It’s hard to believe the Texans have already doubled last season’s victory total. They’ve passed just about every test imaginable to go 6-4 and pull within one game of first place in the AFC South going into the next game against Jacksonville at NRG Stadium.
As DeMeco Ryans likes to say, it’s easier to teach lessons after victories. There are lessons to be learned from this victory, beginning with failures to score touchdowns in the red zone. Another lesson is to keep a foot on the opponent’s throat for four quarters and not just two.
C.J. Stroud threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 73 percent of his passes. He led the Texans to three touchdowns in the first half.
But he also threw three interceptions, including two in the second half. He increased his number of interceptions to five for the season. He’s had six turnovers, including four interceptions, in his last two games. He had three in his first eight games.
Devin Singletary did a terrific job for the second game in a row. He carried 22 times for 112 yards, a 5.1 average, and a touchdown. His longest run was 21 yards. In the second half, the offense couldn’t generate any consistency on the ground or in the air.
After carrying 16 times for 84 yards in the first half – putting him on a pace to beat career highs a week ago with 30 for 150 – he ran for only 28 yards on six carries in the second half.
Rookie Tank Dell caught eight passes on nine targets for 149 yards and a touchdown. His 40-yard touchdown reception from C.J. Stroud was a thing of beauty.
Dell got behind cornerback Marco Wilson and made a leaping catch in the end zone before jumping into the stands with the fans.
His sixth touchdown catch breaks the team record for rookies he shared with former tight end Owen Daniels in 2006.
With Noah Brown out, Nico Collins returned from a one-game absence and was targeted 11 times by Stroud, catching seven for 65 yards.
Robert Woods, who excels on third down, finished with five receptions for 44 yards.
Dalton Schultz, who’s turned into an excellent blocker, was targeted only three times. He caught two passes for 32 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown.
On his touchdown, Schultz worked the middle of the field and made a sliding catch into the end zone to tie the score 7-7 in the first quarter.
Stroud threw it low so the sure-handed Schultz would be the only player on the field with a chance to catch it.
C.J. Stroud threw 37 passes, and he was sacked three times, including one on a blitz up the middle. Overall, Stroud was given splendid protection, especially in the first half.
The run blocking was terrific in the first half. The five players who’ve provided stability up front – tackles Laremy Tunsil and George Fant, guards Shaq Mason and Tytus Howard and center Michael Deiter – have improved as the season has progressed.
Will Anderson Jr. was a terror playing against Kyler Murray. Anderson was in one four tackles, but he pressured Murray seven times, recorded one sack, two tackles for loss and two knockdowns.
On the Cardinals’ last desperation play on fourth down, Anderson drilled Murray as he threw deep, allowing Steven Nelson time to deflect the deep pass.
Jonathan Greenard got pressure on Murray and had a tackle for loss. Maliek Collins and Sheldon Rankins played the run well. Arizona’s running backs had 72 yards rushing.
Blake Cashman has been outstanding this season, and Sunday was another good example. He was in on 19 tackles, including 13 unassisted. He recorded a sack and knocked down Kyler Murray two more times. He also batted away a pass.
Christian Harris continued to play well. He had five unassisted tackles, including one for loss, and knocked down two passes. He excelled in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Texans were missing three linebackers, and Cashman and Harris were exceptional.
In his second game since returning from a hamstring injury, Derek Stingley Jr. was terrific. He had a great interception in the second quarter. He contributed six tackles and knocked down two passes.
Stingley and Tavierre Thomas combined for a clutch fourth down stop in the fourth quarter. The secondary made a lot of big plays, including against the run.
Another solid performance by Frank Ross’ special teams, although Matt Ammendola missed a 48-yard field goal.
Cam Johnston punted only two times. He averaged 47 yards, including a 45.5-yard gross, with one inside the 20.
Receiver Steven Sims, promoted from the practice squad, averaged 8 yards on punt returns.
The Texans allowed only 1.5 yards on punt returns. The punt coverage team was credited with a fumble recovery when Ka’dar Hollman alertly fell on a muffed return.
This game was another test for DeMeco Ryans to see if he could keep his players from overlooking the Cardinals after their victory at Cincinnati and with Jacksonville coming to NRG Stadium.
Ryans and his coaches passed the test. They had the players ready to play. The Texans scored three touchdowns in the first half and could have scored two more if they hadn’t run out of downs and C.J. Stroud hadn’t suffered the first of three interceptions.
The next test for Ryans and his staff: The biggest game in Houston since the 2019 playoffs.
John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on SportsRadio 610 and Monday, Thursday and Sunday on Texans Radio, also on SportsRadio 610. He writes five columns a week and does three Houtopia Football Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com.