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Incompletions: Texans-Colts (I Wanted To Believe)

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 failed expectations.

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Weston:

I wanted to believe. I tried. I really did.

Houston put 47 offensive points on the Falcons’ bleeding, perplexed, confused secondary, further razing and ruining Atlanta with Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins stacked sets. They put 31 points on the Chiefs and kept the ball away from Patrick Mahomes with pick and pop play action, second level bulldozing, crossing routes that spread their linebackers from the center of the field to the sideline, and, when they absolutely had to have it, Deshaun Watson found DeAndre Hopkins in man coverage to turn nine catches into seven first downs.

Two weeks. Two great game plans. Two days ago, it felt like Bill O’Brien finally found it. He figured out how to attack the opponent’s weaknesses, simplify the offense to allow Deshaun Watson to play in a more straight forward decisive manner, how to maximize his accuracy, speed, and deep throwing ability with play action, moving pockets, and deep shot chances in atypical situations. The fourth down decisions were correct. All those offseason concerns and internal drama, quelled and overshadowed by Watson’s offensive performance and top end talent. Well, I guess the Texans are just going to be a Super Bowl contender this year!

Sure, the murky shadows of doubt lingered, pulling the lever and reclining in my thoughts. The Falcons are horrendous and their secondary is grotesque without Keanu Neal. Have you ever watched Atlanta play before? The Chiefs, or the Bengals, pick your scat, have the worst linebacker group in football and Patrick Mahomes didn’t have the same ooooooomf after Benardrick McKinney twisted that same horror movie ankle.

I could stay sutured up. I could lock the door and lay under the comforter. Or I could take out the purple scissors and butcher it all open, turning my chest into butterfly wings. Deshaun Watson is stardust, they have skill players to attack every match-up opportunity, J.J. Watt is football tremendous, Lonnie Johnson Jr. can keep playing press-man now that he’s jamming receivers at the line, the offensive line has figured it out, Romeo Crennel knows how to generate pressure. Giving in would have been easier. The leaves are yellowing. It’s October football, the best football. I wanted to feel something.

My excitement for yesterday’s game was rapid. I turned the A/C off. I kept my pants on. I sweated through the couch. I ate Taco Bell. Yet I couldn’t go all in. I stayed up late. I wanted to be hungover. 4 a.m. Hang the banner on the battleship. Mission accomplished. Because yet, as excited as I was, it’s still the Houston Texans. It’s still Bill O’Brien. I’ve seen this happen so many times before. I needed one more week before I could look down and watch my heart pulse and pump. Only one flap of skin was open. I slightly succumbed to the doubts.

We are speckled fish in a little Houston Texans pond, floating around and devouring the bits of dog food purchased for a quarter and tossed in. This game was like those other ones we’ve previously gobbled up and choked on.

  • 2011 Divisional Round. Ruined by a muffed punt and so many T.J. Yates interceptions. The sun was so bright even though it was so cold that day.
  • December 2012. Sunday or Monday Night in New England. Lettermen jackets. Donte Stallworth caught a touchdown pass.
  • 2016 Divisional Round. The defense finally beat the Patriots. Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney interior rushes. A.J. Bouye interception. But [NAME REDACTED] happened. If only Matt Moore was the quarterback.

These were the previous times I went all the way in. Excitement and optimism yields only tragedy.

Yesterday ended like those previous days, except the main difference this time is the talent level and quarterback play were in the Texans’ favor this time. The Texans have a more talented team than the Colts. The Colts haven’t been able to cover anyone. Their second level had been blockable. Jacoby Brissett is game-managing, not making mistakes, and rarely pushing the ball downfield. Houston should be able to jump out to a lead, force Brissett deep, and let Watson terrorize their pass defense.

This didn’t happen of course. The Colts scored touchdowns on all four red zone possessions. The refs scrubbed a touchdown off the board to protect Watson, without even protecting him, by whistling him down when he wasn’t actually down and invalidating a DeAndre Hopkins touchdown catch. Houston spent the first half ‘establishing’ the run instead of slinging it downfield against Pierre Desir and Shakial Taylor. Romeo Crennel failed to generate pressure without blitzing and spent too much time wasting downs by rushing three or four. Houston’s offensive line was split in half by the Colts’ defensive line and tied up at the first level, allowing Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker to do as they pleased. A secondary that had survived playing single high press man was unable to cover anyone. It’s Zach Pascal’s hell. We’re just living in it.

Despite all of that, despite the whatever play, Houston still had multiple chances to comeback and tie it after Frank Reich Bill O’Brien’d the game with conservative run-run-screen pass kill the clock game management in the fourth quarter. Yet Deshaun Watson’s pass was high. It bounced off Keke Coutee’s hands. Leonard scooped it up. GAME OVER.

Before the two-game winning streak, the Texans were 2-2 with a point differential of zero and had a 2-2 record in one score games. They’re now 4-3, a record that exactly matches their expected win loss record, and they have a 3-3 record in one score games. This isn’t a team that should be 6-0. Coin flips are what happen when you play one score games. They could just as easy be 1-5. What if Leonard Fournette gains an extra inch? What if Trent Scott doesn’t hold Whitney Mercilus? What if they call the holding penalties on Lonnie Johnson? Sometimes Leonard picks the pass off, and sometimes Coutee makes the catch.

