A lot of talk around Houston Texans camp this year was about the infusion of the young blood on the roster. Whitney Mercilus is a full-time starter now and a lot of expectations have been placed on DeAndre Hopkins. But in their week 1 comeback victory in San Diego, it was the veterans that came up big when their number was called.
Facing a 28-7 third quarter deficit and a defense that appeared to have completely quit on the game, Matt Schaub began dealing and did not relent for the remainder of the contest en route to a 346 yard, three touchdown game that saw him put the team on his back and carry them to eventual victory.
Helping Schaub on this quest was his right hand, the ageless Andre Johnson. Go ahead, I dare you to call him old. That’s pretty much all we hear anymore is how his decline is inevitable and he can’t keep up this pace. Yet Johnson had another big time game in which he was targeted 16 times and pulled in 12 of them for 146 yards and several third down, drive extending plays.
Owen Daniels also got into the act with a pair of scores and 67 yards on five catches. With both Daniels and Johnson having younger counterparts behind them in the depth chart, they put on their big boy pants and showed the kids how it’s done in a thrilling comeback that was the biggest in franchise history.
The vets got in the act on the defensive side of the ball as well, as Johnathan Joseph turned his game around in the second half with some key breakups. He gave up one big play on a perfectly thrown ball, but that’s just going to happen sometimes. Earl Mitchell also had a key defensive play that kept the momentum in the Texans’ favor.
With the defense putting the clamps down on the San Diego offense, after a screen pass to Ryan Mathews looked like a big play, Mitchell chased him down from behind and killed the would be first down. Little plays like that are what makes a guy like Mitchell so valuable to the team’s success this season.
But the biggest defensive play would be the one by Brian Cushing. After Houston had cut it to one score, Phillip Rivers tried to sneak one in and Cushing made one of the most athletic plays I’ve ever seen from a linebacker that resulted in a diving interception that he got up and returned for the game tying touchdown.
Having a questionable performance in the game up to that point, it is plays like that one that make it easy to see why Houston gave him his recent contract extension. A lot of nerves were involved in his return and anything mental about his season-ending injury should be gone from his head after that play.
Finally, folks don’t like to give a lot of credit to a punter, but said Cushing pick six most likely doesn’t happen if Shane Lechler doesn’t pin the Chargers deep in their own territory with an outstanding kick. Any concerns about the old man’s leg were surely put to rest in his regular season Texans debut.
While some of the young guys had some big plays, like DeAndre Hopkins‘ long catch on third down late, it was the veterans who carried the Texans to an incredible comeback in week 1. With these guys to learn from, expect the next generation to be just as solid, even if it isn’t any time soon.