I think it's very ironic that the players who were the difference in the game were primarily the players who had a big part in the sluggish start to the season. Starting with our 40 year old backup (plan B) QB, Hasselback (18-29-213-2 TD's) had a first roster cut type of pre season, did not look like an NFL quality QB. Having a plan B, can be huge as we learned years ago, when #18 couldn't play, but with this team, it's just a plan B ( not expected to play). Last week, he did play and play well....this week, he did not expect to play, spent time in the hospital with an infection,hooked up to I.V's and didn't get much, if any preperation for this game and even commented that he didn't really think he would be able to play 4 quarters........he did, and again, played well, leading us to his second win and another huge divisional victory. Pagano often uses grit, to define this team and that was the grittiest performance I think I have ever seen in all of my years of watching football....for sure a feel good story and his emotional post game interview said it all...AWESOME!!!!
Gore has played well, and had his best game to date (22-98-TD) and most importantly, did not fumble!!
Johnson, had been a no-show, for the most part this year, was the most productive receiver (6-77-2 TD's), after 4 games of not being a factor, having trouble getting seperation and when he did, dropping balls, he was the go-to guy, maybe it was wanting to show the texans he hasn't lost a step, but really makes you wonder where that was in the other games??
The O-line, prob the most talked about and critisized unit in the league, has gotten better each week, they opened holes and were solid in pass protection, maybe they are not as bad as it seems, maybe the schemes are helping.....but I still do not feel those 5 players are a championship caliber group and it is not a strength of the team.....and it needs to be.
Hamilton has been taking alot of heat as well and has adjusted nicely the last 2 games and have to give him (and/or the O-line coach) credit for the game plan vs Watt, along with Reitz (and company) for shutting him down....AWESOME!!!
Offense: can't really put my finger in it, but they still do not look like are clicking on all cylinders, just doing enough to win. Hilton had a good game (5-88) including a game clinching 43 yarder....I am amazed at how many times, when a game is on the line, a QB (many do) throws a low percentage pass , that is more times than not-incomplete when a short-high percentage pass could ice the game, this time, it worked. Robinson and Tipton, did not produce much, in limited reps.
Defense: although the numbers don't look that good (444 total yards) the texans only rushed for 82 yds ( 28 rushes) needless to say, the pass defense gave up way too much yardage, but considering the CB situation, that's kind of expected. Adams and Lowery have both had good years and have helped make up for the lack of depth at CB. Jackson has been a beast, all year, led the way with 11 tackles. Not sure what happened to McNary, he played a good game last week, but Moore and Irving got the reps this week. The D-line, despite their inexperience have played well and does give hope, going forward and something to build on. The biggest weakness has been the lack of a pass rush and we finished with 1 sack (Walden)
Special teams: excellant! McAfee has been very good, Adam has now hit on his last 5 field goals. The coverage units were good ( all 2 times) and Whalen even looked great and had a 50 yd return, I know why he is back there, he is sure handed and I also know that it's a tough call, with Dorsett's bad start, but I really think we have to have a guy back there who is explosive.
I felt the last 3 games vs our division foes were going to be very telling, 3-0 is a great result and even though a few bounces could have resulted in 0-3, we did win all 3 ( 2 with our plan B QB) and division games tend to be tight games, regardless of their records. Those were games we were expected to win and should have won. 3 of the next 4 games are vs teams, that are currently undefeated (*s-carolina and the broncos, plus a game vs the saints.Then after the bye week, another currently undefeated team (falcons), these games will also be very telling, for a different reason, if this team wants to compete for a championship, they have to show that they are capable of beating those type of teams. The penalties and the turnovers have been greatly improved and the hill isn't quite as steep, but it's still steep and there is plenty of room for improvement.