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Incompletions: Texans v. Steelers (Watt’s The Point?)

With so much to write and talk about after every game, one person isn’t enough to write about it all. The Masthead joins together and writes about the Texans’ return to 2018.

NFL: Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

MATT WESTON:

In 2018, the Houston Texans started 0-3. They went to New England with a surgically repaired Deshaun Watson prepared to lead a talented team and prove his rookie year scorching wasn’t merely a small sample size fluke thanks to an unsustainable touchdown rate. They promptly pooped the bed. No one could cover Rob Gronkowski or James White. Garbage time points made the Patriots win look closer than it was.

The following week, Deshaun Watson was sacked four times and hit ten times, a direct result of Houston playing Martinas Rankin at left tackle and Julien Davenport at right tackle after Seantrel Henderson snapped his ankle; Rankin and Davenport were put at positions they weren’t ready for or accustomed to playing, allowing Tennessee to create easy edge pressure and blitz Watson to hell. Blaine Gabbert started for the Titans. 13 completions and a fake punt pass touchdown was all Mike Vrabel needed to get his first head coaching victory.

Then, the Texans lost to Eli Manning’s New York Giants. New York proved what other teams would prove throughout the year—the Texans’ secondary was atrocious. Eli picked Houston apart with easy crossing routes. The Giants would start 1-7, with their one win coming over the Houston Texans.

From there, the Texans managed to punch their way through the coffin and dig their way out from the grave. An all-time great run defense feasted on offenses led by quarterbacks like rookie year Josh Allen (until an elbow injury knocked him out of the game, which put Nathan Peterman in), Blake Bortles (before he was bald and homeless), [NAME REDACTED], Case Keenum, Alex Smith (until J.J. Watt tore his leg off so Colt McCoy could run for his life), Marcus Mariota, and rookie year Baker Mayfield (with Gregg Williams as interim head coach). Houston’s offense controlled the ball, kept Watson in a bubble, and did just enough. From 0-3 to 9-3, Houston became one of four teams since 1990 to make the NFL Playoffs after starting 0-3.

Two years later, this version of the Houston Texans is looking to do the same thing after a hellacious start. Unlike 2018, the 2020 Texans played the two best teams in the league and one of the five best teams in the AFC, putting them in the spot they’re in now. Although the schedule was troublesome, the Texans’ performance was equally disturbing. Listless and incompetent in Weeks One and Two against the Chiefs and Ravens until they insisted on ESTABLISHING THE RUN against the Steelers and three drive killing negative plays held an offense, with Year Four Deshaun Watson at quarterback, to zero second half points. There’s no bad luck or squirrely bounces to blame. Despite the tough schedule, the Texans deserve every bit of the 0-3 they’re currently facing.

Unlike 2018, the AFC South isn’t a wasteland. The Texans don’t have the juggernaut run defense since those players have gotten older or have moved away. They don’t have the league’s best wide receiver who can carry a passing offense on his own. Instead, they’re depending completely on Deshaun Watson to pull them out of this nosedive, and so far, they haven’t had the offensive system to even give him the opportunity to do so.

2018 was improbable. 2020 looks to be impossible. The only solace is the new #7 seed participation trophy for the postseason hanging above the ladder in the center of the ring. But before anyone can even think of that, they have to win a game, and their first opportunity is Gary Kubiak’s REVENGE game.

Life is beautiful and funny, ain’t it?

KENNETH:

Well, we’re 0-3 against three pretty good teams. The running game was nonexistent. The offensive line couldn’t get any push. The run plays were obvious and there was no creativity in the run game. It started to look like Kubiak’s offense, where everyone in the stadium knew what the Texans were running. David Johnson couldn’t break a single tackle and didn’t seem interested in making a play.

The defense looked horrific. Once again, we couldn’t stop the run. We’ve allowed 166, 230, and 169 yards rushing in our first three games. That’s embarrassing. The loss of D.J. Reader cannot be overstated. It doesn’t help that our rookies aren’t contributing or even playing.

I’m simply disappointed. We really look incompetent. I don’t know where the change needs to be taken, but something must change.

BETTER JOB:

BIGFATDRUNK:

If Sunday’s game was the Indy 500, BOB would have been in the lead at lap 250, pulled into pit row, and then taken a three hour nap. Being in the lead halfway through a match is LIKE winning, right?

Yesterday’s game in Pittsburgh was a caricature of a person who has become a caricature of himself. Winning 21-20 at halftime, BOB simply stopped trying.

With Deshaun Watson putting on an air show, BOB decided to try and establish the run, again, to start the second half. David Johnson, the recipient of rushing the ball, has seen his yards per carry numbers per game go from 7.0 against the Chiefs to 3.1 against the Ravens to 1.8 against the Steelers. That includes his first rush of the day going for five yards.

Where is the all vertical offense?

And if you think Watson is to blame for the second half meltdown, he is not. Watson doesn’t call the plays. Even on Watson’s pick, Kenny Stills got outhustled to the ball by Mike Hilton.

The offensive line has been terrible, though it had moments. Hey, and we should all congratulate Darren Fells on being the first offensive player in football history awarded half a sack.

Yes, the start of the schedule was difficult, but we still lost all three games. It’s because the 2020 Texans, under and because of BOB, is still the same damn thing: mediocre.

L4BLITZER:

Another game, another painful loss. A combination of better play and perhaps not as terrible a matchup for the team. We saw greater signs of what this offense could be, especially if Watson gets time to throw. The defense will not remind anyone of 2011-2012 or 2016, but for three quarters, it held up its end of the bargain, bending but not breaking.

However, our problems are still all too evident. The defense was on the field way too long in the second half, and once again gave up too many yards and possession time to an opponent. As strong as the offense was in the first half, it was nonexistent in the second. 4 possessions, which were three 3-and-outs and an ill-timed hero-ball interception, all set up by two poorly called/executed plays. I can understand balanced calling, but the passing game had the Steelers on their heels. Make them stop you. Don’t stop yourself. Maybe the Steelers’ defense would have gotten there anyway, but we didn’t help ourselves at all, and a game we could have, and maybe should have, won...we lost.

Now, we are 0-3 for the second time in three years. Yes, we rallied to get back to 9-3 in 2018, but more often than not, a team that starts 0-3 ends up on the road to nowhere. Next week, even this early in the season, is an absolute must win...against another desperate team with playoff aspirations...who we have never beaten.

Even in 2020, with all that has happened...at least there is the constant of the Houston Texans making life hard for their fans.

PUT IT ON A T-SHIRT:

JOE CRITZ:

Sincerely disappointed.

0-3 is never good, regardless of the competition. Despite continued improvement on the offense and defense, especially in the first half, the Texans decided to end that streak of positive play the second it looked like they had turned the corner by going extremely conservative in the second half. Nothing called for them to change what they were doing. The gameplan they came in with was working. Pass protection was good for the most part. The defense was bending but not breaking. Nothing called for a change to the plan. No need to run the ball religiously and allow the Steelers to play keep away for the entire second half.

Deshaun Watson threw nine passes in the entirely of the second half. Not nine completions, just nine passes. He was the reason they had the lead going into halftime, and instead of rolling with him, the Texans quite literally took the ball out of his hands. I’m not sure what the coaching staff thinks, but this team runs through the quarterback. Lose him, and the game is over. Voluntarily taking it out of this hands and practically daring the opposing team to hold onto the ball as long as they can? Inexcusable.

The Texans earned this 0-3. They had a bevy of opportunities to put this one away and refused. I just hope ownership comes to their senses before Eric Bieniemy is off the market, although I am fully aware that even the Jets are more likely to come to their senses before we do.

IT’S PRETTY SIMPLE:

CARLOS FLORES:

The final score should have been 21-35. Honestly, losing through the quality of play that was displayed in the second half, as opposed to just getting the crap kicked out of us for all four quarters, stings quite a bit worse. The first half was actually a ball game! Then, in classic BOB fashion, he proceeds to load up his diaper once his team came back out of the tunnel.

David Johnson was eaten alive. He’s the next in a long line of backs that will be grinded down into dust by Bill O’Brien’s play calling. When the offense took to the skies, mostly good things happened. Sure, there were a few terrifying moments where Deshaun had to run for his life, but that’s showbiz with this team. However, in BOB’s smooth, reptilian brain, he thought that the offense should revert to its usual “derp” state and hand the ball off to the top run defense in the league. That netted us a grand total of....29 yards. TWENTY NINE YARDS. You could have kneecapped James Conner and he still would have gotten more than 29 yards. This offense will never click, because the man in charge has too much pride to change. This script will be replayed over and over. Glimpses of what could be, swallowed whole by what actually is.

The biggest problem was Houston’s defense. They stink like moldy gym socks garnished with extra-aged bleu cheese and a side of horseradish. The run defense is nonexistent. Rivers McCown had a fantastic article that reminded me of the fact that we’ve recently shelled out contracts to members of this front seven that are responsible for the *checks notes* most rush yards allowed in the league (before stats are finalized for Week 3; once they are, we’ll be the worst). All the hallmarks were here. Bad tackling, inability to cover tight ends, busted coverage, little to no penetration on run plays. Being consistently put back on the field due to offensive inefficiencies certainly wasn’t ideal, but the Texans still gave up 80 yards rushing and 122 yards passing in the first half. They weren’t tired then.

The Texans have climbed out of 0-3 before. However, if we revisit the team that accomplished the feat, look at the players we had that are no longer here. DeAndre Hopkins, Tyrann Mathieu, Jadeveon Clowney, Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, D.J. Reader. I know J-Jo had to go and K-Jax too. The rest of them, we don’t have equal substitutes. This roster isn’t as talented as that 2018 team.

Looking at the Vikings next week, there’s a good chance that we get steamrolled. If so, and we end up 0-4, I’ll see it as a win, as hopefully Cal McNair will have his hand forced to get rid of BOB once and for all. Oh, who am I kidding? This is Bill O’Brien’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

FEED ME:

MIKE BULLOCK:

On some weird level, I’m actually happy the Texans are 0-3. Not because I want to see this team fail, not because I don’t want the players to enjoy success, but simply because the more they lose, the closer we get to the end of the Bill O’Brien era. How sad is that?

As I’ve said many times before, O’Brien is probably a great guy, a lot of fun to have at the family BBQ, a great next door neighbor, and all that.

But yesterday we got an up close and personal look, for the third straight week, of how his system measures up against a Super Bowl winning coach/system. For the third straight week, The O’Brien Way came up short.

Without players like Jadeveon Clowney, D.J. Reader, DeAndre Hopkins, Kareem Jackson, A.J. Bouye and Johnathan Joseph, the roster doesn’t have enough talent to overcome bad coaching. Sure, we’ll see sparks here and there, such as the Texans leading at halftime yesterday, or the 24-0 lead over the Chiefs at Arrowhead last January. But O’Brien’s system will ensure any high-flying outliers are dragged back down to the level of mediocrity that is simply its nature. True reversion to the mean.

Watching the passing of the torch, so to speak, of J.J. Watt to T.J. Watt yesterday was the final nail in the coffin of O’Brien’s system wasting J.J.’s career, just as it did Deshaun Watson’s rookie contract, a national treasure of cap space, and a ripe harvest of draft picks.

The only hope left is that Cal McNair will sell the team to someone who cares, and that someone brings in a winning general manager who hires a winning coach to install a winning system before Deshaun Watson’s career goes the way of J.J.’s.