DeAndre Hopkins caught 6 passes for 119 yards in the Texans’ pivotal win over the Titans on Sunday. 4 receptions and 98 yards came on Houston’s two scoring drives that basically won the game in the 4th quarter. However, it was Hopkins’ influence when he didn’t have the ball that may have played the biggest role in Sunday’s outcome.
The below play was Houston’s first touchdown of the game. The Titans were playing man-free coverage. You can see Hopkins was aligned as the #2 in the slot. The Titans ended up dedicating two defenders to him – the cornerback over him (Tramaine Brock) and the deep safety in the middle of the field (Kevin Byard).
This gave Kenny Stills, aligned inside of Hopkins, a true 1-on-1 matchup against cornerback Logan Ryan. Stills had room to run across the field, enabling him to create just enough separation against Ryan, and there was no safety to provide help over the top.
Watson dropped that ball in the bucket, didn’t he?
You can see from the end zone angle that Byard (#31) initially looked inside and saw Stills. Despite the fact that Stills was running a deep-over route right in front of him, Byard still looked and moved to his right to help out on Hopkins. Watson also did a great job of holding Byard by looking in Hopkins’ direction initially.
This touchdown was an example of the DeAndre Hopkins factor, and it wasn’t the only time he was able to make an impact without touching the ball on Sunday. In fact, we saw the Titans dedicate multiple defenders to Hopkins on several plays throughout the afternoon (including Houston’s 2nd TD of the game). Texans receivers often had 1-on-1 situations elsewhere. Deshaun Watson was able to take advantage, and Houston now has firm control of the AFC South as a result.
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