Who was actually surprised by the Texans offensive struggles Sunday?
[Looks around, sees no hands, continues rambling]
We all knew this was coming. Things are really simple. Deshaun Watson is gone for the rest of the season. And Tom Savage – who struggled in the season opener against the Jaguars AND for much of the Texans 20 – 14 loss to the Colts – isn’t Deshaun Watson.
I can empathize with angry Texans fans. For the past few seasons, the Texans offense had been like season 5 of the Netflix show House of Cards. That’s not a compliment. Pre Kevin Spacey scandal, the past season of that show was a slow, plodding, sleep inducer.
But then, we got a little excitement with Deshaun Watson. A great new character that we got emotionally invested in. Think Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones season 4. SURELY the show creators wouldn’t waste our time with a brand new character unless he does something really important. See! Look! He just did something important. He should finish doing that important thi… OH MY GOD HE’S DEAD.
And now we’re back, trapped hate-watching the remainder of a show that we’ve invested too much time into. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the second half of the Texans 2017 season!
Houston’s best offense on Sunday often came in the form of Indianapolis personal fouls. Tom Savage (19-44 for 219 yards and his first career TD pass) was an extremely tough watch and WOEFULLY inaccurate. Hell, he had trouble just keeping his passes in bounds! And when he wasn’t missing his receivers, he was busy looking like a tranquilizer enthusiast in the pocket. It didn’t take long for the Colts to do what EVERY defense does to stop Savage: blitz often, and force him to throw the ball quickly before he gets the chance to go through his progressions. To make matters worse, the Texans could never get the ground game going. But seeing as Savage doesn’t demand defensive respect, how the hell could they?
A lot of this loss was on Savage. Still, it wasn’t all his fault. Watson hid a lot of the Texans’ weaknesses, especially on the offensive line. We all know that unit is “a work in progress” on a good day. Making matters worse, they’d just traded their left tackle/best player (Duane Brown) earlier in the week. His replacement? A fourth round rookie (Julie’n Davenport) that played in the Patriot League last year (not great). With more inconsistency from Jeff Allen, Xavier Su’a Filo, Breno Giacomini, and Chris Clark, what immobile quarterback could succeed here?
Defensively, the Texans were a mixed bag. They shut down the Colts ground game. Jadeveon Clowney (1 sack) – as always – played very well. Lamarr Houston – who has been a solid midseason addition – scored on a fumble return touchdown. Safety Eddie Pleasant (2 sacks) and cornerback Kareem Jackson can create all sorts of havoc when they blitz. But when Houston doesn’t bring extra rushers, they don’t struggle to create pressure (not surprising given that that J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are injured). That lack of a pass rush has led to a lot of letdowns in the secondary, which has been a liability, especially against speed.
Sunday wasn’t an easy watch. But STILL, the Texans could (and probably should) have beaten the Colts. Just ask Ka’imi Fairbairn, who missed a field goal (not a particularly difficult one at 39 yards) for the first time in his career. Or Andre Hal, who forgot to finish Texans murderer T.Y. Hilton in the midst of his 80 yard touchdown catch and run. And through all of their offensive struggles, Houston still had the ball on the Indy 7 yard line with a chance to tie . . . and win the game with just seconds to play.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem. The Colts are a bad football team, and are one of just a few opportunities for the Texans to take advantage of before the end of the season. This was a game that they HAD to win, because outside of the winless 49ers (December 10th at NRG) the second half of the season gets pretty difficult:
- 11/12: at Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
- 11/19: v Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
- 11/27: at Baltimore Ravens (4-5)
- 12/3: at Tennessee Titans (5-3)
- 12/17: at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
- 12/25: v Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
Will the Texans be favored against any of those teams the rest of the way? I doubt it. And they’ve still got to play the 3-6 Colts again, this time in Indianapolis. Sure, they might technically be in the playoff race. But who actually believes they’ll make it?
I wonder how long head coach Bill O’Brien will keep believing. He obviously has to now. After all, the Texans are only 2 games back of 5-3 Tennessee and Jacksonville – two flawed teams – with 8 games left to play this season. And next year is the final year of his contract
But I hope that the Texans are focused on the big picture at the same time: a 2018 season (and hopefully beyond) with a (hopefully) recovered Deshaun Watson back under center. And there lies the problem. What are the Texans building towards when they have a quarterback like Savage – the POLAR OPPOSITE of Watson – under center for the rest of the season?
Think about it. The Texans took out A LOT of the elements – read options and misdirection plays especially – that made their offense purr over the past 5 games. How can that be a good thing if they plan on getting back to those same elements next season? Doesn’t practice make perfect? And isn’t every single rep a valuable one for all of the young members of this offense?
I ask all of those rhetorical questions to get you here: I think that the Texans should do everything in their power to acquire a mobile veteran quarterback. Why? Because the Texans offense that we saw with Deshaun Watson cannot grow or progress with Tom Savage under center.
The trade deadline has passed, so you can’t trade for a guy. There are big name blast from the past free agent options. Vince Young. Johnny Manziel. Robert Griffin III. And I guess you could give Josh Johnson a call . . .
Hmm. I wonder who the Texans could sign?
Paul Gallant hosts “Gallant at Night” – Tuesday 9-11 PM CT, Wednesdays and Fridays 8-11 PM CT – 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.