By Paul Gallant, SportsRadio 610

It was billed as a big time game. On one sideline, J.J. Watt and the red hot Texan, winners of four of five. On the other sideline? Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champions Patriots, limping into town after back to back losses.

And it felt like a big time game. This was the first time I’ve sat in the stands with Texans fans. And it was a good experience. The lights were turned way down low, like a Lakers game at the Staples Center. The crowd was into it. Most importantly? The game mattered. No offense, but I’d rather sit through a ponzi scheme meeting (been there, done that) than watch a nooner against the Buccaneers, Saints, Jaguars, or worst of all . . . the Titans.

Yet here we are again. One day removed from a primetime Texans game with a “Sunday Funday” hangover. This wasn’t a hangover from excess mimosa consumption. This loss, like . . .

  • the 42 – 24 blowout against the Packers in ’12
  • the 42 – 14 defeat against the Patriots in ’12
  • the 41 – 28 loss to the Pats in the playoffs that same year

 

. . . felt like a day after drinking ANY AMOUNT of Red Dog Beer. In case you’ve luckily never had Red Dog, it may or may not taste like [redacted].

More importantly, the loss served as another cold shower of reality: that the Texans still aren’t ready to hang with the big boys. Let’s dig in.

THE GOOD

THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN, JADEVEON!

There’s really nothing positive to take away from this game other than Clowney’s play. The Texans defense wasn’t awful, but they were unable to generate first half pressure on Tom Brady. By the time Clowney got to Brady – with 3:22 to go in the third quarter – Houston was down 20 – 6.

Clowney had another sack later, but let’s focus on the play above. That’s the first viral caliber highlight we’ve seen of Clowney since the preseason his rookie year:

Clowney’s had 3.5 sacks in his last four games. I didn’t expect to see much out of him this season as he recovers from last year’s microfracture surgery. Hopefully, he’ll be able to keep that production up. Otherwise, 5 sack games from Khalil Mack and Blake Bortles’ 30 touchdown passes in 2015 will be awkward reminders of “what if the Texans drafted one of those guys.”

THE BAD

Moving Backwards

Early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots were called for back to back offensive penalties. First, a holding that wiped out a 21 yard catch by Danny Amendola. Next, a false start. A Texans fan behind me sarcastically remarked “this is our best drive all game.”

Sadly, it was kind of true. Yes, the Texans moved away entirely from the ineffective Alfred Blue. He didn’t even have a touch Sunday night. But the Chris Polk show – 11 carries, 34 yards/2 catches, 14 yards – was no better than Blue.

Then there’s the Wildcat formation. The Texans found success in the package a few weeks before against the Jets. But against the Patriots? 5 plays. 4 yards. 0 first downs. Maybe they should consider passing out of the formation? Running sure isn’t working.

Jonathan Grimes had one nice run: a 37 yard scamper. If not for that play, the Texans would have run 21 times for 50 yards on the game. That’s an average of 2.4 yards a carry, also known as CRAP.

While we’re on big plays, just look at how bad the Texans offensive totals were on the game. They totaled just 189 yards on the game! Want a worse statistic? Erase the three big offensive plays of the game – the 37 yard Grimes run, Nate Washington’s 49 yard reception, and a 40 yard catch by Hopkins – and you’d see the Texans ran 49 plays for 63 yards.

Part of that is on the offensive line. The Texans allowed 6 sacks on the night, costing themselves 57 yards. Hoyer barely had any time to throw the ball, and didn’t even make it out of the game due to a concussion. Head coach Bill O’Brien said Hoyer also strained his neck and hurt his wrist during the game.

Hoyer didn’t help though. He threw several passes into tight coverage, and the Patriots Mutombo’d away 7 them.

And if he hadn’t underthrown Nate Washington on that 49 yard reception, Washington could have scored. But at this point, we’re well used to Hoyer’s limp bombs. Especially to Washington. And what do you know, Hoyer would underthrow a wide open Washington – who had beaten Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler by about 2-3 yards – early in the third quarter. Hoyer also cost the Texans when he threw behind tight end Ryan Griffin on third and short right before halftime. That led to a Texans punt and Patriots touchdown right before the break.

But the Texans receivers aren’t immune from criticism. Entering week 13, they led the NFL with 27 drops. They also had the second highest drop rate (5.2%) in the NFL. That trait didn’t end Sunday night. Ryan Griffin wasn’t able to complete (what would have been) an athletic catch when he dropped a seam route from Hoyer (he dove for the ball, but impact with the ground knocked it out). And in the third quarter, Nate Washington had a touchdown reception pried from his hands by Malcolm Butler on third down. The Texans would go for it on fourth down, but couldn’t convert.

Even worse? DeAndre Hopkins – who was facing double coverage most of the game – wasn’t even targeted until late in the second quarter. Yeah, he caught a 40 yard bomb from Hoyer early in the fourth quarter. But by that point, the game was over.

Missing Opportunities

Omar’s right, Wee Bey. If you get opportunities against the best teams in the league, you’ve GOT to capitalize. Because when you slip up, the Patriots won’t.

Need proof? Ask Whitney Mercilus, who tripped while trying to cover Rob Gronkowski deep downfield in the first quarter. That slippage allowed “Gronk” to make an easy reception and rumble inside the 10, setting up New England’s first touchdown.

The Texans whiffed on some of their chances listed above. But the worst missed opportunity came in the third quarter. Former Texan turned Patriots punt returner Keshawn Martin muffed a punt at his own 21. The Texans recovered, but would go four and out in the red zone down 20 – 6. Failing to get in the end zone there put Houston – a team that needs the opposition to screw up when down multiple scores – in an insurmountable hole.

Paul Gallant co-hosts the “B-Straw and Pauly G” show – 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 at his facebook page: Paul Gallant: SportsRadio610.

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