Entering this game, I said it was going to end up with a one possession scoring margin. It did. Just like every Texans win this season aside from Chicago, it was close. It was ugly. I also said earlier in the week that if the Texans were going to win the division, they were either going to have to start playing better or stay lucky. Yesterday, they didn’t play well. They won another coin toss.
Against Jacksonville, it took an awful, truly despicable, locked on out route throw from Blake Bortles to Kareem Jackson, a lovely Lamar Miller cutback, a long Tyler Ervin punt return, and an end game first down to for them to win, despite Brock Osweiler throwing NINE (!) straight incompletions, throwing for less than 100 yards, and completing less than four yards an attempt. It took a bad decision, Miller’s longest run of the year, an event that has happened once this season, and Osweiler making one throw (a slant to DeAndre Hopkins), for Houston to beat a 2-6 team that is one of the league’s worst.
These wins may continue to occur. These high variance stats sometimes balance out during the season, and sometimes over the course of two—Carolina and Baltimore are perfect examples of this. For Houston, they will need to. This isn’t a good football team. It’s a team with the worst offense in the NFL, led by the worst quarterback in the NFL, that wins games because of a good defense led by its secondary and their rational conservative missionary style of football. For now, it works, but it probably won’t next year. This team is far away from what we envisioned, what we were sold this offseason, and what we spent the last two years waiting for. But wins are wins, I guess.
Brock Osweiler derped his way to a 14-27, 99 yard stat line in today's game. That's 7.1 y/c and 3.7 y/a. Osweiler isn't even good enough to be bad.
Thanks to the defense, however, the Texans escape the Bortling Glitter Kitties and move to 6-3. This doesn't look like a 6-3 team to me aside from the defense. The offense and special teams are both league worst or near for obvious reasons, and we can't expect to be gifted a pick six and a Hacky Sack Fumble every week.
I just spent 20 minutes scrolling through targeting numbers for receivers this year. Twelve of them have had two or more games with 13+ targets. Of those twelve, only three have managed to have a target/reception percentage under 50%.
Those three WRs are Allen Robinson, Jordy Nelson, and DeAndre Hopkins.
At some point, I'll stop beating this drum and move on to something else. For now, I'm still annoyed at the fact that the ball is being forced to Hopkins in ways that are not allowing him to take advantage. Of course we should continue to throw to Hopkins because he's the best player on our offense right now, but the way in which we are currently utilising him and trying to get him the ball is just not working. It's painful to watch. At one point during today's game, I asked myself internally whether I feel worse for Hop or Allen Robinson. Both are otherworldly talents stuck in offensive hell holes with bad QBs who seem quite adamant on making every ball thrown in their direction nigh impossible to catch without a herculean effort.
Things should be better. I really hope things do get better. Ten weeks into the season, I'm cursed with the knowledge that they probably won't, which is just another poopy reason why watching this team's offense is a chore.
Matt said it best during HOTD. I kind of want this team to start losing just so something might actually change rather than stagnating in this current situation. That's a horrible realization to come to.
I was thinking about this game, and this season, on the way home from Buffalo Wild Wings. I had a realization about this team:
What we're seeing here, ladies and gentlemen, is the football equivalent of a crumbling marriage and neither side wants to get a divorce.
Think about it. Nothing the team does is working out as it should (Tyler Ervin, that's all I need to say), the coaches’ decisions are questionable at best (whose bright idea was it to continue running plays after the game was effectively over, save for a couple of victory formation plays?), and the quarterback play is abysmal (I think Brock Osweiler might actually be getting worse). The things that a functional football team is expected to perform at least adequately are not being done well, and there's evidence that it's actually getting worse.
In any other situation, this would be a team that is due for a thorough housecleaning. If the record were worse, Rick Smith, BOB, his coaching staff, and a good number of these players would all be on the chopping block.
But like any couple where things aren't working but neither side wants to be the one to end it, they look for that one positive thing to point to so they can say, “See, the soul-crushing depression and fundamental problems aren't SO bad." In the Texans’ case, it's their record. The Texans are playing like hot-buttered butt on offense and, if it weren't for Kareem Jackson's pick six to start the game, the Texans would have lost this game and taken a serious hit to their chances of winning the AFC South.
But the Texans are 6-3. That's what BOB, Rick Smith, and the clan McNair will point to to say to their fans, "See, folks, things aren't SO BAD, are they?"
