There are a couple trains of thought to the total team disaster that was the Houston Texans during Sunday’s stunning upset at the hands of Carolina.
After seven straight weeks of buying into the hype that this team is a team of destiny no matter the injury or the mistakes, we have now been smacked back to reality that the Texans are very beatable.
Then there is the belief Sunday’s 28-13 meltdown that sent the crowd in Reliant Stadium to a booing frenzy could be just what the Texans need more so than a 10-game winning streak they were on track to have going into the playoffs in a few weeks.
Most athletes and coaches at this level are conditioned to completely dismiss the latter. But defensive end Antonio Smith may have verbalized what all the Texans were feeling deep down after their seven-game winning streak came to an abrupt end just one week after clinching their first ever AFC South title and playoff berth and three weeks before the regular season ends.
“I’m kind of glad a game like this happened just before the playoffs because you come against a team like this in the playoffs there is no tomorrow,” Smith said. “So even if by some chance, it could be by lack of concentration or getting your heads too high up in the clouds or anything like that this would be about the time you would want it to happen.
“This is what is called being battle tested. I would rather be battle tested before the playoffs than get in the playoffs and you are in that same frame of mind and, oh you are going home.”
For the first time in two months, we can now see how the Texans could actually be one-and-done in the playoffs if they don’t clean up a lot.
And while we can look at the fumble at the beginning of the game, the ill-timed penalties, Neil Rackers’ missed field and the defensive lapses, the most glaring area of concern is at quarterback where T.J. Yates really looked like a rookie fifth-round draft pick from start to finish.
Last week he overcame a horrendous start and led a dramatic comeback win at Cincinnati. But Yates was consistently off Sunday, under throwing and overthrowing receivers and on the rare occasion his passes were on the mark they were to the wrong color jerseys.
He looked very much like a former third string quarterback who was making just his third start, completing 19 of 30 passes for 212 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
“He did not play as sharp, read-wise and stuff,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of his young quarterback. “I don’t know if that getting a little rattled early in the game or what, I don’t know. But we had opportunities for some big plays and we didn’t make them. So he’s got to play better.”
But when the Texans look at the film Monday the same can probably be said at every position on the field.
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph who has been the biggest catalyst for the defensive turnaround this season was flat out abused by Steve Smith and quarterback Cam Newton. Arian Foster perhaps set the tone by fumbling the football away on the second play from scrimmage. And when team needed one defensive stop in the fourth quarter the Texans opened up and allowed running back DeAngelo Williams to race 24 yards untouched for the game-sealing touchdown.
Forget about the trap game theories or the fact the defense was missing defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, this just seemed like the game the Texans were destined to have. They’ve shown some of these traits at times the past few weeks but either the opponent wasn’t good enough to truly make them pay or the Texans were doing enough right in other areas to overcompensate for the deficiencies.
But finally it all caught up to them where a fire-drill of breakdowns did them in against a team that is far better than its 5-9 record indicates. Now we will find even more about the Texans (10-4) playoff readiness because they have to quickly pick themselves up and head to face an Indianapolis team that is finally showing some signs of life on Thursday.
“I don’t think it’s a setback, it’s something I learn from,” said receiver Kevin Walter. “All things come to an end. Maybe this is a thing to get everyone’s attention. We have a lot of things we need to fix.
“Is it inevitable that something could happened? I don’t know. We’ve just got to look at the film and correct the mistakes. And we have to go to the Colts and get a win.”
What’s interesting is it is hard to get most of the Texans to publicly admit that there could be more to gain in Sunday’s loss than there is to lose by not going into the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak. Sure it would be nice to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs but with Baltimore and New England standing in the way even winning out wouldn’t guarantee that.
“You don’t want that kind of positive,” Kubiak said when asked if this could be the jolt his team needs. “But I will tell you one thing, it is a jolt. It’s a humbling game. For several weeks we’ve been feeling really good and having some really good talks after the game.
“This is a very humbling experience in that locker room. Like I said, they know they can’t play that way or they’re not going to like the way the season ends. I have to find a way to stop it.”
Apparently lesson learned.