clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Incompletions: Texans-Colts (All Good Things Must Come To An End)

New, comments

With so much to write and talk about after every game, and not enough time for one person to write about it all, the masthead joins together and writes about the end of the ride.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Matt Weston:

The last time the Texans played a competent passing offense was also the last time they played the Indianapolis Colts. In that game, Jadeveon Cloweny recovered a horrendous snap in the endzone, J.J. Watt strip sacked Luck to put Houston’s offense in the redzone, T.Y. Hilton was knocked out of the game before he could scamper around for 200 receiving yards, and it culminated in a 34-31 overtime finish where Frank Reich opted to go for it on 4th down, giving the Texans an opportunity to kick a game winning field goal. That was a long time ago. Months ago. We were so young once. Since then, the Colts’ offense has evolved into a better version of itself. Their pass blocking has improved with the switch of Braden Smith to right tackle, Luck can throw the ball further and harder, and Eric Ebron has gone from interesting former top ten pick landed for cheap to a passing offense focal point.

In between then and now, the best receiver the Texans covered was Emmanuel Sanders, or DeVante Parker, or I don’t know, Zay Jones? The best quarterback they faced in the moment wa, Alex Smith until his leg snapped, or Baker Mayfield down 23-0, or vengeful [NAME REDACTED], or Josh Allen while scrambling? They played teams that aligned exactly with their defensive strength, stopping the run. And most of these opponents couldn’t even run the ball well. It was just a safer option than allowing quarterbacks like Blake Bortles, Nathan Peterman, or Allen, throw the ball.

So Houston won a lot of games in a row. Nine in fact. Swallowing running backs and allowing only 2 yards a carry to them. Johnathan Joseph played competent coverage against mediocre #1 receivers. Shareece Wright, and the rest of the secondary was rarely tested. Clowney and Watt provided constant pressure and created open pass rushes for those around them. They won the one possession games they couldn’t win to start the year. Jason Garrett had end game mismanagement issues of his own. Nathan Peterman threw a pick six. Vance Joseph settled for a 50+ yard field goal attempt. Washington attempted a 60+ yard game winner. The offense clicked together three times a game or so to score 21 points, while non-defensive touchdowns inflated their total points scored.

It wasn’t that Houston didn’t beat anybody, it was that they didn’t beat anyone who could actually attack their pass coverage. The Colts were able to. Luck threw for 399 yards. No one in the secondary could cover Hilton, who had 199 receiving yards. Zach Pascal and Eric Ebron caught touchdown passes. Watt and Clowney were football good, but not box score good, and Luck was sacked only twice while maneuvering around the carnage.

During this run 21 points were enough offensive production to win close games. Down 24-14 it wasn’t. The Texans were forced to do more than the minimum amount. Slot corner blitzes kept Watson in the pocket. No one was open downfield. Watson missed his deep downfield throws. He held onto the ball forever, forcing his offensive line to block for five seconds. Houston tried to flip the switch, and become an aggressive passing offense, it popped, sparked, and fizzled.

Houston is going to win the division. They’ll beat the Jets and Jaguars to end the year, and probably beat the Eagles. They’ll once again be playing teams led by horrendous quarterbacks in Josh McCown or Sam Darnold and Cody Kessler, and will also face the surprisingly mediocre Carson Wentz. These three teams won’t be able to exploit Houston’s coverage issues like the Colts were. But come January, that will all end. If Houston wants to advance farther into the postseason then they’ve been before they’ll need to beat either the Chargers, Steelers, Chiefs, or Patriots, teams with even better passing offenses. Instead of Luck, Hilton, and Ebron; imagine Phillip Rivers, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen; Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Antonio Brown; Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill; Tom Brady, and his cast of six complimentary receivers who all do different things. Unless the offense can put up 31 points, and Watt and Clowney become 2015 Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, last Sunday is going to happen again in a worse way.

Even if these passing offenses are impending space rocks hurdling towards Houston, imminent January frustration is a personality change from last year, when Houston played meaningless games, against meaningless teams, and lost nearly every one of them—thanks again Blaine Gabbert. Seeing Watt and Clowney play together has been worth the four year wait. Watson is spectacular and proved last season wasn’t an unsustainable touchdown rate fluke. The offensive line has gotten better. Lamar Miller exists. Will Fuller V is a healthy season away from being a Pro Bowl receiver. DeAndre Hopkins bends reality.

This year has been enjoyable, but this won’t be their year. Maybe it will be next year when they’ll have draft capital and cap space to fill the holes, or the year after that as Watson becomes the sun the team revolves around. But this year isn’t their year. But at the same time, no matter how frustrating January will be, this year is still so much better than the last five years endured.

Move Over Mike Vrabel, We Got A New Leader Of Men:

Matt Burnham:

The Texans streak was incredible while it lasted. The resurgence and resilience of this team was impressive. With every win streak comes a few breaks or lucky plays, but that’s football for ya. Sometimes it happens. This loss was just an emphasis of the flaws this team has. The secondary can be carved like a Halloween pumpkin. The offensive line might as well be replaced with tackling dummies. And as great and promising as Deshaun Watson is, he needs to work on reading blitzes and throwing the ball away when the play isn’t there. Sometimes it’s better to give up than to keep waiting and waiting. It’s easy to blame Bill O’Brien because he can be frustrating, but this one is not on him. Andrew Luck was a monster today and their defense played well. They were just the better team today and earned it. The nine game winning streak was awesome but now it’s time to regroup and get ready for the playoffs.

More Like Shareece Wrong, Get It, His Last Name Is Wright:

Capt. Ron:

“The Reasons the Texans Will Lose Bingo Game” resulted in numerous early outbursts of “BINGO!,” as the most common weaknesses for Houston surfaced numerous times throughout the tilt. The team never played like they were in a game that would have ensured a division title and playoff berth.

Houston STILL has no answer for T.Y. Hilton, who gouged the secondary with wanton abandon even while nursing an injury. The pass rush couldn’t break the protection enough to matter while Luck sliced and diced his way up and down the field all day.

Watson and his offensive line were a hot mess with few exceptions, and Bill O’Brien’s play calling and game management decisions continue to be a glaring concern for a team that’s on the brink of something special....some day. It won’t be this year though as good teams in the playoffs will take advantage of the Texans’ weaknesses early and often. Brian Gaine has more work to do next offseason to provide depth to the key pieces that are in place.

Houston will make the post season, but it will be an early exit based on what we saw today. The winning streak was a high point of this season for sure.

There’s Always Money In The Banana Stand Michael:

Diehard Chris:

This one, minus a bit more scoring, went as I expected it to. Frank Reich was smart enough to largely abandon the run and aggressively throw against the Texans because Houston’s secondary is bad against the pass; it has just been masked by poor opponent quarterback play and strategy all year. That was the baseline reason I expected a Colts win today. But with that baseline, here were the other (also expected) items:

-The Texans’ offensive line is still bad in pass protection

-Deshaun Watson holds the ball too long, even when the pass defense isn’t great

-Bill O’Brien’s play-calling is better than it was, but today it was AWFUL in key moments (WAY too much running down 10 points)

-Bill O’Brien does not trust Deshaun Watson to win a game with his arm

Frank Reich ignored conventional NFL strategy and was aggressive with the ball, up three points, and with just a few minutes on the clock. That essentially was the ballgame. Jadeveon Clowney made a dumb play, but that wasn’t even in the top five reasons the Texans lost.

All the good feelings from the nine-game winning streak are going to evaporate in this weeks’ aftermath, and that’s wrong. It doesn’t matter how many breaks the Texans got or how difficult their opponents were—winning NINE straight games in the NFL is a fantastic achievement. But this team has a TON to figure out if they want to do anything beyond winning a division title and having a nice regular season.

Mike Bullock:

The offensive line neglect of the last several years was glaringly obvious today. Deshaun Watson constantly holding onto the ball didn’t help, although the lack of Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee made it far too easy for the Colts secondary to blanket Deandre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas. J.J. Watt seemed like he was running at half speed quite often, making me wonder if he was sick or just not feeling 100%.

The defense has carried the team all too often when the offense has struggled. When the defense hasn’t been able to do that, more often than not Houston loses. The notion that the Colts offensive line was operating without their starting center, but still managed to essentially neutralize Jadeveon Clowney and Watt for most of the game is mind boggling.

But, they were bound to lose sooner or later and getting loss number four after an historic 9-game win streak is a lot better than the alternative of not having that win streak.

Now, Houston needs to get Coutee back on the field, figure out how to actually have a quality offensive line and secure one more win over the next three weeks. If not, all that win streak did was ensure the Texans don’t get a higher draft pick.

sad!

bigfatdrunk:

On last week’s episode of Battle Red Radio, I said that I wish I could create a flowchart for today’s game. If the scores are within one score of each other, the Texans would lose. If it was greater than one score, the Texans would win. That nine win game streak was due mostly to the defense, advantageous match-ups, stupid opponent football, and one score luck, which ended today.

Otherwise, this game really checked off all the boxes that identify the 2018 Texans, which previous thoughts have covered well.

The 2018 Houston Texans continue to copycat the 2015 version, and I expect a similar ending in the playoffs (though with far better QB play, at least). As long as Brain O’Brain is the head coach, that’s the ceiling.

I Came From The Future. It Is Much Worse Than Right Now. Savor This, Whatever This Is:

Mike Bullock:

The offensive line neglect of the last several years was glaringly obvious today. Deshaun Watson constantly holding onto the ball didn’t help, although the lack of Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee made it far too easy for the Colts secondary to blanket Deandre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas. J.J. Watt seemed like he was running at half speed quite often, making me wonder if he was sick or just not feeling 100%.

The defense has carried the team all too often when the offense has struggled. When the defense hasn’t been able to do that, more often than not Houston loses. The notion that the Colts offensive line was operating without their starting center, but still managed to essentially neutralize Jadeveon Clowney and Watt for most of the game is mind boggling.

But, they were bound to lose sooner or later and getting loss number four after an historic 9-game win streak is a lot better than the alternative of not having that win streak.

Now, Houston needs to get Coutee back on the field, figure out how to actually have a quality offensive line and secure one more win over the next three weeks. If not, all that win streak did was ensure the Texans don’t get a higher draft pick...