The Houston Texans had every reason and motivation to win this game, but the execution was missing completely, particularly on offense.
In his first home start for Houston, Ryan Mallett looked like anything but the poised and efficient field commander fans saw in Cleveland. Against Cincinnati, Mallett threw 45 times, completing 21 for a mere 189 yards and an interception. To say the least, Mallett was consistently inaccurate, throwing over and behind receivers all day.
Ryan Mallett: "We got to play better. I didn't play well today. I couldn't hit the broadside of a barn from 5 yards away."— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) November 23, 2014
The offensive line mostly held its own for Mallett (holding the Bengals to one sack and four QB hits), but utterly failed to open up holes for Alfred Blue. Starting in place of the injured Arian Foster, Blue was held to 46 yards on 16 carries, which was far below his 36 carry, 156 yard performance last week.
The weak running game put the pressure on the passing game, and it showed. The Texans were 4 for 14 on converting third downs, continuing the struggles the team had under Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
Andre Johnson: "It definitely feels like a missed opportunity. It was sitting right there for us. It's bad. We just didn't do enough to win"— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) November 23, 2014
On the other side of the ball, the defense was rather generous on third downs, allowing the Bengals to convert 11 of 20. That
Katy product Andy Dalton was determined to win a game as a pro in Houston, going 24 for 35 and 233 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It was a modest day for Dalton statistically, but he looked completely in control through most of the game and completely different than the Dalton Texans fans saw in their previous meetings.
Dalton's favorite target was A.J. Green, who looked as dominant as ever. He and Dalton connected 12 times on 16 targets for 121 yards, mostly on underneath routes against A.J. Bouye and Darryl Morris. Against the Saints last week, Green had another 127 yards and a score on six catches. Mohahmed Sanu caught Dalton's only touchdown and added 48 yards of his own.
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard ensured that the Bengals stayed on the field as long as they did, tiring out Houston's defense as the game progressed. The pair combined for 132 yards on 35 carries, converting six first downs along the way.
Johnathan Joseph accounted for the Texans' lone touchdown score, picking off Dalton's pass to Green and returning 60 yards halfway through the third quarter. It was a huge momentum swing for Houston, but wasn't enough to ever capture a lead in the game. Dalton's throw was hurried thanks to a free-blitzing D.J. Swearinger, who then threw a key block to allow Joseph to score the touchdown.
Bill O'Brien's message: don't blame one person. "It's a team loss. I hate losing with every fiber of my body."— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) November 23, 2014
For the Texans, this game was of absolute importance to maintain any hopes of a playoff berth. With winnable games against Tennessee and Jacksonville coming up, a win here could have springboarded a late season push. Now with six losses on their record and a trip to Indianapolis still on the schedule, those hopes are all but extinguished.
Ryan Mallett will surely get the start next week against Tennessee, but which of his two performances is more indicative of his talent? And how many more starts will he get before possibly activating rookie Tom Savage?
Discuss the loss here on Battle Red Blog. We dared to hope, didn't we?
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