Things are so bad. And they're not looking to improve any time soon. It seems the only way things will improve is if one of the spouses catches the other in bed with a penguin (who is not their significant other) and finally forces them to make a clean break once and for all.
You do a few things well (defense) and get lucky (pick six, one good play on special teams) and you can occasionally beat a bad team in the NFL. Try that against even a decent team, and it's a recipe for disaster. Lucky for the Texans, the AFC South is fully stocked with mediocre teams, but our defense is not nearly stout enough to carry us more than one game deep in the playoffs. And to be honest, I'm not convinced our defense is good enough to carry us to victories against the Colts and/or Titans.
If Osweiler was capable of settling down in the pocket, he might be capable of fixing some of his mistakes: the lack of touch on crossing routes, the tendency to lock into receivers, the inability to see the whole field, the rushed throws. Either he's going to develop the poise necessary to do that or he isn't. At this point, there should be some indication that he's getting more comfortable back there, but I didn't see it today. Based on that, I don't see him getting any better.
Another win for the Texans that didn't feel like one. As we drift toward the inevitable first-round bounce (or inevitable overtaking by the Titans or Colts), there really isn't much to waste headspace over other than Brock Osweiler. We certainly have enough of a sample size now to comfortably say he isn't going to ever be "The Guy". Of course, that doesn't mean he can't still aspire to and possibly become "game manager," but right now he (still) has a mountain to climb to even get to slightly below average.
The defense is good but not "plus" enough to get over their secondary injuries and the loss of J.J. Watt. The Texans still have four non-Jacksonville road games to go, so despite Bill O'Brien's past successes in the second halves of seasons, I think we are all prepared for the second half of this season to not go well.
Positives of this game though, with all "it's Jacksonville" caveats baked in—obviously the running game and the run defense. Tyler Ervin had a nice return, and the Texans got something GREAT out of a guy they just signed off their practice squad, which is not something that you see every day.
Reading and listening to all the negativity about this team is so freaking draining. That’s not to say the team doesn’t deserve criticism; it certainly does. That said, you can get that from any number of sources, so I’m going to focus on the positives from yesterday’s victory.
The Texans’ defense, even without J.J. Watt, is really good. They won their sixth game of the season without A.J. Bouye, who’s been the team’s best cornerback this season and presumably suffered an injury late in the week, which caused the Texans to have to suddenly adjust their personnel in the secondary after a week or two of preparation that surely featured Bouye playing the boundary opposite Johnathan Joseph. Bouye’s absence forced Kareem Jackson outside and Charles James onto the field; those are places neither of them have consistently had success. The Texans won without Vince Wilfork (admittedly, Wilfork isn’t what he used to be, but he’s a big body and a defensive starter whose backup is a rookie drafted in the fifth round) and managed to hold the Jaguars to 80 rushing yards a week after Jacksonville ran all over the Chiefs. Benardrick McKinney has become a game-changer, a tackling machine capable of stoning running backs before they even reach the line of scrimmage. Speaking of tacking, I know I used to complain about how poorly the team tackled; that’s now a strength. For all the problems with the Texans’ offense, Houston’s defense is legitimately fun to watch.
Brock Osweiler threw for less than 100 yards and made several bad throws yesterday. He also played his first game for the Texans without committing a turnover, had two touchdown passes, and threw a perfect ball to DeAndre Hopkins to pick up a first down deep in his own territory that effectively sealed a win on the road. Osweiler did those things without the services of Will Fuller and Jaelen Strong, two of his top three wide receivers. Make no mistake: Osweiler’s play still leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s reasonable to question whether he’ll raise his game to a level where fans can feel comfortable with him under center. Likewise, it’s also fair to recognize the instances that merit praise.
Other reasons for optimism? How about Akeem Hunt going from the practice squad to active roster contributor in one day? How about Tyler Ervin finally (and timely) nearly taking one to the house? How about Nick Novak hitting a 51 yard field goal that proved to be the difference in the final score after badly missing attempts from 49 and 50 yards?
I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and lollipops for the 2016 Houston Texans. They have significant flaws that will almost definitely limit their ceiling this year. I’m just saying that the Houston Texans are 6-3. They’re leading their division. Take the joy where and when you can find it. I’ll dwell on the negatives after a loss. For now, I’ll relish the win and a team that’s won 67% of its games so far this season.