CHICAGO – Texans rookie Jalen Pitre provides dynamic plays, two interceptions in loss to Bears
Jalen Pitre reacted instinctively, capitalizing on the inaccuracy of erratic Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields.
In a losing cause, the Texans rookie safety provided opportunities for his teammates with a pair of interceptions and a key sack. The Texans’ offense, though, failed to take advantage of the takeaways generated by the second-round draft pick from Baylor. Both of his two interceptions led to zero points from the Texans during a 23-20 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.
Pitre is the second rookie in franchise history to record two interceptions in a game, matching Dunta Robinson’s performance against the Raiders on Oct. 3, 2004.
Fields sailed both of his throws that Pitre picked off. The former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Stafford graduate said it wasn’t a case of reading Fields’ eyes as much as it was his deep understanding of the Texans’ Cover 2 scheme and relying upon the advice of older teammates and coaches.
“Not necessarily,” Pitre said when asked if he read Fields’ eyes. “I understood the defense that we was in and I understood the weak spots of the defense. I tried to play a little bit fast on that and with that (middle linebacker Christian Kirksey) Kirko did a great job making him put some air on the ball and that’s what led to my interceptions, so I’m thankful for that.
This marked Pitre’s breakout performance following him earning the starting job during training camp. Pitre has been as advertised so far as a ball-hawking presence in the secondary.
“I think it’s a stepping stone, but I’m definitely not satisfied,” Pitre said. “I want to win. So, definitely not satisfied. I’m looking to improve each week and do a lot more.
“Big shout-out to my coaches, they do a great job throughout the week putting me in great spots and helping me understand the things I’m going to see. I give a big shout-out to the older guys in my locker room.”
Pitre wasn’t happy with some of his shortcomings in the game as the Texans allowed 281 rushing yards and two touchdown runs despite the Bears missing running back David Montgomery. There was a counter play that stood out to Pitre where he came up short.
“We understood they have a multitude of great backs and they were going to try to get in big personnel,” Pitre said. “I think staying in our gap and being physical is something we need to improve on. Especially me. There was a couple of times that I didn’t do my job. That kind of hurt the team. I’m kind of upset about that.”
Signed to a $8.95 million contract that includes a $3.692 million signing bonus, Pitre models his game after New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu, a former All-Pro selection and Texans defensive captain, along with Arizona Cardinals standout safety Budda Baker.
Texans coach Lovie Smith expressed disappointment that the offense failed to turn Pitre’s picks into points.
“Pitre did a good job, big sack, a couple interceptions, which was of course good for him,” Smith said. “Offensively when we do take the ball away, when there is a positive play from the defense, it doesn’t do any good to take the ball away if you don’t get points off of it. It’s about that. Take the ball away, you need to be able to get points off of it.”
A former consensus All-American, Pitre led Baylor with 18 tackles for losses in his final college season. He finished with 76 tackles total, had three sacks, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries.
He’s already making an impact with the Texans.
In his first NFL regular-season game against the Indianapolis Colts, Pitre finished with 11 tackles overall. Pitre tied for the fifth-most by an NFL rookie in the first game of the regular season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and the second-most among rookies in their Texans debut behind linebacker DeMeco Ryans’ 13 tackles in 2006.
“Oh, he was phenomenal,” Texans defensive end Jerry Hughes said. “Young guy, he’s making great plays for us. I know he wanted to get up and score, but two big picks to kind of keep our offense in scoring territory, that’s what you want as a secondary.
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com