ReFo: Texans @ 49ers, Week 5
Two teams that were preseason Super Bowl contenders met in San Francisco having both suffered setbacks of one kind or other so far this season. The 49ers were derailed by a couple of very good teams, while Houston has been trying to work out how to stop Matt Schaub throwing scores for opposing defenses.
This game marked the fourth consecutive time Schaub has thrown a pick-six, and he was fortunate to escape without more than one of them, such was his basic inability to read coverages on the outside. JJ Watt began quietly enough but was in full-on freak mode by the half, and yet he could barely put a dent in the 49ers’ dominance without getting much help from elsewhere.
San Francisco again righted the ship against questionable opposition and now need to prove they can do it against better sides.
Houston — Three Performances of Note
During the broadcast, Cris Collinsworth was making a big deal about Schaub being the Texans’ best chance of winning, and while T.J. Yates may be a good backup, can you really win a Super Bowl with him? Perhaps not, but right now Schaub isn’t just giving the Texans a poor chance to win, he’s actively spotting the opposition a touchdown a game. What’s even more frightening is the way in which they are coming. He’s not being the victim of bad luck, or exceptional plays from defensive backs – he is misreading simple coverages that you expect rookies to get right and simply mailing them the ball on a platter. Yates may have a lower ceiling, and he may not be good enough to win a Super Bowl, but neither is Matt Schaub right now, and he has played more than poorly enough to warrant being benched.
Watt Is He On?
JJ Watt didn’t have a sack in this game. The Texans were blown out and the 49ers put up 34 points. I say that because there are people that will look at those things alone and try to tell you Watt was not at his freakish best. Ignore those people. Watt may not have earned a sack, but he knocked Kaepernick down twice, hurried him another two times, and had other plays where he beat his man but the ball was away before he could produce pressure. That’s before you get to his work in the run game, which may have been even better. Watt ended up with a +7.2 grade for the game, putting his season mark at a ludicrous +35.1, and on pace to better last season’s grade, which practically broke the scale.
The Zone Scheme
Anybody that wants to know why defenders hate zone schemes and, more accurately, the cut blocks that most zone schemes employ should just watch Wade Smith in this game. Smith earned his +2.2 grade largely through launching himself with perfect precision at the knees of 49ers defensive linemen and linebackers. It’s a technique that is perfectly understandably on every defender’s hate list, but it’s also devastatingly effective, which is why they do it. Smith was able to open up huge cutback lanes or gaping holes at the point of attack by taking out defenders with regularity in this game. They might not like it, but they struggled to stop it in this game.
San Francisco — Three Performances of Note
Two Sides of the Line
The grades for the O-line of the 49ers in this game could simply be divided into ‘those that regularly faced JJ Watt’ and ‘those that did not’. While Joe Staley (+3.7) was able to avoid him for most of the game, RT Anthony Davis on the other side (-2.8) was not so fortunate. Davis did only give up a single pressure, but he was manhandled by Watt on several occasions in the run game, which takes some doing for a player who usually excels in that area. Staley, with his reprieve, was able to more or less have his way with the Texans’ defenders, dominating with his blocks to set the edge and getting down field making his presence felt
It’s easy to just blame the Houston offense and Schaub’s current funk, but Tramaine Brock did bait Schaub into those throws by squatting on his receiver and breaking on the ball. OK, most quarterbacks would never have put the ball in the air, but let’s praise the defensive back too, as the trio was facing a formidable pairing of Texans wide outs and held up well. Brock, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers all graded firmly in the green and gave up just 62 yards between them on 14 targets. Brown may not have had the picks of Brock, but he was thrown at three more times and allowed 7 fewer yards. He limited Andre Johnson to just 25 receiving yards on five targets into his coverage.
WRs Needed, Send Help
How desperate are the 49ers for wide receiver help? While Anquan Boldin has been thrown at 40 times and notched 26 catches so far this year, they don’t have another WR in double-digits when it comes to receptions. After Kyle Williams, the next best WR in terms of targets has seen only four passes thrown his way, two of them in this game. Colin Kaepernick has not been throwing the ball accurately, but this is as bad a receiving corps as the NFL has seen in some time. Boldin is a master at making catches despite never getting open, but that means Kaepernick is looking at an entire corps unable to get open, and settling for throwing it in the direction of Boldin and hoping he makes the play.
– Schaub attempted 35 passes, threw three interceptions, including a pick-six. He had another interception dropped and was only a clean catch away from one of the others becoming a second interception going back for a score.
– Watt had four tackles. Every one was a defensive stop. Every one was a TFL.
– Kaepernick attempted just two passes to his left outside the numbers, less than one-third of the number he threw to the right.
PFF Game Ball
It took a lot of doing to not give this to JJ Watt despite being on the end of a real thumping, he was that good, but the CB duo of Tarrell Brown and Tramaine Brock split the award for making Matt Schaub’s day a nightmare.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam