ReFo: Seahawks @ Texans, Week 4
The Seahawks came from behind to win in OT against Houston. Which performance were good signs for the coming weeks and which weren't as much?
ReFo: Seahawks @ Texans, Week 4
A week after the disappointment of a loss to the defending Super Bowl champions the Houston Texans got an immediate shot at redemption with another chance at a statement victory. Having been ahead on the scoreboard for much of the game they again came up just short in overtime and again questions will be raised about just how far Matt Schaub can take them.
This was a close overtime loss for the Texans who got some big defensive performances but in order to take the next step as a team they need to come out on the right side of these close score lines in big games, not the wrong side of them. For all of their careful building and scrapping to slow the Seahawks’ offense their own offense didn’t do enough to put the game away and even took the chance to protect the lead in the final two minutes away. This will be a galling defeat against a fellow playoff team, but opportunity knocks for them again next week with their visit to San Francisco on Sunday Night Football. Will it be third time’s the charm for the Texans?
For the Seahawks this was far from a vintage display again on offense, but their defense put the brakes on the Houston offense in the second half and Richard Sherman came up with the pivotal play to send the game to overtime. At some point you have to worry about the offense failing to find its feet and show the kind of displays we saw down the stretch last season, but while they continue to win without their best offensive form, the Seahawks are buying themselves time to find that form and make it count if and when they do.
Seattle – Three Performances of Note
Destructive off the edge
The Seahawks brought into this game three of their four top outside pass rushers and got big games from them. Before he left the game due to injury (thankfully not serious on according to current reports) Michael Bennett had registered five pressures (3 Ht, 2 Hu) on 20 pass rushes, both from the edge and working inside against Brandon Brooks for a hit and a hurry. Working with him to harry Schaub was Cliff Avril with Chris Clemons working off the bench. They combined to rack up 13 pressures (2 Sk, 3 Ht, 8 Hu) on 89 pass rushes. Avril added a batted pass to his six pressures beating Texans’ RT Derek Newton for each of his pressures (including one hit nullified by a penalty) while his sack came as a clean up when Schaub was flushed out to the right of the pocket. Clemons meanwhile, in his second game back this season, worked from both sides beating both Ryan Harris and Newton inside and outside for pressures. These three were the driving force behind Schaub facing pressure on 24 of his 54 dropbacks. Assuming Bennett can return swiftly and with the imminent return of Irvin the only trouble the Seahawks will have is trying to juggle all these pass rushers and get them the opportunities they need.
Struggles up front
While their pass rushers were bringing the heat to Matt Schaub, the Seahawks pass protectors were struggling to keep the heat off of their own quarterback. Only Lemuel Jeanpierre at center didn’t allow any pressure in the game with the rest of the line yielding at least three pressures apiece and both James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan surrendering multiple sacks. Only a month into the season the Seahawks only had one lineman starting in the same spot as Week 1 (J.R. Sweezy at right guard) and the unit was found wanting against a defensive front led by J.J. Watt. McQuistan’s struggles at left tackle continued surrendering a season high seven pressures (2 Sk, 1 Ht, 4 Hu) failing to get to grips with Whitney Mercilus on Russell Wilson’s blindside. Opposite him rookie RT Michael Bowie making his first career start was beaten inside, outside and via bullrush by Watt in a rough outing after getting off to a smooth start against the Jaguars at home last week. Next to him Sweezy also had his hands full with Watt struggling in both run and pass game.
