ReFo: Texans @ Browns, Week 11
The battle of Tom Brady’s backups was won by the most recent understudy, though in truth it owed more to Ryan Mallett simply keeping his head above water. Neither of the two passers graded positively and this game was far more about the running game and defense on both sides.
As ever, J.J. Watt was a force, and instrumental in seemingly every big play in the game. Watt forced fumbles, recovered them, was flagged twice for extending Cleveland drives by running into the kicker and even scored a receiving touchdown.
But let’s see the players that stood out who weren’t named Watt:
Houston Texans – Performances of Note
Johnathan Joseph, CB: +4.3
Breakdown: When healthy, Johnathan Joseph is legitimately one of the best corners in the NFL, but the injury big strikes often enough that it’s often forgotten. He was a true shutdown force in this game, stifling the Cleveland passing attack.
Signature Stat: Thrown at seven times, Joseph allowed just one catch for zero yards, breaking up two of those passes.
Chris Myers, C: +4.0
Breakdown: Myers is another player who at his best is as good as anybody, but hits those highs less regularly than he used to. This game was him at his controlling best, quick to the second level and gaining the better of his man on the nose all day long.
Signature Play: Q2, 7:11. In case you were reading the above and wondering “What about the play where he snapped the ball clean over his QB’s head??” – To grade that well despite that play shows how impressive his run blocking was.
Alfred Blue, RB: +1.6
Breakdown: I wanted to find a negative to show here, but the truth is there was no awful performance. A couple of players graded in the red, but it would be a shame to ignore Blue’s day for those. Blue was the fulcrum about which the Houston offense pivoted in this game, churning through hard yardage and gaining good ground every carry.
Signature Stat: A total of 88 of Blue’s 156 yards came after first contact.
Cleveland Browns – Performances of Note
Brian Hoyer, QB: -5.6
Breakdown: For the Browns to succeed on offense this year they don’t even need Hoyer to be very good, they just need him to be better than disastrous and avoid actively putting the ball in harm’s way. He couldn’t do that in this game, throwing one pick, but flirting with several more over the course of the game.
Signature Play: Q2, 14:29. This is the play the Browns’ offense has been riding on all season. Deep play action shots. However, Hoyer needs to be able to read when they’re well covered and not just airmail the ball to defenders anyway. The crowd audibly groaned when this ball went in the air.
Joe Thomas, LT: +3.8
Breakdown: Joe Thomas allowed a pressure in this game. If he’s not careful he’ll be in double-digits by the end of the season. He was pass protecting for 52 snaps and facing J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney for much of that, and still was a picture of blind side blocking dominance.
Signature Play: Q3, 0:36. The pressure Thomas surrendered was to J.J. Watt, and it was a pretty marginal one. As if to make the point that one does not simply pressure the QB when Thomas is around, when Watt turned to give chase to the QB, Thomas decked him with a shot now that he had his leverage back.
Paul Kruger, OLB: +0.3
Breakdown: OK, so the Texans weren’t passing a whole lot, but the Browns’ defense combined for just three hurries in the game. Three hurries from 143 total pass rushing snaps between them. Nobody rushed the passer more than Kruger did, and to his credit he at least managed one of those three hurries, but that’s far from enough.
Signature Stat: Kruger generated one hurry from his 25 pass rushing snaps. At that rate he’d need to play around two full seasons to match the 67 total pressures J.J. Watt has already amassed this season.
PFF Game Ball
I’m tempted to give the game ball to Alfred Blue for the workload he was given, but in truth it belongs to J.J. Watt (+4.9). He made a couple of bad mistakes on special teams, but more than made up for them with the game-changing plays he made on both sides of the ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam