Sunday's 41-7 shellacking of the Texans by the Baltimore Ravens was more than just a step back in a season of two steps forward one back. This loss (much like the 21-7 Wild Card loss to the Colts last season) felt like a slide back down the slippery slope of an expectation mountain the team had slowly been climbing. After two solid wins the previous two games, which moved the Texans into their division lead and into conversations as a possible Super Bowl contender, this game exposed how far this team is from where it seemed to be. Whereas, there was true excitement heading into a matchup between two of the most exciting QBs in the NFL (in case you have been living on a Pacific Island waiting for "Wilson" to help get you rescued - that would be Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson). There was now doubt and perhaps a bit of fear heading into games with the Colts and the Pats.
What went wrong? Well let's take a look back at last week's post on the five areas the Texans need to focus on for a successful stretch drive.
The Texans played like they had read this article and decided "Heck, we don't need to do any of that....".
Protect Deshaun Watson
We can haggle about who was to blame for these sacks - the O-line, the receivers not getting open quick, play calls that had no one getting open quick, Deshaun channeling his previous problem of holding the ball - but in the end the Ravens sacked the Texans seven times on the day and six of those were against Watson. The Raven defense did what the Texans could not do, which was to take away Watson's break out runs and to hit him or sack him on most of his drop backs. This was not protective of Watson and resulted in one of the worst performances of his career.
On the plus side, the Texans with some help from a missed FG and a failed fake FG kept the Ravens from scoring in the first quarter, which they had dominated to date. On the negative side the Texans did not score in the first quarter (or the second, third or half the fourth quarter). Yes, if grabbing receivers and turning them around as they are about to bring in a TD pass were considered pass interference the Texans might have scored in the first quarter. But fans must bow down to the results of the challenge play and the replay officials in New York, Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli. Would this have changed the results of the game? Yes, they would have only lost 41-14.....
The Texans were on the short side of the turnover numbers 2-0 in this game, which is often a barometer for team success. The first turnover on a strip sack of Watson did not result in any points when Justin Tucker missed his first FG of the season, but it did help set the tone for a gawd awful offensive day for the Texans. The second turnover, a terrible on the run, panic stricken, short pass right to the Ravens' Josh Bynes was close to the final nail in the good guys' coffin as it led to the Ravens 2nd FG and a 27-0 lead. (Actually there were plenty of nails left on the way to the final 41-7 score).
The defense had a very disappointing day as the closest thing to a turnover was an unforced muffed punt by Baltimore that the Ravens covered. The Texans' cornerbacks continued their streak of games with no interceptions, which including the playoff game extends all the way back to the 12th game of 2018 (JJo against the Browns).
The Texans only managed one sack on the day, though the thought going into the game was more to corral Lamar Jackson and make him beat the Texans with his arm. Unfortunately, with 222 yds passing and 4 TDs, plus 86 yds rushing on 9 attempts, the Texans never corralled him and actually showed that Jackson could beat them with his arm, legs, brain and probably any other body part you want to name.
The Texans final rushing total of 20 rushes for 122 yards does not look too bad. Don't let it fool you. Sixty-five of those yards, including Carlos Hyde's 41 yard TD jaunt occurred after the Texans were down 34-0 and the Ravens were no longer caring a whole lot. For most of the game the running game was fairly ineffective and frankly abandoned until late.
There were other things that helped lead to the Texans loss including their inability to stop the Ravens run offense (36 for 263 yds) and their passing offense (20 of 27 for 235 yds). Second year TE Mark Andrews (4 catches for 75 yds and a TD) and RB Mark Ingram (3 catches for 37 yds and 2 TDs) were maddeningly effective and WR Seth Roberts snagged his first TD on the season.
SO........is there any hope for the Texans going forward?
- Look at the Colts. They came into this week having coughed up their division lead by losing to the Dolphins and they turned around for a big win against the Jags (ignore the fact that Jacoby Brissett even coming off an injury is better than Brian Hoyer)
- It is after all - just one loss. (Though an awful, stinky, potentially season defining loss).
- They come home. They have been playing away from NRG for four of the last five games. They should be better at home (they couldn't be worse)
- The quick turn around lets them get the taste of this game out of their mouths in a hurry. And as the talking heads pointed out on the radio this morning - perhaps the bye week gave the team and its supreme pointy head, Coach BOB, too much time to think and devise plays that their little bodies could not fulfill. They may be better with a "quick, throw this together" kind of game plan
- There is an awfully good chance that they just played the best team in football (at least the AFC) at the top of their game. Brissett will look like he is running in army boots next to what they just faced
- The Texans have bounced back from each loss this season with two wins in a row. That includes the real stinker of a loss to the Panthers followed by their blasting of the Falcons
- The Colts will be looking at this film of the Ravens - Texans game and are likely to be over-confident. They may also be over-confident because they have handled the Texans the last 3 times they have played