser: Xavien Howard comes up small
Eligible for an extension after this season, this third-year cornerback has played some elite football in 2018. He entered Week 8 having recorded five passes defended and three interceptions. It’s pretty much at the point that opposing quarterbacks are avoiding Howard on a consistent basis. That changed in a big way against an elite-level battery mate of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins’ first touchdown of the game, a 49-yard score, was as much on Miami’s safeties as it was on Howard. He expected help from one of them on the back end. Both went deep for some reason, leaving Hopkins wide open. Though, the second score was all on Howard. He bit on Hopkins’ move, held the receiver and still gave up a touchdown. In a season that’s been filled with great moments from the young corner, he struggled big time against one of the game’s best wide receivers. There’s no shame in that. It should act as a learning curve. Even then, the Dolphins needed Howard to come up big. He didn’t.