It really is incredible. Isn’t it. To be back here. In this place. Doing the same things.
In 2015 Houston started the season 1-4, winning one game out of their first five by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They flip-flopped from Brian Hoyer to Ryan Mallett before finally settling on Brian Hoyer. They lost close games. They were embarrassed. They climbed out from the center of the Earth by finishing the season 7-2 and winning games by scores of 10-6, 24-17, 24-6, and 16-10. Banal football. Top five defense, passing game subsisting on throwing the ball to DeAndre Hopkins a lot, Alfred Blue primary running back, do just enough to cover for the defense football.
It culminated in a 30-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that reassured yes, having a quarterback is important, and yes, Houston needs to go out and get one if they were to ever be better than 9-7 and the best team in a bad division. A game that put into motion a sequence events as summarized: [NAME REDACTED], 9-7, beating Connor Cook, wasting an incredible defensive performance in New England, giving up a second round pick to cut off the tumor, trading up for Deshaun Watson.
After the decision to move on up, and last year’s cute little sample size, these games were no longer going to be necessary. Exhausting defensive dominate efforts would be exchanged for high flying blowouts, and tussles against football’s elite would be neck in neck, not lapped around sneering laughs. Houston had an actual quarterback. They had an actual passing attack.
Then this season started, and the super cool offense from last year became the super bad offense from previous years. Gone were the jet sweeps, options, zone reads, and outside zones that set up deep downfield heaves. It was like before. Run, run, shotgun pass. Houston came out the gate the gate with a fart. 0-3. They were blind and subterranean and see through.
Things changed against a hospitalized Colts’ defense. Bill O’Brien returned to what worked last year. The super cool offense was back. They put 37 on the Colts and a Frank Reich decision saved them from a tie. Whatever. Watson was a runner, zone reads and options were used, Keke Coutee was a jet sweep demon, deep downfield heaves were unleashed. Rome Crennel did the same too. Jadeveon Cloweny was hovering over the ‘A’ gap, defensive backs moved closer to the line of scrimmage, J.J. Watt attacked the opponent’s worst offensive lineman, and Benardrick McKinney was allowed to blitz again.
Cracked ribs and a deflated lung, all of that is gone. Houston is once again conservative. They can’t allow Watson to take additional run game hits. The pass game brutalizes him enough. Texans’ football is back to defense, ball control, make less traumatic errors and capitalize on the opponent’s more dramatic ones, and hang on and hope that one possession is enough.
Yesterday, we were waaaaay back over there, in that place, seeing the same things, doing what was already done before. I was listening to that Pianos Become The Teeth album with the sheet hanging from the clothesline, but is actually a fire fanned by white linen. 65 degree October. Revisiting what’s immediately entirely different. I was watching barely just get by Texans’ football again
Yet, when Deshaun Watson was selected, when Houston finally got a quarterback, these types of wins, this overall team strategy was supposed to be eviscerated. Instead, even in super offense post modern football, it’s been resuscitated. The plain and just barely enough has jolted back up. Houston is once again back to being a cautious barely get by team. And that, even after all of it, the Kansas City blowout, first round wide receiver selections, [NAME REDACTED] failures, ACL surgery, general manager changes, we are back here, seeing and reliving the same sort of thing in just a slightly different way, and I watched it all sipping from a mug made of tin, with your name, and the date 1/28/1963 etched in.
It’s Going To Be O.K. Big Guy:
The 2018 Houston Texans greatly remind me of two other teams. First, and the most obvious, is the 2015 version of the Texans. Even though we have a real player at QB this year, we have a coach who has no idea what he’s doing with him.
The other team is the 1983 Chicago White Sox. The team, led by the most over-rated manager in MLB history, Tony LaRussa (almost as over-rated as the Texans HC), won a bunch of close games, getting the franchise into the playoffs for the first time in 24 years. The team motto that year was “Winning Ugly,” and I can think of no better way to describe the Houston Texans’ 2018 season.
What’s been forgotten over the years is that the Winning Ugly White Sox were motorboated quickly by the Baltimore Orioles, not unlike how the Texans were wiped by the Chiefs 30-0 in the playoffs in 2015. You can only be a poser for so long in professional sports.
On the bad side, this season is the worst case scenario for the long-term success of the Texans. Unless we are lucky and he gets Mularkey’d, BOB will be around for 2019, setting back Deshaun Watson yet another year.
On the good side, the defense has evolved nicely over the past couple of weeks. Sure, playing the Glitter Kitties didn’t hurt, but we’ve seen a lot more effective blitzing from guys like Bernadrick McKinney and Tyrann Mathieu, and Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt have been beasts. In addition, Lamar Miller looked fine today behind a line that’s starting to show signs of coming together. Greg Mancz for block of the year on the Will Fuller V WR screen.
