Texans – Patriots: In A Nutshell

By Paul Gallant, SportsRadio 610

Saturday’s season ending loss for the Texans went a little bit better than I expected. Houston competed for about 3.33 quarters of a nationally televised game on the road against the Patriots, a team that historically owns them. And Romeo Crennel’s defense made Tom Brady uncomfortable, holding him under 50% passing, intercepting him twice, and sacking him twice.

Unfortunately, Brock Osweiler.

Yes, that’s a sentence.

I was hoping that Monday’s Bill O’Brien press conference would make us feel better about Houston’s biggest offseason problem. But just like every average football related presser, we didn’t learn a thing. We don’t know if Osweiler and Savage are on a level playing field. We don’t know if the team plans to bring in another quarterback via a trade, free agency, or the draft. So now, we just twiddle our thumbs and hope for change.

On the bright side . . . the Gallant at Night radio program – weeknights on SportsRadio 610 – will bring you another year of Eric Carmen’s smash hit this offseason!

Houston has eternal eye hunger. If only the Texans could steal some bread from the mouths of decadence . . .

Ok. Songs are done. Let’s look back at the sportsball game.

THE GOOD

I can’t say enough about how impressive Jadeveon Clowney was to close out the season. He was a disruptive force in just about every game down the stretch, and was a giant pain for Tom Brady’s tookus all night. As usual, it didn’t really show on the stat sheet (2 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits) but he created opportunities for Whitney Mercilus (1 sack, 3 QB hits), Brian Cushing (1 sack, 1 QB hit, 1 TFL), and the Texans secondary (interceptions by A.J. Bouye & Andre Hal).

I was more impressed by Clowney’s demeanor on the sideline. He’s gained a whole lot of confidence over the last few weeks, and it was noticeable on the sidelines during the broadcast. He might be an emotional leader – reportedly throwing his helmet on the sideline after the Dion Lewis kick return touchdown – but seeing him talking to players on the sideline in an encouraging manner after things did and DIDN’T go the Texans way really made me happy.

Meanwhile, I thought A.J. Bouye proved he’s a very capable corner. And if I’m the Texans, I’d find a way to pay him. Yes, he was called for a long pass interference penalty and gave up a long throw to Chris Hogan on the first drive. But he had an interception off a drop by Michael Floyd, and nearly had another interception of Tom Brady after perfectly jumping a route early in the third quarter. Keeping Bouye is going to require some cap casualties (cutting Brian Cushing could save ~ $5.3 M, and cutting Johnathan Joseph another $7 M) but I think he’s earned more money and a starting role.

Sneaky shoutout to my favorite under the radar Texan: Jonathan Grimes. He had 54 yards from scrimmage on 6 combined touches, and should be second on the running back depth chart. He may not have the size of Blue or the speed of Hunt and Ervin, but the man always finds a way to get yards in clutch situations.

THE MEH

I know it was his first year as the Texans special teams coordinator. But I was less than impressed by Larry Izzo. His players struggled in coverage, his returners struggled to simply catch kicks, and the entire unit didn’t look a whole lot different than the days of his predecessors Bob Ligashesky and Joe Marciano.

The 98 yard kick return touchdown by Dion Lewis felt like it would be an early dagger.

And for past Texans teams, maybe it would have been. But, I’ll cut Izzo a little slack because of the following:

  • Nick Novak made all of his kicks (3-3 on field goals, plus an extra point)
  • Shane Lechler had 3 punts inside the 20
  • And Akeem Dent would forced a Dion Lewis fumble on a later kick return

Still, this unit is a little too careless for my liking after its specialists.

Another thing. DeAndre Hopkins had a solid day statistically (6 catches for 65 yards), but I think he caused one of Brock Osweiler’s interceptions (picked by Devin McCourty). Yes, Osweiler didn’t help by locking onto Hopkins for the entire route. But anyone who’s played wide receiver in high school (cough, cough, me) knows that when you run an out route, you’ve got to do everything in your ability to cut 90 degrees towards the sidelines. If you “banana” the route (rounding off your route instead of running straight to the sideline) you give the defensive back extra space to sneak underneath and intercept the pass. Hopkins is not the best route runner, and that trait might have caused that interception. (By the way, without knowing what the play-call was there (I’m just guessing it was a designed out based off what I saw on the replay) I could be totally wrong here.)

The final part of “the meh”? The outcome. It’s great that the Texans finally showed up with a spine for a big time game. They rattled Brady and made the Patriots a little more nervous Saturday night than they probably expected to be. But there were opportunities to be had that literally slipped through the Texans fingers, like drops on touchdown passes by C.J. Fiedorowicz and Will Fuller, and that dropped interception by A.J. Bouye. Moral victories are overrated, and you only deserve so much credit when you lose 34 – 16.

THE BAD

Brock Osweiler did all the bad Brock Osweiler things. Sure, he had a beautiful throw down the middle of the field to rookie Will Fuller . . . who promptly dropped it (amazingly, the likelihood of a Fuller catch seems to increase proportional to the degree of difficulty of said catch). C.J. Fiedorowicz also had a couple of bad drops (another of which would have been a touchdown). And one time, everyone’s favorite half quarterback/half giraffe had a nice scramble. But for the most part, he looked just as indecisive, inaccurate (especially with his short passes), and uncomfortable on his way to another Osweiler special: Less than 200 yards passing (193), a sub 60 completion percentage (57.5%), and more turnovers than touchdown passes (3 interceptions, 1 TD).

There isn’t a lot more that can be said about him. O’Brien’s offense actively avoids asking him to do too much. Is a better offensive coordinator going to fix that? Or would he look better behind an improved offensive line? Either way, it’s a lock he’ll be with the Texans next year due to his contract.

Oh yeah, the offensive line. They’ve been bad in pass protection all year, especially on the right side. Saturday night was no different, as they allowed another 3 sacks. Xavier Su’A Filo isn’t reliable, Jeff Allen has been a free agent flop, and Oday Aboushi (who regularly rotates with the two) is playing much more than he probably would on other teams (though to be fair, he’s more consistent than the two guards he backs up). Meanwhile, Chris Clark is Chris Clark. Another backup.

If the Texans DO bring in an alternative quarterback this offseason, they’d better make sure that the offensive line in front of him can keep him healthy. Especially if he’s undersized like Jimmy Garoppolo or injury prone like Tony Romo.

And finally, we have Kareem Jackson – who was routinely beaten by Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. My pal PatDStat from StateOfTheTexans.Com threw this thought out during the game:

I think it’s a great idea. Jackson takes great angles and is a sure tackler. But man to man coverage hasn’t been his forte the last few years. And when you consider that safety Andre Hal had a rough year, AND that the injury to Quintin Demps showed us far too much of Corey Moore, he’d certainly help the position out.

Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” Weeknights 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.

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