The Houston Texans got off to a fast start against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and a great play call combined with the return of Will Fuller allowed that to happen.
Deshaun Watson threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Kenny Stills on the opening drive, and the Texans utilized Fuller masterfully on the play. Facing 3rd-and-1, Watson faked a bubble screen to Fuller, and the entire Kansas City defense bit on it. That allowed Stills to streak down the field without a single defender near him.
Will Fuller getting ALL that respect pic.twitter.com/ieQzxbvAfF
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 12, 2020
Fuller missed the Wild Card round with a groin injury, and he has battled injuries all throughout his career. When he does play, he stretches the field and Houston’s offense is noticeably better. Fuller also caught a key pass on third down a few plays earlier to keep the drive going.
The play gave the Texans an early 7-0 lead over the Chiefs. They then forced a 3-and-out on defense and blocked a punt, returning it for a touchdown to go up 14-0.
The Houston Texans made a couple of incredible plays on their final drive to beat the Buffalo Bills in a Wild Card Game on Saturday, and they did get help from the referees.
Houston had a 3rd-and-18 from their 19 with around seven minutes left in overtime. The play clock actually went down to zero for a second before the Texans snapped the ball, meaning they should have been called for delay of game.
Refs missed a delay of game on that play. pic.twitter.com/5E4ED2hDXG
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) January 5, 2020
No call was made, and Deshaun Watson threw a dumpoff pass to Duke Johnson, who was somehow able to convert the first down.
A few plays later, Watson made the play of the game and helped set up a game-winning field goal.
The Texans won the game 22-19. Had delay of game correctly been called, it would have been 3rd-and-23 for Houston.
The pass interference challenge is starting off the playoffs a lot like it ended the regular season.
The Houston Texans became the first team to challenge a pass interference call in the playoffs, arguing that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was interfered with on a key third down play in the first quarter. You be the judge:
Was this probably pass interference? Yes.
Was it going to be overturned if challenged? Probably not. pic.twitter.com/tlMZzEXIv8
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) January 4, 2020
Anyone who watched football in the regular season likely knows what came next. The no-call was upheld, and the Texans lost a timeout. Hopkins had openly gestured for his coach to throw the challenge flag, but considering how this rule has worked out for him this year, he probably should have known better.
In other words, this looks like it’s going to be the same as it was in the regular season, as if there was any doubt. Coaches should probably shy away from throwing the flag on anything pass interference-related unless they have nothing to lose or the call looks incredibly obvious.
We’re in the final quarter of the NFL season, and Sunday’s games did not disappoint. The highlight was an unexpected shootout in New Orleans, but there was a lot to watch across the league, and a lot of standout performances.
There were also some underwhelming performances. Here is a list of those who fell short in Week 14 — some unexpectedly, some at a very bad time.
Referees in the Patriots-Chiefs game
The performance of the referees in Sunday’s game in Foxboro was nothing short of baffling. The clearest issue was an officiating crew costing the Patriots two touchdowns with missed calls. One came on a blown whistle to stop what would have been a defensive score, which has been a repeat problem this season. It’s disappointing seeing this continue to happen this late into the season, and the errors are consequential, too, though some would say it’s karma for the Pats.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson has been putting together an MVP-caliber season for the Seahawks this year, but he fell short of that standard on Sunday night. For the first time this season, Wilson failed to throw a touchdown in a game. He was 22/36 for 245 yards and an interception in the 28-12 loss to the Rams. Wilson was sacked five times in the game. Seattle failed to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC West and is now a wild card team.
We’re deep enough into the NFL season that we can start prognosticating about potential Super Bowl winners and be realistic about it. We have a pretty good idea of which teams are going to be in the playoffs, and which of them can seriously consider themselves contenders to win the Super Bowl. It’s the right time of year to start hitting one’s stride, and a few teams are doing just that.
Here are the top ten Super Bowl contenders as it stands late in the regular season.
10. Houston Texans
The Texans are a somewhat confusing team. They’ve beaten Kansas City on the road with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, and they came extremely close to beating the Saints in New Orleans. However, questions linger about their defense, and their oft-maligned offensive line always seems to pop up as an issue at some point during the season. That said, any team with Deshaun Watson in its ranks has a chance every time he steps on the field, so they’re worth taking seriously.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have an outstanding defense and arguably the game’s best secondary. For an 8-3 team, however, the hype around them is limited. There’s a simple reason for that: they have yet to really beat anyone good enough to prove their excellence. The 6-5 Tennessee Titans are the only team with a winning record that Buffalo has beaten, and none of the other opponents they’ve defeated have more than three wins on the season. Their next four games come against Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New England, which should go a long way toward proving whether they’re serious or not.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Questions will understandably linger over whether or not Kirk Cousins is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. He’s definitely aware of his reputation of being unable to win big games, and that’s a reputation that he will have to shed if Minnesota is going to make a deep playoff run. Still, the Vikings have a sturdy defense and weapons on offense. On paper, they have everything you’d look for from a serious contender, but their inconsistency remains a worry. Still, they’re 6-1 in their last seven, which cannot be discounted.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have, at least up until now, been unable to replicate last season’s excitement. Between injury and underperformance, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t quite been as exciting, and the offense not quite as dynamic. As they continue to get healthier, the second half of the season has the potential to be kind to the Chiefs, but the major question remains the defense. Whether that unit is good enough to fuel a playoff push could determine just how much the Chiefs are able to accomplish, but Mahomes certainly gives them a chance.
6. Green Bay Packers
With a few exceptions, Matt LaFleur’s new offense seems to produce excellent results for Green Bay, and they’ve put up some truly impressive performances. The defense is an issue, and it’s not clear how well they’ll stand up to the best offenses in the NFC. Also concerning is their performance against San Francisco in a game in which they were blown out. The 49ers are the exact kind of team the Packers are probably going to have to find their way through in the playoffs. Still, Aaron Rodgers is great, the offense is dynamic, and they’re a threat to anyone they play.
The NFL officials explained why the Houston Texans retained possession on what appeared to be a Deshaun Watson fumble late in the team’s 20-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
The Texans had the ball with just under two minutes left in the game. Deshaun Watson rushed to the right on a 2nd-and-9 play and had the ball knocked out by Colts linebacker Darius Leonard for a clear fumble.
— Bad Sports Refs (@BadSportsRefs) November 22, 2019
What wasn’t so clear was who recovered the ball. An official on the field signaled Texans ball after the pile got sorted out.
The Texans called a timeout with about 50 seconds left as they faced a 3rd-and-3 (after nearly a minute had run off the clock from the time after the previous play began). At that point, there was speculation the officials would review the play, but they did not do so. Indianapolis did not have any timeouts left and could not challenge.
The NFL’s officials Twitter account later said the Texans retained possession because there was no clear evidence of a Colts recovery.
In #INDvsHOU, officials on the field ruled a fumble recovered by the offense. There was no clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense.
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) November 22, 2019
Instead of Indy getting the ball back with about 50 seconds left down 20-17 and with no timeouts, Houston retained possession and was able to run out the clock on a huge 20-17 win that gave them the lead in the AFC South.
The Houston Texans’ defense appeared to mean business ahead of Thursday night’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Texans’ linebackers arrived to Thursday’s game against the Colts dressed in “Mortal Kombat” outfits
The @HoustonTexans LBs have arrived
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 21, 2019
You think they were ready to bring the pain?
Let’s hope for the Texans’ sake that their Mortal Kombat outfits serve them better in their game than the last time they dressed up.