HOUSTON – Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce plunged into the line of scrimmage, a path that brought him directly into the grasp of massive Washington Commanders rookie defensive tackle John Ridgeway.
Ridgeway didn’t make a routine tackle on Pierce, though. Instead, the 6-foot-5, 322-pound former Dallas Cowboys fifth-round draft pick from Arkansas lifted PIerce high into the air and power bombed-suplexed him to the ground like a WWE wrestler.
The whistle had already blown, signaling the play was over.
Ridgeway was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and he was immediately confronted and shoved by Texans offensive tackle Tytus Howard after the play.
“That was totally uncalled for,” Howard said. “The play was over with. I felt he was doing the most, so I walked over, pushed him. I was letting him know, ‘Hey, we’re not about to be doing that.’ We’ve got to protect our own. You can’t do stuff like that and think you’re going to get away with it. I had to finish it.”
Pierce was unhurt, and the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate was more concerned about rushing for a season-low eight yards on 10 carries as the Texans rushed for just 21 yards on 16 carries. The offensive line was thoroughly dominated by the Commanders’ stout defensive line led by tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen and defensive end Montez Sweat.
“I’ve been slammed, I wrestled in my back yard my whole life,” Pierce said. “Being slammed wasn’t the hard part. It was getting the wind knocked out of me. I was all right. I know my O-line was going to handle that. He’s got, what, 200 pounds on me. My O-line handled that for me.”
Added left tackle Laremy Tunsil: “That makes no sense, bro. We’ve got to take care of each other, both sides. We’ve got to care for each other. That was unnecessary.”
Why was it such tough sledding for Pierce and the Texans’ running game? The Commanders are simply that good.
“Doing what they did all year, being monsters up front, being disruptive, throwing off our timing, etc., etc.,” Pierce said. “Shout out to them. I feel like any offense would be frustrated. Of course, there’s frustration. Trying to keep a level head, just one of them days. I think we can always build from a bad outing.”
All former first-round draft picks, Allen, Payne and Sweat displayed why they were selected so high.
Allen had two sacks and three tackles for losses. Sweat had two sacks and two tackles for losses. Payne had one sack.
“They’re great players,” said Texans rookie offensive guard Kenyon Green, who struggled in pass protection and with penalties. “The first half wasn’t how it’s supposed to go. I feel like I played better in the second half. Great player, he talked to me after the game and told me, ‘Keep going, you’re a rookie. You’re learning right now, keep improving.
“That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get better as a player. I got to get better. Just watch the film and get better during the week and improve for next Sunday against the Dolphins.”
There was one play where Green was bull-rushed back into quarterback Davis Mills, who was sacked five times.
“I mean, my hands weren’t in the right spot the first time my technique wasn’t precise,” Green said. “I feel like the second half I came back and played a better half. I wish I played the whole game better like that. It is what it is.”
The Texans averaged just 1.3 yards per carry. The longest run was a four-yard Mills touchdown run late in the game.
“If we look at it right now, what we did today didn’t work,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “We tried to hit the edge a few times. We tried to hit up front. We have been able to run the football each week.
“Even when there is a disappointment, change the quarterback, you’re not passing enough, we’ve been able to run the football. Today, we weren’t able to run the football. Nothing else is really going to work when you can’t do that.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com