The problem, as it has always been in the Bill O’Brien era, is that O’Brien gets the bare minimum out of his roster. The team has holes; every team does. But they have the top talent to keep these graves shallow, and this team, with this quarterback, in WIN-NOW mode shouldn’t be playing these close games.

Yesterday should have been comfy. It should have been cozy. The outcome shouldn’t depend on heads or tails. An entire first half shouldn’t whiz by before the Texans do the things that were blatantly obvious entering it. Yet, here we are, in year six, seeing the same shortcomings and missed opportunities.

I wanted to believe. I tried. I really did.

Matt Burnham:

I had some friends in 7th grade Spanish class and we all sat together and goofed off while the teacher was going over her lessons.

One day she made us all stay after and write “I will not talk during Spanish class” 100 times each.

I’m going to do that exact same thing tonight, except I will write “Bill O’Brien called a timeout to run an intentional safety” 100 times in hopes that I gain some clarity.

Bill O’Brien actually did that. I’ve never seen that before.

Oh, now I have to talk about the actual game? Well, running the ball down two scores in the fourth quarter is a bad idea. Houston’s defense couldn’t stop the crossers to save a life. They got gashed every single third down and committed stupid penalties.

Imagine a world where you don’t lay a meaningless hit on Eric Ebron that basically gives the Colts a free touchdown.

I also miss the days when receivers bobbled a pass and they either caught it or it hit the ground, not saw it bounce up into the defender’s hands.

Oh, well. I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Same old Texans. Nobody in the history of teams beating themselves is capable of beating themselves the way the Texans beat themselves.

Where Will You Be When The Diet Coke HITS?:

Kenneth O.:

I hope you guys don’t mind me showing my bias here.

The Texans could easily be 6-0 this season. They can be the best team in the NFL, but every game they shoot themselves in the foot. I 100% believe that the only team that can beat the Texans are the Texans.

That being said, this is a terrible loss. Maybe worse than the Carolina game. The Texans did everything possible to help the Colts win this game and still could’ve won at the end. I’m not surprised that they lost, but I am disappointed with the way they lost. Undisciplined on defense, mediocre in the red zone, and of course horrible play calling and game management on BOB. After the biggest win of O’Brien’s career, he follows it up with this.

I still believe the Texans can make a deep playoff run. They have the talent to do so. But they have to stop shooting themselves in the foot. I hope they can get healthy and finish the remaining ten games strong. If not, it’s time for a coaching change.

Okay, I’m done rambling.

It’s Alright, I Can’t Feel A Thing:

bigfatdrunk:

First of all, only the weak will blame this game on the refs. Calling the “initial” DeAndre Hopkins TD dead - while Deshaun Watson had both feet wrapped and a defender was bearing down on him - was absolutely the correct call and exactly what has been dictated to the refs. Kittening period.

Secondly, it has become disturbingly clear that BOB must read the blog. The moment BOB has a couple good games back to back, and I start to develop some good faith in him, he went back to being his old, bad self again. And I do mean bad. Even at his best, his game management is terrible, and it was horrible on Sunday.

Finally, if you are happy the offense scored 23 points against a banged up defense that’s 28th in DVOA, I have some generic label beer to sell you. Indy’s secondary is almost as bad as ours yet we kept trying to establish the run the entire game. It was deeply stupid football.

The Texans, led especially by BOB, deserved this loss.

At Least You Have Your Baseball:

Capt. Ron:

I didn’t have the (ahem) “pleasure” of watching this game as I was on a flight. I’ll play it back later in the week when I have some time. From the highlights, and many lowlights, I’m seeing and hearing, I have these comments:

1. O’Brien and Crennel have hit their ceiling as coordinators/coaches. Sure, they are dealing with injuries across the roster, but so are 31 other teams at this point in the season. These guys are getting out-coached. Period.

2. With respect to injury impact, NFL rosters need to be expanded. The schemes of an NFL offense and defense are too complex to effectively on-board someone from the street (or someone else’s practice squad). A deeper roster at least helps expedite drawing from the depth chart as that player will know the system. There’s still a challenge of practice experience to be “game ready, which I’ll address next, but at least they should know that team’s playbook.

3. With respect to player readiness each week, and executing better during games, the NFL needs to revert back to allowing more practice time in pre-season as well as during each week between games. Clearly the CBA practice limitations are having a negative response in players being ready each week, especially with respect to depth replacement for injuries.

4. There is zero reason the NFL can’t have more full-time officials. ZERO! They can afford it, and they need to make it happen to clean up weekly examples of incompetence that is making the sport nearly unwatchable.

Summary:

Horrific officiating, injuries, limited practice time, and poor coaching equal an ugly waste of three hours for anyone involved.

Yes, You Still Have Your Baseball:

Texan_RevJ:

There’s this great scene in the show Arrested Development, where Michael finds a bag in the freezer labeled “Dead Dove.” He opens it and looks inside before looking up and gazing into the distance saying, “Well, I don’t know what I expected.”

That pretty much sums up this game for me.

For one reason or another, we seem to always struggle against the Colts. This time is was due to unimaginative play calling and bad secondary play. It feels weird to say this but losing Phillip Gaines is going to hurt us because we already have zero depth in the secondary and now we’ll be playing street free agents.

On to next week.