If you watched the Texans beat the Lions 20 – 13 Sunday, you’re looking at this team one of the following ways:
A: You’re glass half full guy.
Despite a ton of injuries – with starters Nick Martin (he’d have started to open the year), Duane Brown, Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt, Kareem Jackson, Quentin Demps, Jeff Allen, Kevin Johnson, and Derek Newton all missing at least one game (with Vince Wilfork and Will Fuller possibly joining them soon) the Texans are 5-3. They’re undefeated at home. The defense isn’t dominant, but it’s keeping teams out of the end zone. The running game is doing just enough to win. And the 3 teams they’ve lost to are a combined 18-4 (soon to be 19-4 assuming the Vikings annihilate the Bears Monday night).
Has it been perfect? Not even close. But for a team that has started slow the last two years under Bill O’Brien, this is a welcome change of pace.
B: You’re glass half empty guy.
Yeah the Texans have 5 wins. But come on. Home wins over the Bears, Titans, and Colts aren’t impressive. And while the wins over the Chiefs and Lions were nice, they lost by a combined 85-22 to the Patriots, Vikings, and Broncos. Teams that actually matter.
On top of that this team just isn’t particularly fun to watch. The defense doesn’t make many plays – they’re tied for 11th in sacks (16) and 27th in takeaways (6) – and the offense is boring (319.6 yards per game ranks 29th). And worst of all, Brock Osweiler isn’t a good quarterback. In fact, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that he’s bad, and won’t significantly improve over the next 2 years.
I’m Bro B. I’ve seen the things guy A has seen so many times . . . and now I’m feeling apathetic and jaded. On top of that, I’ve got to wait all the way until November 21st – when the Texans play the Raiders in Mexico City – to see if the Texans can merely compete against one of the better teams in the league. That’s a long, long wait.
And I don’t think I’m alone. Texans fans took their sweet time showing up for Sunday’s game.
Yeah, maybe there were some sweet Halloween parties Saturday night. Perhaps everyone was a little hungover. Or maybe security slowed things down a bit. But I like to think it’s because you’re feeling the same way as me about this team: a bit apathetic. And until they beat a good team, that’s totally understandable.
Let’s look at the game…
I didn’t give nearly enough praise to A.J. Bouye for his performance against the Broncos in last week’s “In A Nutshell”. But once again, he was superb Sunday. And this time, he did it as a “starter”. Matt Stafford tested him often. And while he wasn’t good as he was in Denver, he was enough of a roadbloack to slow down a red hot Lions offense.
Bouye’s recent play – and start on the outside – allowed Kareem Jackson to slide inside and play nickel corner. I think he’s best there, and needed most there. If you’re having a tough time tackling, move a defensive back who can do it to the interior.
The Texans pass rush didn’t make a lot of plays. Jadeveon Clowney had the team’s only sack. They only hit Matt Stafford 3 times. And Whitney Mercilus didn’t even have a tackle. But they were disruptive enough to keep Detroit’s offense from getting in a rhythm.
Houston’s offense was once again extremely tough to watch. A lot of that has to do with Brock Osweiler’s limitations and an inconsistent offensive line. But 2 positional groups had a very productive day.
First, let’s talk about the tight ends. C.J. Fiedorowicz might be the toughest player in the league. He finished a game with a sprained MCL after getting his knee bent awkwardly against the Titans. And he made it to the finish Sunday after taking a vicious hit to the head while trying to catch a pass over the middle. He had a team high 5 catches for 43 yards and a TD, and got a little help from his colleague Ryan Griffin (3 catches 34 yards).
The running backs had a solid game too despite a slow start. Lamar Miller managed 3.3 yards per carry despite an injured shoulder (17 carries for 56 and a TD). Alfred Blue added 9 carries for 41 yards, building off a productive (other than that fumble) 11 carry 63 yard performance against the Broncos. And Jonathan Grimes – who’d missed the past month – had 2 carries for 11 yards and a key block for Ryan Griffin that helped him get a first down. That trio combined for 72 yards on the Texans’ final 2 drives to ice the game, burning 8:57 off the clock.
While we’re on blocking, Duane Brown and Xavier Su’A Filo – yes, Xavier Su’A Filo – are doing a pretty good job on the left side of the o-line. Su’A Filo still has his bad moments, like the time he whiffed a block on Armonty Bryant leading to a sack. But he’s better than the player who was a liability for the Texans last year. He reminds me of Jeremy Lin’s time with the Rockets. Lin was actually a pretty good player, but his bad plays always looked cartoonishly catastrophic.
It’s not often that a quarterback throwing for less than 200 yards . . .
- For a 2nd straight week
- The 3rd time in the last 4 weeks
- And the 4th time in the last 6 weeks
. . . might have taken a step forward. But hey, Brock Osweiler completed a season high 69% of his passes on the way to 186 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. His interception was another Osweiler special: a telegraphed pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins. But for a guy who’d supposedly lost his confidence, he was certainly adequate when he had enough time.
The positive signs:
- Osweiler had better chemistry with DeAndre Hopkins
- He was going to his tight ends – who were often quite open – early and often
- And he made some really good throws down the seams
Unfortunately – just like his comeback victory against the Colts – you have to consider Osweiler’s opponent. The Lions defense isn’t quite as bad as the Colts (they’re the 25th ranked unit in yards against and 21st ranked unit in points allowed, while Indy is 28th in both), but it still isn’t good. I don’t care if Osweiler is in his first full year as a starting quarterback. Shouldn’t we have seen something that’s more than mediocre against a couple of the league’s worst defenses?
We’ve known for a while that Bill O’Brien has a temper. Sunday was yet another example of that internal flame. His dustup with Special Teams Coordinator Larry Izzo – one he denied by the way – is going to be much discussed over the course of the next week . . . and probably for the rest of the season.
Isolated, I don’t think the shouting match is that big of a deal. The Texans special teams were awful Sunday. Again. O’Brien lost his mind when he saw that there were just 10 players on the field for a kick return. With all the issues they’ve had on that unit, more slip ups like that are inexcusable.
But there does come a point where his temper could get old or lose its effect. No coaching style works forever, even for the greats. O’Brien may be able to dismiss all these shouting matches as exploding testotosterone in a competitive environment. But how many of the people on the other side of those . . . converstations . . . feel the same way? It simply can’t be everybody. We aren’t all wired to take verbal abuse and then to just forget it.
Everyone has a weakness. And maybe this is the one that could eventually do O’Brien in.
Speaking of weaknesses, Father Time is everyone’s. Brian Cushing, Vince Wilfork (who left the game with a groin injury and didnt return) and to a lesser extent Johnathan Joseph showed their age and/or the effects of old injuries. In the case of Wilfork and Joseph, at least there’s depth. As for Cushing? Maybe it’s time for Max Bullough to get more playing time.
One last thing before we wrap this up. The Texans HAVE to find a way to create some takeaways. As I brought up a little earlier, they have just 6 on the season, and most of them have come through slip ups by the opposition. That’s not good enough with this team’s issues on offense. Corey Moore ALMOST created one by stepping in front of a Matt Stafford pass with Detroit deep in Texans territory in the third quarter. But he wasn’t able to hang on to it, and the Texans missed another opportunity. Completing plays like that is a must after the bye week.
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesdays 9-11 PM, Wednesdays 8-11 PM, and Fridays 8-11 PM on SportsRadio 610. He also hosts SportsZone Unfiltered – Fridays at 10 PM – on The Kube: Channel 57. Get in touch with Paul via email or his facebook page.