Week 8 Game Review - Houston Texans v. Carolina Panthers
Houston 12 - Carolina 13
Hey everyone TC here,
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Yep…that’s a rough chart to look at. Houston fans were greeted with the most disappointing loss of the season with the Houston Texans’ return from the bye week. A day filled with missed opportunities, penalties at inopportune times, and a defense who couldn’t get off the field at a critical time despite their dominance during the first three quarters.
Carolina obtains their first win of the season in a day billed around CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, and Will Anderson as the first time in history the top 3 draft selections from the previous draft were on the field together. Unfortunately Bryce Young got the better of CJ Stroud this week.
Houston’s offense clearly had their struggles on Sunday. Houston’s top two ball carriers finished the day with negative total EPA and negative rushing yards over expected. Positive gains from Stroud, Tank Dell, and Mike Boone pushed the overall rushing performance into the positive EPA column.
Carolina was willing to allow Houston to run the ball at will despite their lack of success. Carolina had neutral (7 defenders) or light (6 or less defenders) boxes on 92+% of Houston’s rush attempts. Even with the light tackle boxes Houston’s rushing attack was met by a Carolina defender at or behind the line of scrimmage on 58% of their attempts. Houston leads the league in this metric at 52% through the first 8 weeks of the season.
Despite all of that the rushing attack found success at various points in the game, along with continued missed opportunities and poor blocking efforts. Houston finished the day with 111 rushing yards, a clip of 3.7 yards per carry. The video break down section will cover more on the rushing attack issues.
The rushing attack was the more disappointing part of the game from my review, but the passing game was anemic at best.
Carolina took a page from the Atlanta game plan constantly dropping 6 or 7 players into zone coverage. The Carolina defensive line was content with clouding throwing lanes (and tipping passes) instead of blitzing Stroud.
Eliminating the interior throwing lanes and jamming the middle third of the field with defenders was the key to dismantling Bobby Slowik’s offensive plan.
This was evident early when Slowik appeared to abandon portions of the early game script opting to give Stroud more boundary throws. This worked for about a quarter, until Carolina adjusted with outside leverage with their boundary cornerbacks.
Stroud was under pressure on just 25% of his drop backs per PFF charting, a number Houston fans are not used to seeing. Stroud usually strives in clean pockets, however that did not happen today.
Overall Stroud finished the day 16 of 24 for 140 yards and 1 rushing touchdown. Carolina presented Stroud with zone coverage on 82% of his drop backs with over half of those looks working in a single high safety cover 3 look.
With Robert Woods out with injury Houston went with Noah Brown, Tank Dell, and Nico Collins as the primary receiving core. Unfortunately John Metchie saw the field early in the first quarter only to remain on the sideline most of the day.
Houston was limited with only two available tight ends in Dalton Schultz and Teagan Quitoriano. Schultz run 22 routes and Quitoriano finished the day with 0 routes, working as only a blocker. Another questionable decision on personnel usage.
Houston’s defense was getting the job done for about 3.5 quarters of football until they ran out of steam on the final drive allowing Carolina to kick the winning field goal.
Houston finished the day allowing just 44 yards rushing, 235 yards passing (not a net adjusted number), and 1 touchdown; finishing the day with 6 sacks.
Demeco Ryans dialed up the blitz rate this week taking advantage of a struggling Carolina offensive line. Houston blitzed on 30% of Carolina’s drop backs generating pressure on 37% of those drop backs, including one Cover 0 blitz.
Houston sprinkled in more man coverage this week at a clip of 30% of Carolina’s passing attempts. 92% of the defensive snaps were played in their nickel personnel group with 5 defensive backs on the field.
Of the 70% of drop backs working in zone, Houston continued their 50/50 split of split safety and single high safety looks. The zone work was primarily Cover 3 and Cover 4/Quarters schemes.
Jonathan Greenard abused second year tackle Ikem Ekwonu all day finishing the day with 2.5 sacks, 7 quarterback pressures, 2 run stuffs, and 6 tackles. Maliek Collins was busy all day as well with 2 sacks, 6 pressures, 2 run stuffs, and 7 tackles.
Tavierre Thomas’s return to action was something he’d rather forget. Thomas was the primary slot/nickel back finishing the day allowing 6 receptions on 8 targets for 90 yards.
This week’s video review theme will probably be more negative than positive. A blend of “what are you doing?” and “why!?!” thoughts as we go through some plays.
Over the weekend I posted on X (formerly Twitter) that I wanted to see more pulling guards in the rushing attack. Well…that didn’t work so well.
Houston with 21 personnel in their tight jet formation with Schultz motioning to the strong side. Beck is in the back field with the split i-formation. Howard is pulling to the weak side looking for the edge defender, and does not get there in time. My assumption is Metchie should have chipped Burns on this way out to the second level. Carolina with their 5 man (bear) front with 5 defensive lineman. Two missed blocks allows Burns as a free defender into the back field.