This Is Why I Watch Football:
This was the most entertaining Texans game in a long time. They faced a team they should have lost to, and took the wood to them in the first half—at least as much wood as they can all things considered—then hung in there with some solid run offense and timely plays from the defense.
Some quick thoughts:
—Not only was there a Whitney Mercilus sighting, it happened again. Call off the milk carton printing...
—Apparently, it’s not only legal to hold the snot out of J.J. Watt, tackling him and laying on top of him right in front of the head referee is totally OK, too...
—Honey Badger needs to be locked down long term.
—Kareem Jackson HAS earned his new deal.
—If the Texans’ brass doesn’t do everything humanly possible to build a great offensive line next off-season, they should all be run out of town and made to work for Walmart as parking lot greeters of their first ever store in Siberia.
—DeShaun Watson seems to be embracing the whole “Brett Favre comparison” thing that was tossed out when he was drafted. He should get an endorsement from Timex, cause he can take a licking and keep on ticking, too.
Hopefully, the Bill O’Brien roller coaster doesn’t dive back down the hill for this Thursday night.
First, that was BOB’s best managed game. Mostly because Jacksonville couldn’t move the ball down the field the entire game. It does stress me out that he has a propensity to park the bus when up by 14+. There are too many damn good offenses and the rules are too in favor of the offense for a team to sit on a two score lead for an entire half.
Second, saw some great play from players who have been MIA recently. Whitney Mercilus was a beast throughout the entire game. Tyrann Mathieu had a turnover for the first time since week one. It was great to see Andre Hal back because the Texans need all the help they can get in the secondary.
Third, Texans are in the lead for the division with two very winnable games in front of them before the bye. Jacksonville plays the Eagles next week and the Titan are on a bye. If a couple games go the Texans way, they could be entering their week 10 bye week with a game or two cushion for the AFC South.
Lastly, this is [NAME REDACTED] week. GET EXCITED. I think the Texans and the fanbase are going to be pumped to be able to take a shot at the one player who set the franchise back two or three years. [NAME REDACTED] actually played a good game on Sunday so it will be interesting to see what kind of player we get to see. The amount of draft capital wasted to acquire and then get rid of and then acquire Deshaun Watson is mind numbing. I would love to see J.J. Watt sack him three times on Thursday.
Does anyone know if the Dolphins have a good line? I hope its as bad as ours.
I Got A Molly Hatchet Shirt Down There Too That Needs To Be Picked Up:
I've still got some stuff in storage in Jacksonville. Deshaun's got a bus. Can one of y'all get me his #?— Bussy McBussface (@PayneNFL) October 21, 2018
Once again we’re left to wonder - are the Texans better or is their opponent just that bad? For the current version of the Texans, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter because we already know the ceiling, which is a playoff berth and getting bounced in their first or second game. Even if the offensive line improves dramatically the rest of the season, it’s still not going to get you deep in the playoffs.
But I’m going to give the Texans credit. I thought they had the right gameplan, and the team executed it well enough to beat a fractured Jaguars team that continues to suffer from awful quarterback play. We all rejoiced when the Jaguars temporarily “re-committed” to Blake Bortles in the offseason, we all knew it wouldn’t last beyond this year.
So yes - big time credit to the Texans’ defense, which did exactly what it should have done against the Jaguars, and give the Texans’ offense credit for how it played well enough to win, on the road, against a team that desperately needed a win, which also has a pretty damn good defense (though it is quickly starting to look overrated).
I thought Bill O’Brien’s conservative nature played perfectly into this game. Yes, generally I hate it - but Deshaun Watson has been a turnover machine this year. The decision to kill clock at the end of the first half when the Texans knew they would get the ball first in the second half, in my opinion, was the right one for this particular game and in-game circumstance. The Texans I think could have run the ball even more than they did, but I know they also want to give Watson a chance to continue to find his rhythm this season. The gameplan helped Deshaun not get hit as much, and Deshaun helped Deshaun not get hit as much. The O-Line even played better and at times appeared to out-physical the Jaguars in the run game (which was a shock to me).
So yes - the Texans won and I don’t think this win deserves a million caveats from all of us who just write and bitch and whine and complain about them all the time ((like, ALL the time, and yes I realize I am as guilty as (almost) anyone)). Winning on the road against a tough defense is a tall order, especially when they’re as desperate as the Jaguars were for a win. So a 20-7 road win, over the heavy division favorites, that actually never felt close? I’m good with it.