Rarely do I think of sports as this way, but I am proud of the way this defense has played. Entering the season, the possibility of J.J. Watt either needing time to become himself again, or missing games, or the year entirely, was real. The worst case scenario happened when he had another back surgery, leaving the Texans without the best player in the NFL.
In this reality, I wondered how far the Texans would fall off. Would they become the 10th best defense? 15th? 20th? 25th?
The answer has been 14th. Entering yesterday's loss, they were 14th in DVOA at -2.3% and 13th in points allowed, allowing 21.4 points a game. In Watt's absence, Whitney Mercilus has continued to play at a Pro Bowl level. Jadeveon Clowney is now one of the best run defending defensive ends in the game. Benardrick McKinney's maturation has turned the middle of the defense from a weakness to a strength. And this secondary is the best part of this defense. Johnathan Joseph uses savvy route recognition and ball skills to bat away the ticking of seconds. A.J. Bouye is actually just a really good corner and not someone who has strung together a couple of games. Andre Hal, doesn't have the interceptions but prevents deep passes from being thrown to his half of the field. Kareem Jackson's move to the slot has put him in his more natural position. Romeo Crennel has been a maestro as he's navigated injuries and a lack of interior pass rush to keep this defense alive.
The Texans have lost three in a row not because of their defense, but because of their offense. During these last three games, they have held Oakland to 27, San Diego to 21, and Green Bay to 21 points. These are all point totals that a competent offense should easily eclipse. Meanwhile, Houston's offense has put up 20, 13, and 13. Because of their ineptitude and their inability to score more than 20 points, which is something the Texans have only done four times, these great defensive performances that have held Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers led offenses to less points than they score on average have all been wasted. Houston still tries to force feed runs up the middle, and Brock Osweiler has been the worst starting quarterback in the NFL this season.
These last three weeks existed to put a cozy cushion between them and the rest of the division. Once the realization arrived that this wasn't a good team, the season was going to depend on these last four weeks. Well now here they are. Like the previous wins, the playoffs are going to depend on if the defense can hold teams to 20 points or less so the offense can meekly limp past that threshold.
Another week of the the same completely expected stuff. This team is soooo miserably predictable in so many macro and micro ways. Overall game strategy, play-calling, drive-to-drive philosophy...all there is to do is sigh.
Well, at least there are only four games left of this miserable season. It was nice to see DeAndre Hopkins get a touchdown, even if they didn't unleash those passing plays until garbage time. Welcome to .500, and now the Texans are on the way to Indy.
Football Sundays used to be my happy time, a pick me up at the end of the week, something to make Mondays a bit less of an effort.
The more these sad losses keep happening, the less I enjoy watching.
I don't even think Brock Osweiler was that bad this week, but he was still mediocre enough, as was Lamar Miller, to make it a slide to defeat. I thought we dealt with the conditions well and the game was pretty evenly matched for the first half.
Credit to a defense kept us in it for three quarters. The game was lost in just a couple plays, notably a couple key first down conversions and Charles James' slip.
Also credit to good ol' Grimey, who ran it pretty well today. The game would have been very different if not for him.
I want us to win, but I don't want us to just got blown up in the first round of the playoffs again. It continues to be a very sad season after how upbeat everything was heading in.
Riffing off myself from HotD:
"Kitten me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of the 2013 Texans, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
That's about how I think of the 2016 Houston Texans. That 2013 team may have been bad, but it found new and exciting ways to be bad.
The 2016 Texans are miserable, completely lacking playmaking ability on both sides of the ball, even though the roster HAS playmakers. Heck, Brock can't even throw me a pick six to keep me amused. Offensively, we've scored 18 TDs in 12 games. Defensively, we neither get to the QB nor create turnovers (though at least we're good). As of this writing, the team has the fourth worst point differential in the NFL. We are closer to the 3-8 Jets than the 6-6 Packers. Our poor, poor defensive unit.
This offense is like watching on old poodle. You bought it a shiny new leash and painted racing stripes on it, but it's still an old poodle. It tries to dry hump the coffee table, but its legs are too weak and it just kinda collapses on itself. No matter how you dress that poodle up, no matter how many beads and baubles and laser displays you add, and regardless of what kind of toys you give it, it's still an old, impotent poodle.
I think the offensive ineptitude would be easier to endure if this weren't the quarterback OB had truly tried to obtain. Like if Osweiler was just a stopgap fill-in used by OB to handle things while he sought out his guy, I wouldn't be as frustrated by his epic kitteness. But this offense has actually taken a step backwards this season, and Osweiler is just not the answer. I understand that it's early in his Texans career (and, in terms of games started, early in his career), but if it's that early, why give him the money we gave him?
The bright spot remains the defense. Romeo Crennel needs to not retire at the end of this season, because his side has been our salvation this year. He's faced a lot of injuries and still managed to keep one of the best QBs in the NFL today to lower-than-average numbers. If the offense could just carry its part of the load, that'd be great, because it's frustrating to watch all these defensive gems go to waste because the offense doesn't believe in scoring.
Have you ever seen a kid pick up Madden football for the first time? They struggle a bit, then find a handful of plays that work on offense, and stick with them hoping for success. That's what the Texans' offense looked like yesterday. Best call for first and ten? Shotgun handoff up the middle. 2nd and short? Shotgun handoff up the middle. Third and long? Let's change it up and call a shotgun draw up the middle...
If an opposing defensive coordinator tells his unit to run stuff up the middle 80% of the time against the Houston offense, he's going to win the day if his team executes. For an offensive scheme that's supposed to be "multiple" and changing to suit the opponent, we sure are seeing the same plays over and over and over each and every week.
Thankfully once again the defense did their thing. But all the defense in the world doesn't matter if the offense scores an average of sub-18 points per game week in and week out.
Back in my first year in college, we were studying Charles Baudelaire (French Poet, bit of a weirdo, liked to stalk people). Baudelaire was interested with the notion of ennui, which was an obsession with boredom and the feeling of boredom or listlessness over one's occupation or circumstances.
Ennui is also the perfect term to describe how I feel about this team right about now. It is languishing in a perpetual state of ennui. It's not going anywhere or doing anything special. It's just existing in the most boring possible manner. This Texans' season is destined to end as aimlessly as the balls thrown by its quarterback. Watching this team's offense is soul-crushing. It's depressing. It's depressing to watch DeAndre Hopkins get thrown at seven times and only catch two of those attempts. It's depressing to watch Lamar Miller run the ball up the gut endlessly for 2-3 yards. It's depressing to watch a really freaking good defense get screwed over each week by a offense that can't muster enough points to make a game somewhat competitive.
The team as a collective whole is good. It had talent going into this season, and it's had more of it appear throughout the season (most of it on the defensive side; re-sign A.J. Bouye, please). It's going to be really fun to watch this defense when all of it is healthy. But that's not going to happen this season, nor is the redemption of this offense. With that being said, can we please skip ahead to the offseason when some important decisions regarding this team will actually be made, instead of potentially watching them rise to the top of the horrible AFC South and getting pasted by one of the other AFC teams that's actually good?
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