The Houston Texans started the 2018 season poorly. With three straight losses to the Patriots, Titans, and Giants, the season outlook did not look so good. Only three teams since 1990 had ever made the playoffs after starting 0-3; the 1992 Chargers, 1995 Lions and 1998 Bills. Only one team had ever made it to 7-3 after starting 0-3; the 1925 Giants. 

This seasons Texans sit at 9-3 after the winless start. This week, they will take on the 6-6 Indianapolis Colts at home to try to extend their win streak to ten games. Here’s what’s gone right for the Texans over the win streak. 

Rushing Success

In the Texans’ first three games of the season, they reached the endzone once on the ground. It came on a one-yard carry by Alfred Blue. Lamar Miller was carrying the ball well in his first two games of the season with 98 and 68 yards, respectively. In his third, he was stifled by the Giants, carrying the rock for 10 yards on 10 carries.

Since then, he has only been held to less than 45 yards once, and he has reached the end zone three times on the ground. Watson has also scored two touchdowns with his legs this season. The run game by yardage has not improved drastically, but it has improved in the red zone. Subsequently, it has resulted in a huge help to the Texans offense. In the last three weeks alone, the Texans red zone is sitting at 62.5 per cent, which is a huge improvement upon the 48.89 per cent that represents the season as a whole. 

Turnover Margin

Following the three losses, the Texans turnover margin was at -2. Since then, the Texans are +10 and have climbed up to top ten in the league in turnover differential. Every team in the top ten, except for the Browns, are at or above .500. A positive turnover margin equals success and the Texans being at a +10 in nine games is a big reason for their success.  

Play Calling

The play calling has improved significantly over the course of the season. I wrote earlier in the season about the struggles that the offense was facing as a result of Bill O’Brien’s ineptitude to run an offense. The red zone was an absolute mess and the inability to make in-game adjustments against the Cowboys was the breaking point for many Texans fans. 

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The play calling has gotten better along with the running game and the offensive line. After moving Julie’n Davenport and Martinas Rankin back to their natural positions of left tackle and guard respectively, the offensive line has improved tremendously. With the offensive line opening up running lanes, it is not as ludicrous anymore to hand the ball off in the red zone. 

The Texans run the ball on the second most percentage of offensive plays in the league. At 48.2 percent rushes, only the Seattle Seahawks run the ball more. It is frustrating because it would be nice to unleash Deshaun Watson, but with the offensive line performing how they are, it is hard to complain about the run game right now. 

Unfortunately, I do not have statistics for this, but it seems like far too often do the Texans get caught up in successful running. Look for me to track this at some point this offseason, but it seems far too common for the Texans to follow up a run of 10+ yards with a draw. Regardless, it may not be the play calling improving as much as the offensive line allowing for rushing success. If the offensive line can keep up the good work, the Texans offense should be tough to slow down. 

Conclusions

The Texans have all the talent necessary to continue winning. With Watson at quarterback, Hopkins at wide receiver with an offensive line performing around average, the offense should continue to put up points. The defense has Watt and Clowney to rush the quarterback, with a young Cunningham down the middle and a deep group of safeties to prevent the deep ball. A sloppy start with below average coaching caused a slow start, but the past nine games have been the true Texans.

With the Titans win against the Jaguars this Thursday, Houston does not have an opportunity to clinch the division this weekend. With a win this week, they would have the opportunity to wrap up a top-four spot against the New York Jets next week. It would be naive though to assume a win against the Colts, who are 5-1 in their last six. 

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– Max Freedman is the Managing Editor of Full Press Coverage Texans. He covers the Houston Texans. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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