Slowik tried to get Tank Dell involved in the running game. Earlier in the first quarter Dell found success on a jet sweep for a big gain. Houston tried to build on that here.
Houston started in 11 personnel with a 3x2. Schultz starts a flat pull across the formation with Dell in tow on a forward pass sweep. Howard releases as the pulling guard alongside Schultz. The key miss here in George Fant at the second level with the linebacker. The running lane would have come open for Dell to cut up field, but the missed block allows the linebacker to fill that lane pushing Dell to the boundary.
Will Anderson just mows down Taylor Moton for a run stuff. Carolina working on an inside zone out of the pistol with 7 man blocking scheme. Maliek Collins generates depth with Will Anderson bull rushing Moton into the back field leaving Hubbard no where to go. This a a straight up one on one victory for Anderson.
This play caught my eye quickly. Keep your eyes on Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. Who was in the wrong here? Hard to say. But the mis-communication was clear as day.
Houston back in 11 personnel to start the second quarter, with Stroud in shotgun flanked by Pierce and Dell. Houston, again, trying to get the ball to Dell with an outside zone run. The mistake by Tunsil or Howard leaves the outside linebacker as free defender into the backfield. Dell has no chance to make a play.
Houston again in their 11 personnel with a 3x2 formation with a 6 man protection, Stroud in shotgun. Carolina, like Houston does, presents a double mug look with two linebackers at the line of scrimmage. Carolina is looking to cause an overload to one side. The end result of Brian Burns against Devin Singletary…a clear mismatch. My issue here is Schultz, who looks to put hands on Burns, does so just an acknowledgement touch before leaving for his crossing route. If you are going to chip, then chip your player.
The throw of the day!! Houston in 11 personnel with a 3x2 formation to the open field side. Carolina is in a clear Cover 4/Quarters shell zone look. Stroud finds a small throwing lane. The timing of the route with the timing of Stroud’s drop back is perfection here. Stroud releasing as he hits his back foot. Brown, from the slot, runs a 10 yard in breaker as the safety starts getting depth. Velocity and placement yields a 22 yard reception to Noah Brown instead of an interception.
Tavierre Thomas (SCB) had an up and down game, but on this play he made a fantastic read.
Carolina spreads out the formation with a 3x2 grouping in their 11 personnel. Houston matches with their nickel package with a Cover 2 man, each defender lined up over their respective receiver. Thomas initially lines up over Mingo in the middle of the receiver pack at the top of the screen. As the play unfolds, Thomas will pass off the receiver to Ward, and make a quick break to break-up the attempt to Thielen. Young staring down Thielen before the stop route made this possible. Thomas likely saves a touchdown here.
Another frustrating blocking effort by Houston this time with the wide receivers. Houston pushed back on a 1st & 15 catch Carolina in a deep quarters look. I understand the frustration with Houston calling a run play here, but this play had a lot of potential.
11 personnel with Stroud in shotgun, 3x2 formation with Pierce on the weak side. Inside counter with Fant and Mason creating a huge running lane. Unfortunately Noah Brown and Tank Dell are not on the same page with blocking assignments leaving a free second level defender to keep the run from breaking open. Frustrating to watch.
I really don’t have much to add here. Another missed power pull by Tytus Howard. Dameon Pierce turns a would be run loss into a 16 yard gain with unbelievable foot work.
This should have been walk in for Dameon Pierce. Houston in a goal line formation with 3 tight ends (Tunsil reported as eligible, and Josh Jones was the offensive tackle). Andrew Beck…I am confused. Pierce I am also confused. Beck could have crashed down on the two edge players, and Pierce should have followed his full back to the boundary for the easy touchdown.
Yes the running game has blocking issues. Occasionally there are decision making issues with the ball carriers as well.
Let’s end this on a positive note. By this point Greenard had broken Ekwonu’s spirit after multiple defeats throughout the game. Greenard power bull dozes Ekwonu with a drop down power technique. Ekwonu tries to anchor for the drop down move in an attempt to sprawl shoving Greenard to the ground. Another easy sack for Greenard.
With the injury to Jarrett Patterson the offensive line may see another shuffle. George Fant’s performance has declined week over week. Add in the struggles with Tytus Howard at left guard; it is time to abandon the 5 best player grouping.
Shift Howard to right tackle (his natural position). Work out a combination of Mike Deiter, Jimmy Morrissey, and Josh Jones at left guard and center. The run blocking has to find some measure of improvement against Tampa Bay.
Slowik could look to use early play action to setup the run game. Utilize Mike Boone a bit more in the run game. Stop with the gadget plays with Dell, find ways to get Dell in open space in the receiving game.
The returns of Tavierre Thomas and Denzel Perryman was evident with the defense. Thomas back on the field allowed Jimmie Ward to move back to his natural position at safety.
Excited to see if Dalton Keene can show the fans what we saw in preseason with the expected elevation for the next few games.
Header Image Credit: Getty
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