The Rookie

Big Play Hands: DeAndre Hopkins shows why he absolutely must play — no matter what

Big Play Hands: DeAndre Hopkins shows why he absolutely must play

DeAndre Hopkins Texans down
DeAndre Hopkins needs to be on the field no matter how much he stumbles. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Case Keenum Texans Pats
Case Keenum found DeAndre Hopkins when the Texans needed a big play. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
DeAndre Hopkins Texans down
Case Keenum Texans Pats

DeAndre Hopkins has a step — and Case Keenum knows where the ball needs to go.

Keenum heaves it high and far. Right where Hopkins needs it. And as the rookie wide receiver comes down with the football inside the New England Patriots' 30-yard line, juking out Pats cornerback Kyle Arrington for another extra 10-plus yards to complete a 66-yard play, it seems unfathomable to imagine the struggling Houston Texans benching this talent.

But that's exactly what Gary Kubiak did a few weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders.

 So this is what a pulse looks like. The Texans will score 31 points against one of the elite teams in the NFL. 

Hopkins can't leave the field now. Not with the Texans using the rest of this season to develop young talent. Not with Keenum increasingly finding the man with 3XL hands.

It doesn't matter how many supposed mental mistakes Hopkins makes. He must play. Early and always. As he did throughout a 34-31 loss to New England Patriots.

He only makes two catches in the Patriots game. But when one of those catches is a 66-yarder  . . . well, that's finding a way to be productive.

Hopkins now has more than 600 yards receiving in his rookie season. He hasn't been quite as much of a difference maker as the Texans hoped. He can't come down with a second-and-12 that Keenum throws up to him in the final three minutes Sunday. But he's doing some things while learning. It can't hurt him that Keenum is in there flinging it deep, giving receivers a chance to make plays down the field.

Keenum's long touch returns against New England. He completes a 29-yarder to Andre Johnson, a 27-yarder to Keshawn Martin, a 28-yarder to Johnson, a 17-yarder to tight end Garrett Graham . . . and that absolute bomb to Hopkins. He throws confidently, attacking spots in Bill Belichick's defense.

It takes Tom Brady all of six minutes and 58 seconds to erase every bit of a 10-point Texans halftime lead. But this time, the Texans and Keenum have an answer.

Try a 10-play, 81-yard touchdown drive — one punctuated by Keenum's five-yard TD on a designed run. The young quarterback spikes the ball with a forceful flourish that a young Tiger Woods could appreciate after this one, sending a jolt through the stadium.

So this is what a pulse looks like. The Texans will score 31 points against one of the elite teams in the NFL. It matters little that they still lose anyway.

It's more about how a guy like Hopkins ends his season. No benching the future.