Pharaoh Brown snagged the football with his right hand, concentrating to execute the one-handed catch without breaking stride as he hauled in a Tyrod Taylor spiral over the middle.
The 29-yard reception illustrated Brown’s versatility, and it directly led to running back Phillip Lindsay's touchdown run off a Wildcat formation handoff from Mark Ingram.
The Texans’ imposing tight end also dragged a handful of Jacksonville Jaguars on a 25-yard reception to set up another touchdown Sunday during a 37-21 victory a NRG Stadium.
While Brown finished with four receptions for 67 yards on five targets, his overall body of work reflected his punishing blocking prowess and his emergence as a tight end capable of being equally proficient as a pass-catching threat or as a hard-nosed blocker capable of creating pathways.
Because of Brown’s skills, size and athleticism, the 6-foot-6, 258-pound former undrafted free agent from Oregon is emerging as one of the most respected players inside the Texans’ locker room.
Brown has earned some colorful descriptions, too, with compliments like this one from three-time Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram.
“Pharaoh is a dog, he's a beast, straight savage, an animal,” said Ingram, who has played with Mark Andrews with the Baltimore Ravens and Jimmy Graham with the New Orleans Saints. “I've been around a lot of great tight ends, and he can be one of the best. He's physical in the run game, takes pride in blocking, and he's going to get his guy. Even when he doesn't, he comes to the sideline, ‘That was me, that was me.’
“But then obviously he has the talent, the athleticism to go run routes downfield, catch the ball, break tackles. He's a versatile tight end, a complete tight end, and I think he's one of the best in the game. He's super underrated. He's physical in the run game, holds the edge in the run game, whoops people in the run game, but also can be versatile and athletic enough to run routes, get open off safeties or linebackers and catch the ball and get yards after the catch.”
The former Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns reserve has excellent size and all-around skills for the position. In 13 games with nine starts last season for the Texans, Brown caught 14 passes on 16 targets for 163 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Based on how Brown excelled Sunday, look for more production to follow. None of what he did came as a surprise to Texans coach David Culley.
“His physicality in the run game was what we expected,” Culley said Monday morning. “He is a large individual and his physical presence is a factor. Size does matter upfront. The thing I was happy to see from him, and he hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunities in his career to make some of the plays that he made for us and it was good to see that happen.
“The one play that he and Tyrod had was a tremendous play and I was so happy for him being able to do that. I say that because Friday at practice, he dropped three balls at Friday practice that were in his hands. I wasn’t concerned about it, but I still had it in the back of my mind and to see him go out there and do what he did, just goes to show me the kind of maturity that he has and that’s what we expect out of him.”
The Texans ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of red-zone scores by Ingram and Lindsay.
“That guy is a dog, he's physical,” wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “He's going to block with the best of them, but he also going to run a route and make plays in the passing game as well. He's dynamic, and you just love to see him finally get his chance.”
It isn’t close between Brown, Jordan Akins, Antony Auclair and rookie Brevin Jordan when it comes to being an all-around tight end.
“I wouldn’t say I’m established just yet,” Brown said. “I’m still working every day. This year, I’ve been named the starter, so obviously I’ll be playing a lot more. Just taking advantage and doing one play at a time when I’m out there.
“Just one play at a time and just playing a game, I love it. I just look forward to playing my game. I don’t really think about, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go out there and do something.’ I just go out there and be Pharaoh, and that’ll be enough.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128