McCaffrey Leads Charge, Overwhelm Texans To Steal Win

Panthers overcome 3 turnovers as Texans offense struggles to find rhythm

Shaun Bijani
September 29, 2019 - 6:59 pm

The Texans (2-2) knew coming in that the Panthers dynamic running back, Christian McCaffrey could present problems as McCaffrey has continued to show his big play ability through the first three weeks of the NFL season, did so again on Sunday helping the Panthers to a 16-10 victory over the Texans at NRG Stadium. 

McCaffrey, had a 76-yard touchdown run in a victory at Arizona last weekend and entered Sunday's game with 318 yards rushing, 3 TD's to go along with an impressive 5.4-yard average per carry. 

While the focus has been on the Texans pass rush, their run defense has not been what it has been in the past to this point of the season. In 2018, the Texans held opponents to just 84 yards per game on the ground, which was good for third in the entire league, as well as just 3.4 yards per play, good for first in the NFL. 

Entering play on Sunday, the Texans have been allowing 108 yards and 4.5 a play.

However, the Texans were able to corral the Chargers running game last weekend in a narrow victory in Los Angeles, holding Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson to a combined 62 yards on 14 carries. The defense was able to make enough plays as to not let Philip Rivers beat them through the air or on the ground in the 27-20 comeback win. 

Hoping to build off one of Bill O'Brien's best wins as Texans head coach in week 4, the Texans weren't able to find an answer for the former Stanford star as McCaffrey diced the Texans up for big plays, extended drives and helped his young quarterback, Kyle Allen, overcome three fumbles, in route to a 93-yard day on the ground on 27 carries while hauling in 10 passes for 86 yards. 

"He's a great player and give the Panthers a lot of credit. They did a better job than we did today. Just something you have to know where he is on eery play,"O'Brien said after the game. 

McCaffrey's affect on the game was certainly felt throughout, but the Texans were able to make enough plays, especially in the first half. 

Following a big third down conversion on a 3rd and 5, in which Kyle Allen escaped a pressure from Watt, finding McCaffrey for 21 yard completion. The Texans defense came up with a big play themselves as Whitney Mercilus sacked Allen for a 20 yard loss, forcing the fumble as well which was recovered by Carlos Watkins at the Panthers 46 yard line. 

Unfortunately for the Texans, they weren't able to capitalize on the play, as moments later, while they were moving the ball, gaining two consecutive first downs, got too cute as Deshaun Watson latteraled left to Hopkins who then threw across the field towards Carlos Hyde and was intercepted by the Panthers Ross Cockrell, squandering a opportunity that could've not just the complexion of the game at a time when it was just a 3-3 contest, but the outcome of the game as well. 

The Panthers, unlike the Texans, were able to capitalize on the turnover. 

After a 27-yard completion to Jarius Wright, the Panthers went back to McCaffrey for an 18 yard completion, then allowing him to punch it in for a 3 yard run and the 10-3 lead with just over a minute left in the first half. 

Asked after the game about the Texans inability to capitalize on turnovers, Bill O'Brien was short on words, but quick to the point. 

"It's not good. Not good. We've got to do a better job."

The Texans offense was never able to get into a rhythm, as allowing six sacks and missed opportunities with deep strikes down the field and just a 4-11 success rate on third-downs cost them. 

When a team has such a dynamic, play-making threat such as a Christian McCaffrey, the big play can't always be stopped, but every team will tell you that you can't let it beat you. 

While McCaffrey's biggest gain on the day was a 21-yard catch before the Panthers' Allen fumbled a play later, the star running back gashed the Texans when he needed to and hurt them through the air, slipping open long enough to move the chains, the clock and his team down the field. 

The inability fby the Texans offense to establish a rhythm, applied extra pressure to the defense to make the big play, which they seemed to do for much of the game, coming up with a number of third down stops, but that bend but don't break mantra had an expiration date Sunday afternoon, leaving the leader of the Texans defense feeling like he should've been able to do more.  

JJ Watt took the blame for the Texans 30-28 opening week loss to the Saints on Monday Night Football, and did so again Sunday afternoon. 

"I take that one all on me. If I make that play at the end, probably out of field goal range, probably we get the ball back with some time left. So, I put that 100% on me. I have to make that play. He made a great play. So, I take that," Watt said after the game. 

The Panthers converted a big time 3rd and 4 in Texans territory, as Watt was able to get to Allen, but couldn't bring him down, as Allen slipped out of Watts paws, in enough time to drop a pass to Jarius Wright for 17 yards and a first down. On the drive, the Panthers were abe to kill the clock and get another field goal to steal a game on the road for the second straight week and their second victory of the year. 

"Guy's just doing their jobs. It starts up front with the o-line, with some of those four or five yard runs, those mean a lot. Kyle (Allen) did a good job of putting the ball where it needed to be. Defense, doing an unbelievable job all game, so it was a good team win. A lot of things we need to work on, but definitely a good team win," McCaffrey said after the game.