Texans Use Versatile Run Game to Beat Chiefs

For the second straight week, the Chiefs were beaten by a team that was able to run the ball successfully and keep their offense off the field. Removing the two Deshaun Watson kneels at the end of the game, the Texans only lost yards on 2 of 79 plays. Watson also wasn’t sacked once. You never go broke by taking a profit, and that’s exactly what Houston did all afternoon, taking positive play after positive play. They finished with 192 rushing yards and possessed the ball for nearly 40 minutes when it was all said and done.

The Texans’ success on the ground wasn’t necessarily due to lots of huge plays. Instead, it was that they consistently moved the ball, gaining 4 yards or more on 21 of their 39 rushing attempts. This helped keep them in manageable situations.

Houston’s approach on the ground was largely based on their power and zone concepts. Each of these runs were dressed up in various ways and included different wrinkles. They were able to put the ball in Deshaun Watson’s hands off of these plays as well, allowing him to use his arm and legs to march the Texans down the field.

On the below play, keep your eye on tight end, Darren Fells. The Texans had already established that they like to use split flow run action on their inside zone runs by having the tight end cross the formation at the snap and throw a kick-out block on the backside.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Here, though, Fells wasn’t blocking. He would actually release into the flat as Watson kept the ball off of a play fake. The result was an easy 15-yard completion.

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Later in the game, the Texans ran an inside zone with tight end Darren Fells once again moving across the formation at the snap.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

The Texans also added pre-snap motion by wide receiver Keke Coutee.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Both of these served to hold the backside defensive end, who wasn’t sure if he was going to be taking on a kick-out block or defending another play-action pass. Not only was he held, the two circled safeties were also influenced by the motion, following Fells and Coutee across the field.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

This time, Watson handed the ball off to Carlos Hyde, who scampered through a huge running lane for 26 yards.

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The Texans executed a similar series of plays off of their power-run concepts as well. The below play was a power to the right side, with left guard Max Scharping (#74) pulling.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

This 9-yard gain was set up by the double-team of right tackle Roderick Johnson (#63) and right guard Zach Fulton (#73) on defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (#91). Tight end Darren Fells (#87) also did a good job of sealing off the edge against his man.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

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On this next power run, the Texans mixed in motion with wide receiver Will Fuller. Watch how the threat of Fuller receiving the hand off held defensive end Alex Okafor, enabling the pulling guard to get a good angle on his block and kick him out.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

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15 yards and a first down, set up again by motion that influenced defenders.

Several times, the Texans also ran power with a read-option element for Deshaun Watson. On the final drive of the game, he picked up a key 10 yards in Chiefs territory. This time, the Texans pulled with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, something they mixed in multiple times throughout the afternoon to give K.C. different looks.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

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The look of a power run gets linebackers to react hard. Generally, when guards and tackles pull they are pulling to the side of the run. Linebackers respond by following the pulling action and attacking the line of scrimmage. This often makes play-action and misdirection off of these looks more effective. Here, it got Deshaun Watson isolated in space against a defensive end. Advantage Houston.

While the Texans mostly featured power and inside zone variations, they also used a similar approach on a few outside-zone runs with play-action successfully executed off of it. Bill O’Brien did a great job of dressing up the same plays in different ways on Sunday. He also did a great job of building off of previous play calls. The result was an off-balanced Chiefs Defense and some advantageous blocking angles in the running game for the Texans.

Deshaun Watson’s stat line might not show it, but he was on the money throwing the ball against Kansas City. His numbers would have been bigger if not for 2 (maybe 3) dropped touchdowns by Will Fuller. The most impressive aspect of his performance, though, was his ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately into tight but not dangerous windows. He was able to stay upright and keep the offense on schedule all afternoon. This is an area of Watson’s game that has needed improvement. He answered the bell on Sunday with a quick pace and good tempo throwing the ball.

Watson is a talented quarterback who can makes big plays in every game. But if he can keep the offense on schedule in between those big plays, he will quickly find himself among the elites in the NFL.

Overall, the Texans Offense is as well-rounded as any in the NFL. They will be a difficult team to stop in 2019.

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