Last night’s game was strange in a strange land. There were bad calls, laser pointers jamming out Brock Osweiler’s eyes, a slippery field, a haze sitting over the field, gassed pass rushers unable to pump their legs, obnoxious music blazing before every snap, an uncovered fullback touchdown, DeAndre Hopkins’ touchdown that was prematurely called dead, Osweiler playing well, Keith Mumphery catching a pass, and some terrible Bill O’Brien decisions.
Through it all, the Texans finally played well against a team that had been playing great. They went on the road and didn’t get trampled. Fears instilled from flat displays of incompetence against New England, Minnesota, and Denver never arose. The Texans actually played well. They probably should have won, but they didn’t.
What’s going to be remembered about this game are the refs, the laser pointer, and the things the Texans couldn’t control losing them this game. Houston still didn’t do the things they could control to win it. They could have gone for it on 4th and inches at their own 46. They could have covered a Raiders running back in the passing game. They could have learned sooner to not have Tyler Ervin return kicks. They could have challenged Lamar Miller’s third down catch. They could have used Miller instead of Akeem Hunt on that fourth down run that was erroneously spotted. They could have gone for it on 4th and 5 instead of punting it and never getting the ball back. They could have done a lot of things they had control of to win last night. But they didn’t.
This is the sort of thing that happens when you play close football games. Critical events that are crucial to the outcome of the game can swing in favor from one team to the other. In this game, the Raiders saw those events go their way and were the team that just won, and the Texans were the team that lost.
Fricken laser beam TD pic.twitter.com/LchWKyhk68— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) November 22, 2016
Tonight's game left me frustrated, but not in the way I expected. I thought the Texans would struggle moving the ball against Oakland, particularly through the air. They didn't. Brock Osweiler didn't have a game you'll be telling your grandchildren about, but he was plenty effective. He played well enough to win, and he was a net plus for the offense tonight. For at least one week, Osweiler should get a reprieve from all the "worst quarterback in the NFL" talk. He wasn't the problem.
Additionally, the Texans' defense was a revelation. I think it's important to take stock of just how well they're playing, and they're doing it without the benefit of the best player in the league. The team you saw line up against a legitimately good Oakland offense tonight played as well as any defense in the NFL, and they did it in unnatural conditions. Led by Jadeveon Clowney, who was as disruptive as he's ever been against a fearsome Raiders' offensive line, the defense was phenomenal.
Unfortunately, what I'll remember about tonight--and I'm guessing I'm like most Texans’ fans in this regard--is the officiating and Bill O'Brien's decision-making. First, the officials: I thought they cost DeAndre Hopkins a touchdown on the Texans' first drive with a phantom out of bounds call, but it's fair to consider that washed out by the pass interference penalty the refs awarded the Texans on what sure looked like an uncatchable ball in the end zone later in the game. But the spots, especially the ones on third and fourth down when the Texans were marching down the field about halfway through the fourth quarter...I mean, those were egregious. They were potential game-changing calls.
Which brings me to Bill O'Brien. He challenged the spot on fourth down and lost; I thought the Texans got screwed there, so no complaint about the challenge itself there. But I also thought he could have challenged and won if he'd fought the third down spot, which seemed even clearer first down to me. Most strikingly, however, was O'Brien's decision to punt late in the fourth quarter, with a little more than three minutes left and his team near midfield, while trailing by a touchdown with only a single timeout and the two minute warning remaining. I simply don't understand why you don't go for it there. O'Brien gave Oakland the ball back, and that proved to be all she wrote.
If you had told me before tonight that the Texans were going to go on the road against a good team and lose by a single score, I would have taken it. In that respect, I'm bullish on how the team played. They showed up and they fought. That's something to build on. I just can't help feeling like they let one get away they shouldn't have, and it had nothing to do with what the players did on the field. That's a bit infuriating.
The Texans had a lot working against them in this game, not the least of which is the fact that the Raiders are simply a better football team right now. Still, as mentioned by the others, they came out and exceeded expectations in virtually all facets of the game. Brock resembled a roughly league average quarterback (massive improvement), Clowney was a monster, and even special teams had big plays once they stopped letting Tyler Ervin touch the football.
At the end, though, there were too many hurdles. Between the turf, the altitude, the refs, the lasers, and the tacos de cabeza (speculation), the Texans simply couldn't pull out enough plays to grab a victory. While I'm as frustrated as anyone regarding the referees—and I believe the two spots in the fourth quarter were far more egregious than the Hopkins non-TD—ultimately, Bill O'Brien couldn't put his players in the position to succeed when he had the chance.
That was the difference.
A great coach wouldn't have punted on fourth and a nose hair in the first quarter. A great coach would have stopped having Ervin return kicks long ago. A great coach would have challenged the 3rd down spot instead of the 4th down spot. A great coach wouldn't have handed the ball to Akeem Hunt on what was one of the most critical plays of the game. A great coach would have gone for it on 4th and 5 at the end.
At the end of the day, all plays are not created equal. Some have a greater influence on the outcome than others. Coaches that make the correct decisions on those plays become winners. Those that don't get recycled around the league.
Right now Bill O'Brien's decision making has him closer to a gig in Cleveland or LA than it does to holding a Lombardi trophy.
Catch With Your Hands, Not Your Face.
None of us here on BRB gave the Texans a chance last night. The refs didn't give them a chance either.
Most of the players believed in themselves and executed very well, only to have the outcome taken out of their hands by poor officiating and some head scratching decisions by the coaching staff.
Oh, and that Tyler Ervin muffed return didn't help either...
If there's really such a thing as a "moral victory," the Texans got one last night. But, that still drops them to 6-4 with the Titans and Colts nipping at their heals.
The Texans played well beyond my expectations, including Brock, but the refs decided the outcome. The NFL is a garbage product. Screw it! I hope the ratings plummet until improvements are implemented to ensure a more neutral venue.
O'Brien isn't great, but bad officiating and dangerous health conditions (lasers in the eyes) sure as hell shouldn't be part of a professional athletic event that hauls in $8 billion a year.
Brock, Clowney and the entire Texans team performed well beyond my expectations. Terrible officiating and unusual decisions by O'Brien made the outcome a loss instead of a victory.
Regardless, They Should Have Let The Play Go.
Was DeAndre Hopkins out of bounds? pic.twitter.com/DKpOpJg7cu— SB Nation (@SBNation) November 22, 2016
I have what I call my "Three Year Rule." I don't judge or evaluate a player or coach before three years are up. However, at this point, I'm just flat out done with Bill O'Brien. There is far too much talent on the field for the Texans to be this incompetent, and his risk averse nature just kills this team, as he showed on several occasions last night.
I know that many of you will say, "But we're 6-4!" And it's true! The problem is that this team should not be blown out in a quarter of its games, and we really should win games like last night with our talent level. Instead, we see an offense that derps its way around the field as BOB continues to use Lamar Miller like he's Larry Csonka. Akeem Hunt, apparently, is Christian Okoye, and it takes an injury to finally get Tyler Ervin off the field.
Personally, I'm tired of striving for mediocrity, where winning the AFC Dumpster Fire South is the yearly goal. My expectations are far higher than losing in the first round of the playoffs.