The sad thing about this game is that more will be spoken about a horribly blown call, a terrible rule change that makes little sense, and a kick to the groin, then what a fantastically exciting matchup Thanksgiving produced.
For a long time it seemed like the Lions, inspired by Ndamukong Suh, were going to batter the Texans into submission. Only they didn’t, and with a couple of assists from the replacement refs Houston were able to finally get back into it, take it to overtime and pull off a win that arguably means more to Detroit than it does themselves.
Let’s break down some of the more noteworthy performances.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
It’s rare that the athleticism and talent of a lineman stands out the way Duane Brown’s (+8.7) did this week. I can’t personally recall a tackle ever grading that highly, and in large part it was due to his brilliant work in the run game. Sure, he gave up only one hurry on 51 pass blocking snaps, which is fantastic in and of itself, but the way Brown played was stunning for its’ dominance.
Take his block on Sammie Lee Hill with 7:57 to go in overtime. He got across the face of the defensive tackle, which in itself is impressive, and finished the block off by sending Lee Hill to the ground. That wasn’t the only time he put a defender on his backside (Q2, 13:27), nor was it the only time he wiped out a defender. He was at it all game, and it’s performances like this that make Brown our top-rated left tackle.
Watt about Smith?
You know the drill. The Texans’ defense was on the field so J.J. Watt (+8.9) had another one of his big games. Two more batted passes (he now has 12), and he added nine QB disruptions (including three sacks) rushing the passer.
It’s almost too easy (and too obvious) to tell you just how good Watt was yesterday. So instead, let’s shift a bit of praise the way of Antonio Smith (+6.1). The often overlooked Texan is one of the best in the league at getting up field, and he made life extremely hard for Rob Sims. His seven hurries were big, but unlike what we’re using to seeing from Smith, he made a couple of plays in the run game as well. He beat Dominic Raiola for a tackle for a loss with 7:42 to go in the first quarter, stood up Sims at the line with 7:55 to go in the third and went to work on the outside shoulder of Stephen Peterman for a tackle for a short gain with 13:37 to go in the first.
A fine day all round.
My Name’s Matt, and I Hate Pressure
This owes a lot to the power of the Lions’ defensive line, but despite blitzing on only three of Matt Schaubs’ (-3.2) 50 drop-backs, they generated pressure on 20 of them. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a situation Schaub is either used to or comfortable with.
With most of the pressure coming up the middle, the Texan QB seemed rattled. Twice he appeared to throw the game away, only for Kyle Vanden Bosch to prove unable to catch an intended screen pass right at him, and then for the Lions to prove unable to capitalize on a Chris Houston interception on a forced throw.
All day long Schaub had problems with his accuracy, and while he completed 60.4% of passes, that number dropped to 50% when pressured, and for just 2.8 yards per attempt. Teams will have noticed that when you get the Texans passing more, they don’t seem to strangle the life out of you anywhere near as much.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
An Enigmatic Talent
Did he kick a guy in the family jewels? Only he knows what his intention was, but the three-hit and seven-hurry day of Suh (+8.1) sure did make it seem like he had a problem with the Texan QB. Those are big pressure numbers, even coming off 45 rushes of the passer, but it was the speed at which the pressure came that was telling. Schaub averaged a time to throw of 2.54 seconds, with 32 of his drop-backs seeing him attempt a pass (or get sacked) in less than 2.5 seconds, so he was hardly holding on to the ball.
No, this was a case of Suh just being too powerful for starter Ben Jones and rotational right guard Antoine Caldwell. Look at the hit he picked up on Caldwell with 2:54 to go in the first half, and the hurry he got on Schaub with 4:32 to go in overtime. This may very well have been his best performance as a Lion.
This was the ninth time since entering the league in 2009 that Brandon Pettigrew (-4.0) has had a multiple drop game, and it’s the third one this year. For a guy who was touted as a reliable, if not spectacular, player that’s an alarming number, and indicative of the kind of liability he has been.
But not content with two dropped passes, he also managed to fumble in overtime and, while a missed field goal meant we didn’t hang the loss on him, it makes it no less a frustration (especially as that was his fourth fumble of the year). It’s a shame, as there was some decent run blocking from Pettigrew on show and he did pick up three first downs. But once you factor in an illegal block below the waist penalty this was a horror show, and the former first-round pick needs to take his share of the blame.
If you watched Matthew Stafford (+4.4) against Green Bay you’ll know he wasn’t very good. To put it kindly. But he showed what he’s made of by bouncing back in impressive form with one of his better displays of the year. Challenging the Texans all over the field, he overcame four dropped passes (and three batted ones) to go 13 of 26 on passes over 10 yards in the air, as he put Detroit in position to win the game on more than one occasion. This is one of those times where the stats really don’t tell you which quarterback played better.
— Now that’s he taken his tally of batted passes to 12, J.J. Watt officially has the record for most ever in a season, after going three weeks without one.
— While Ndamukong Suh got 10 quarterback disruptions, the rest of the defense managed only 11 between them, with Kyle Vanden Bosch the only member of the line not to register a single pressure.
— A total of 63.7% of Matthew Staffords’ yards came in the air.
In getting the (unverified) highest grade we’ve ever given to a left tackle, how could I not give kudos to Duane Brown?
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled