The Houston Texans' new look offense was going nowhere — and then DeAndre happened.
And suddenly, the game had changed. That's what a 76-yard touchdown pass out of nowhere can do for you. That's what an ultra-talented receiver making the second year jump in a more diverse offense means.
When DeAndre Hopkins broke free of a disjointed Washington Redskins coverage and found himself free upfield, Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick only had to get him the ball. Fitzpatrick got it there and Hopkins did the rest. He burst by the last disorientated safety and raced into the end zone for the first touchdown of the Bill O'Brien era.
It gave the Texans a 7-6 lead. More importantly, it essentially rescued an offense — and specifically a quarterback — who hadn't been doing anything.
It's all part of the evolution of a game breaker. That is what this limited Texans offense desperately needs Hopkins to be this season.
The 6-foot-1 Hopkins has been much more praised for his monster hands than his speed during his time in Houston. But he showed plenty of getaway ability in Sunday's season opener. It's all part of the evolution of a game breaker. That is what this limited Texans offense desperately needs Hopkins to be this season.
After an up-and-down rookie season (with some pretty good overall stats) that included clashes with former Texans coach Gary Kubiak over his preparation, Hopkins looks ready to make the jump under O'Brien. It's no stretch to expect Hopkins to be one of the NFL's most improved players this season.
It helps that the new Texans coach's offense is much more varied than a Kubiak system that hinged on great execution of a few basic concepts.
Under O'Brien, the Texans open the season in four wideouts —with Arian Foster split out as one of the receivers. They go five wide on play No. 2. And it's four straight passes overall for this O'Brien offense to start.
"This is a very, very diverse offense and I'm excited about what it can be," Foster says. "I feel like we have to establish the running game first and once we do . . ."
Things like DeAndre happen.
Hopkins only scored two touchdowns last season, but he should obliterate that mark in 2014. Before his big touchdown catch against Washington, Houston ran Foster four straight plays, setting up the defense for a big blow. When O'Brien called a play-action play, Washington's defense was left out of sorts — and Hopkins was free.
This is offense O'Brien kept completely under wraps during a vanilla preseason. It's creative, bold and adaptive in scheme. Unfortunately, it also is sometimes limited by having Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
For all their wrinkles, the Texans go 1-for-5 on third downs in the first quarter with Fitzpatrick sending several throws off target.
Fitzpatrick doesn't make the big mistake early, but he doesn't make anything happen either.
Andre Johnson and Hopkins both have one catch 24 minutes into the game. Foster has two. The longest Fitzpatrick pass travels 13 yards during the slow start.
Then, DeAndre happens. And Fitzpatrick suddenly looks much better.