Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 8d

Tom Savage needs to take advantage of vertical chances

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage knows one way he can show improvement in Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams is to have more success downfield.

In the Texans' Week 9 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Savage was 3-of-14 for 79 yards and a touchdown on passes 15 or more yards downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he started the game 0-of-7 on such attempts. Savage's 11 deep incompletions are the most by a Texans quarterback in a game in the past 10 seasons and are tied for second most by any quarterback in a game this season.

Savage is now 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) on passes 15-plus yards downfield this season, which ranks 37th in the league out of 38 quarterbacks with at least 15 pass attempts on such throws. The only quarterback with a lower completion percentage on those throws is Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley (20 percent).

Savage has two big offensive weapons in wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller but wasn't able to really take advantage of those threats against the Colts. Fuller was able to get behind Indianapolis' secondary, but Savage could not make the throws.

Savage knows how valuable the weapons he has are in Hopkins and Fuller, who are Nos. 1 and 2 in receiving touchdowns this season. Hopkins has eight touchdowns and Fuller has seven.

"It just makes quarterbacks' jobs a lot easier," Savage said. "You know? Not many guys are blessed with two guys like that that can go up and get it and have the vertical aspect of their game and still be able to be really good route runners. So, it's a blessing to have them."

And that's why it's so frustrating for Savage that he couldn't make those throws on Sunday, especially the ones that he threw along the sideline that he didn't give either receiver the chance to make a play. When asked what he has to do to improve his downfield passes, Savage said it starts with "just keeping [it] in-bounds."

"Those guys will come up and make a play for you," Savage said. "I think it's really just letting the guys go make a play."

According to Pro Football Focus, Hopkins has two of the top four game grades by a wide receiver this season -- Week 4 against the Tennessee Titans and Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks, when he had eight catches for 224 yards and a touchdown. Hopkins has caught a touchdown in five consecutive games, a franchise record. Both big games by Hopkins came with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing to him. Watson is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in a Week 8 loss to Seattle.

While Savage did lean on Hopkins in Sunday's loss to the Colts -- he targeted him 16 times, which was double the number of time he threw at any other player -- he has not had much success targeting the receiver overall. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Savage has had the least success of Texans quarterbacks targeting Hopkins over the past two seasons, completing passes to the wide receiver just 52.1 percent of the time.

After the game, as Savage watched the film on his iPad, he saw all the throws he missed, including those deep passes to Hopkins and Fuller.

"It's almost cringeworthy because you've done it so many times," Savage said. "I know that I can make these plays. That was the most frustrating part. Like I said after the game, it was a very frustrating game for me because I was coming off the sideline like I'm seeing everything, it's not like too fast or the lights are too bright or anything. It's just the way it is.

"I've done it all training camp, all preseason and I've done it my whole career. So, I'm confident in my abilities and I'll be out there and I can't wait to get back out there this Sunday."

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