John McClain's takeaways from Texans 27, Chargers 20
Here are five takeaways from the Texans' 27-20 victory over the Chargers on Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park:Watson makes big plays down the field
In the 13-12 victory over Jacksonville a week ago, quarterback Deshaun Watson had trouble locating receivers down the field. No receiver had a reception of at least 30 yards. DeAndre Hopkins' longest catch was 14 yards, Will Fuller 28 and Kenny Stills 21. Coach Bill O'Brien credited the Jaguars' defense, particularly their three-deep coverage.
Against the Chargers, Watson took advantage of coverages they were playing. With O'Brien calling the plays, four receivers - tight end Jordan Akins (53), Stills (38) Hopkins (34) and Fuller (30) -- had catches of at least 30 yards. Watson finished 25-of-34 for 351 yards, three touchdowns and a 135.8 rating.Pass protection continues to improve
Bill O'Brien made two more changes in the offensive line, moving left guard Tytus Howard to right tackle and inserting Max Scharping at left guard. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, center Nick Martin and right guard Zach Fulton remained in the lineup. Even though they've tinkered with the lineup and haven't put the same five on the field, the pass protection improved, but the run blocking was poor.
Watson was sacked a season-low two times. The Chargers' best pass rushers, defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III, were neutralized. Bosa contributed one-half sack. Ingram was shut out.
As the linemen spend more time playing together, developing chemistry and stability and learning to communicate on the field, the pass blocking will continue to get better. But they need to work on the run blocking. The Texans had 39 yards rushing against the Chargers and averaged 2.1 yards a carry. Carlos Hyde had 19 yards on 10 carries and Duke Johnson 2 yards on two carries.Mercilus continues torrid start
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus continues to capitalize on the Jadeveon Clowney trade. Playing in his natural spot on the right side and mostly rushing from the weak side, Mercilus had another strip sack to go with two tackles for loss. He now has four sacks. He has two forced fumbles and an interception.
Each of Mercilus' three turnovers has led to a touchdown. Against the Chargers, he sacked Philip Rivers with 3:43 left in the third quarter. Zach Cunningham recovered at the Texans' 27. Not only did Mercilus prevent the Chargers from possibly scoring, but the Texans took advantage when Watson threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Akins to give them a 21-17 lead for the first time.
Asked to describe the Chargers' last series in which they ran out of downs with 11 seconds left, Mercilus said, "Exhausting."
On the last Rivers incompletion on fourth down, he was asked what he was thinking.
"Don't do anything out of the ordinary," Mercilus said. "Don't try to do too much. Just do your job."Watt terrorizes Rivers
Just like he did last year, J.J. Watt got his first sacks in the third game of the season. In 2018, Watt was shut out until the third game and finished with 16, second in the NFL.
Against the Chargers, Watt sacked Rivers twice. He knocked down Rivers five times. He had two tackles for loss and five tackles overall. Watt inspired nose tackle D.J. Reader, who was a force on the pass rush. Reader had 1 ½ sacks, one tackle for loss, and he knocked down Rivers three times. The Texans finished with five sacks, nine tackles for loss and 12 hits on Rivers in their best pass-rush performance in three games.
"They come in bunches when they come," Watt said about the sacks. "I knew it was just a matter of time. Today was a good day. We had guys all over the field making unbelievable plays. We had guys flying all over the place."
Watt praised his good buddy, Reader.
"D.J. is one of the most underrated players in the league," he said. "He made some great plays."A satisfying homecoming for Addae
First-year safety Jahleel Addae played his first six seasons with the Chargers, including the last two in Carson, Calif. He came off the bench to make two tackles and contributed to a strong run defense.
On the Chargers' last play, a Rivers incompletion with 11 seconds left, Addae celebrated too much and drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Watson took a knee on the next play.
"It means everything," Addae said about the victory over his former team. "I have much love for that organization because they gave me a chance. Those are my brothers over there. I hugged them before the game. It's special to get a win against your old team. I wish them nothing but the best. I think we could see them again in the playoffs."
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