What We Saw: Week 5

Alvin Kamara looked like the Alvin Kamara we all know and love

Patriots @ Texans

Final Score: Patriots 25, Texans 22

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

 

The Houston Texans showed up to play in this one. For much of the first three-quarters of this game, Houston looked like a team destined to win. Davis Mills drove them down the field on their first drive of the game, capping an 18 play, 79-yard drive with a touchdown pass that chewed up 10:06 off the clock before Mac Jones and the New England offense even touched the ball. New England bounced back with a score of their own before Mills once again led the Texans down the field for their second touchdown in as many drives. The back and forth momentum stopped when Damien Harris fumbled the ball at the six-inch line, giving up a prime opportunity to take the lead midway through the second quarter. For much of the game after that, it was all Houston.

However, special teams both lost this game and won it. Ka’imi Fairbairn missed two extra points, a 56-yard field goal attempt, and kicked a ball out of bounds on a kickoff. The Texans also made a very strange decision, on fourth and two while up 13 points, to run a trick play of sorts that resulted in a punt getting blocked by one of their own players.

 

 

Houston will be second-guessing this play for two reasons; First, there’s a reason why punters line up 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and second, they were 3-3 on 4th down attempts in the first half and probably could have converted here had they gone for it. New England’s defense was in full bend-but-don’t-break mode for most of the game, but they broke enough in important spots that Houston should have had enough confidence to push it more often.

I said that special teams both lost this game and won it, and Nick Folk is the man who won it. Despite missing an extra point of his own, he drilled two 52 yard field goals and then his third firld goal was the clincher. All in all, this was a much closer game than many anticipated and there were some fantasy implications that resulted and will likely linger for weeks to come.

 

 

New England Patriots

 

Quarterback

 

Mac Jones: 23/30, 231 yards, TD, INT, sack | 1 carry, 3 yards

 

New England was without four (yes, four) of their starting OL this week and heading into the game I thought it would mean bad news for Mac Jones and company. There were some situations where it was clear and obvious that the backups were in there, but for the most part, Mac Jones was on his feet the entire game. Being sacked only once behind a patchwork OL is certainly a shock, and he had time to throw pretty much all day long. We know what Jones is at this point in his career – dink and dunk, short, high efficiency throws. We saw more of that today, but the defense gave him plenty of looks over the middle of the field. The play-action fakes were working all day as well, and Mac had no problem finding an open receiver any time he ran the play-fake. I don’t have the exact stat, but from my memory he had more long chunk plays of 15+ yards this week than he’s had the rest of the season.

 

 

He also had a beautiful throw to Jakobi Meyers late in the 2nd half that would have gone for 30+ yards had Meyers not flat out dropped it.

 

 

Mac’s touchdown throw was also a thing of beauty, putting just enough air on it and locating it in a spot that only the receiver could get to it.

 

 

The interception was a poor throw under pressure on second down that I’m sure he wishes he could have back.

 

 

He also nearly threw a second INT later in the game but it was flat out dropped by the defender. It is still painfully obvious at times that Mac is still a rookie and learning to play in a league of professionals, but it seems like he’s picked it up better than any of the other rookie QBs.

 

Running Backs

 

Damien Harris: 14 carries, 58 yards, TD, Fumble (Lost)

Brandon Bolden: 2 carries, 25 yards | 4 targets, 4 receptions, 6 yards

Rhamondre Stevenson: 11 carries, 23 yards

 

Damien Harris looked good in this one until he didn’t. He looked dynamic with the ball in his hands on each of the Patriots’ first two drives, scoring a touchdown out of the Wildcat on their first drive and getting an opportunity to score a second one on their next. Unfortunately, he put that carry on the ground at the one-inch line just before the ball broke the plane.

 

 

It was initially ruled a touchdown on the field but overturned on replay. None of the replays looked definitive to me so I’m not entirely sure why it was overturned, but I’m also just a salty Patriots fan who also had Damien Harris starting in a few lineups. Either way, this play was a huge momentum shift in the game as it gave Houston some energy and they maintained the momentum through the rest of the first half and deep into the third quarter. Harris also wasn’t the same after this – he got benched for a bit in favor of Brandon Bolden and Rhamondre Stevenson, but he found his way back into the lineup when the offense needed a spark. He was shown walking back to the locker room in the 3rd quarter and the broadcast mentioned he was questionable to return with a chest injury. Soon after, however, he returned for a few plays before ultimately going down after a short run and he looked to be in a lot of pain. He walked back to the locker room very gingerly and it was said that he was leaving the game with a rib injury. It looked bad, and my guess will be that he will miss some time.