Mebane continues to build
After a so-so opener against the Panthers, Brandon Mebane’s form has been building over the last two weeks and he made his mark against Chris Myers and the Texans this week. His +5.6 run defense grade marks his highest single game grade since opening day last season and is built as much from his work controlling blockers and re-directing runs as it is from shedding those blocks to take down the ball carrier himself. In the first half he worked almost exclusively against the Texans’ guards sliding inside of their blocks picking up three of his four defensive stops in the first quarter. In the second half, when the Seahawks clamped down on the Houston offense, he worked almost exclusively against Myers riding him back and re-directing Arian Foster in the backfield. In the first half Myers was extremely effective climbing to the second level to get on Seahawks’ MLB Bobby Wagner but with Mebane playing over him in the second half the Texans lost their best second level blocker. In form like this there are few better run defending defensive tackles than Mebane.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
All about that play
Sometimes it’s really rough being a quarterback, but the harsh reality for Matt Schaub is that he will be judged in this game based on that one play which sent the game to overtime. For as solid as he was for much of the game in the face of heavy pressure, a bad decision to make a bad throw under heavy pressure that went back for six points defined this game. The Texans were being aggressive having picked up 17 yards on four carries to start the drive, they were passing for the first on 3rd-and-4, Schaub had a chance to pick up a key conversion late in the play. Instead he got caught in the perfect defensive play call for the play the Texans had called with Kam Chancellor blitzing directly at Schaub’s rollout as he turned. In that split second he panicked, forced out a lame duck throw which Richard Sherman grabbed in front of Owen Daniels to run in for the tying score. Forgotten because of that play are the early touchdown throw to Garrett Graham looking off the safety and putting the ball over top of the linebacker for a 31 yard score. Forgotten is the hook up with Owen Daniels on a corner route to set up his TD pass to Arian Foster. With the increasing pressure that Schaub is coming under he will be continue to be judged by these defining plays and he may be running out of opportunities to get it right; does another opportunity await in San Francisco on Sunday night?
Mercilus and Watt bring the heat
After Brian Cushing left the game due to a concussion the driving force of the Texans defense came through J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. I’ve run out of superlatives for Watt, he was again exemplary with nine more pressures (1 Sk, 2 Ht, 6 Hu) and three more stops outside of his sack. He was unstoppable, but I don’t know how to say it differently than has already been said so I’ll focus on Mercilus this week. This could be a breakout performance for last year’s first-round pick notching up nine pressures to match Watt, racking up three sacks from a favorable matchup against McQuistan and Carpenter in the passing game. Encouragingly from a young pass rusher this wasn’t all about speed either, only one of his sacks came to the outside of McQuistan, doing most of his work through the inside shoulder. Mercilus struggled to make an impact moving into the starting lineup late last season; the Texans will hope this is the sign of real strides over the next month of the season.
Right side struggles
In both run and pass game the Texans got very little change out of their right guard and right tackle. Both Brandon Brooks (-4.2) and Derek Newton (-4.4) let up seven pressures in pass protection and struggled to make their mark in the ground game. Newton as we’ve already discussed got run ragged by Avril principally while Brooks let up his pressure to five different pass rushers if you include one hurry from Clinton McDonald nullified by a penalty. As concerning as the pass protection will have been in this game, and this is becoming a worrying trend for Newton, the lack of impact as run blockers will perhaps have been most frustrating. The Texans are a team that pride themselves as a run first team and in a game where they held the lead until so close to the end they averaged less than three yards per carry on 11 rushes wider than right guard. Brooks started the season extremely well as a run blocker (+4.7 after two weeks) but has struggled to replicate that form in the last two weeks while Newton slid back down to earth after a stronger display as a run blocker in Baltimore last week.
– In spite of playing only 26 snaps Brian Cushing registered six defensive stops; a mark so far bettered by only three inside linebackers who played in excess of 70 snaps.
– Compare that to Darryl Sharpton, who helped to replace him, who missed three tackles en route to a -5.0 overall grade on 44 snaps.
– Last season against the blitz Russell Wilson averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 101.6; against the Texans yesterday he went 7-of-16 for 66 yards (4.1yds/att) with an interception and a 29.7 passer rating.
PFF Game Ball
You couldn’t go wrong picking any number of the defensive stand outs in this game from either side but I’ll go for Brandon Mebane’s impact in run defense in different ways in both halves as the standout performer in this game.
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.