That brings us to Bolden and Stevenson, both of whom would likely share the load in the event that Harris misses some time. Bolden is a special team specialist who is nothing flashy but should prioritize ball security. He had one very nice run on Sunday for 20+ yards but otherwise didn’t do much. Stevenson is the flashier name after his preseason results but he was in the dog house after a very poor Week 1 and has only since come out of it. He saw action on Sunday for the first time since then but also didn’t do much with his opportunities. If I had to grab a New England back it would be Stevenson, but I wouldn’t feel great about starting him.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Hunter Henry: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 75 yards, TD

Jakobi Meyers: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 56 yards

Kendrick Bourne: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 26 yards | 1 carry, 12 yards

Nelson Agholor: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards

Jonnu Smith: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 27 yards | 1 carry, 5 yards

 

Jakobi Meyers still has not caught a touchdown pass in his career. He came close on a screen pass on New England’s first drive, getting tackled at the one, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. If anyone is due for some positive touchdown regression it’s Meyers. It was an otherwise pedestrian day for him, hooking up with Mac Jones for a few long gains but his biggest play was the drop late in the first half. That’s a catch you have to make at this level.

Hunter Henry had his coming-out party for the Patriots, catching the beautiful touchdown pass shown above, but he was also consistently the most reliable receiver for Jones on the day. If Jones needed some yards, he found Henry, and it was often on a play-action fake up the seam. This is the guy New England was hoping to get when they signed him to a big contract in the offseason, it’s just a shame that the success will likely be matchup dependent, making him a risky wildcard option for fantasy purposes.

Kendrick Bourne had a nice 12 yard gain on a jet sweep early in the game. It was another otherwise quiet day for him. The same goes for Nelson Agholor, whose contributions were unspectacular at best. I wish I had more to note about both guys – they’re both good players, they just aren’t getting enough of a target share to be noteworthy for fantasy purposes.

 

Houston Texans

 

Quarterback

 

Davis Mills: 21/29, 312 yards, 3 TD, 3 sacks | 1 carry, 2 yards

 

Davis Mills did not look like a third-round rookie in this game. He made quick, methodical decisions pretty much all game long. He took sacks instead of desperately throwing the ball into double or triple coverage. On third and fourth downs, he routinely made good throws under pressure to convert. He rolled out of the pocket to make a fantastic deep throw on two occasions, with one of them going for a touchdown on a spectacular play all around.

 

 

His first touchdown pass was an absolute laser.

 

 

And his third came on a flea-flicker that was once again a perfect ball.

 

 

I’m not sure what to make of this for fantasy purposes. On one hand, New England’s defense is talented enough to be among the best in the league. On the other hand, they really haven’t played all that well this season. Regardless, there’s no doubt that this was the best start of Davis Mills’ young career, and if he can string a few more of these together he may be worth a look in some formats.

 

Running Back

 

Mark Ingram II: 16 carries, 41 yards

David Johnson: 2 carries, 5 yards | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 46 yards

Phillip Lindsay: 5 carries, 19 yards

 

Mark Ingram had multiple runs of 10+ yards called back due to penalties. It wouldn’t have mattered, however, since his overall output was once again a black hole for fantasy purposes. He is the clear lead back in this offense, however, at least on the ground. He carried the rock on each of Houston’s first four plays from scrimmage and they kept going back to him throughout the game. Houston even ran the Wildcat a few times in the second half with Ingram as the “QB”. He doesn’t look like a dynamic runner by any means, but volume is there if you’re absolutely desperate for a RB.

I liked what I saw out of Phillip Lindsay in his limited time with the ball in his hands, but he just isn’t currently a factor in this offense besides an occasional change of pace back. He also had a double-digit gain called back by penalty.

David Johnson might be the most fantasy-relevant back in this backfield thanks solely to his five catches on six targets. He still has some moves, too. He nearly converted a 3rd and 16 screen pass but came up one yard short despite juking several defenders to keep the play alive. This was the most impressive play of his day, however, and he’s still a fringe Flex play at best.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Brandin Cooks: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards

Chris Moore: 5 targets, 5 receptions, 109 yards, TD

Chris Conley: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 84 yards, TD

Jordan Akins: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards

Pharaoh Brown: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 22 yards

Antony Auclair: 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards, TD

 

If your name was Chris, this was your day. Both Moore and Conley scored TDs (seen above), and Moore especially had himself quite the day, albeit pretty much on only two plays. In addition to the 67-yard touchdown, he had this catch and run for 24 yards to convert yet another third down for Houston.

 

 

Chris Conley caught the touchdown on the flea-flicker, as well as a deep ball that Mills threw while on the run outside of the pocket. Conley was brought down inside the 10-yard line on a nice tackle by the defender.

Brandin Cooks was taken out of this game from the get-go. New England seemed intent on not letting Cooks beat them, and he didn’t. This definitely opened things up more for Chris^2 and Houston was fine with that all day long.

 

Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

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