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Incompletions: Texans v. Browns (Hamstrung)

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 end of Tyrod and the start of Davis.

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

MATT WESTON:

We’ve seen several seasons of Tyrod Taylor starting at quarterback, and we knew a few things about him. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t take sacks. He is risk averse. He can be used as a vital component of a run game, but at age 32, those days should be gone. This version that we saw in Buffalo, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, no longer exists. He has transcended to an entirely different being. He’s surpassed capable, basic, fine, and has become incredible. From Tyrod to TYGOD.

In two games Taylor has completed 70.5% of his passes, is averaging 9.5 yards an attempt, has thrown 3 touchdowns and run for another, and has only taken 1 sack. Tim Kelly has crafted the perfect offense for him. Read pass options, play action passes that masterfully attack zone coverage, different drop backs that create new throwing lanes and get him on the move. He exists outside the structure too, creating on his own, as seen by his touchdown run against Cleveland, and his impossible heave to Brandin Cooks against Jacksonville. Kelly is the canvas for Taylor to throw himself across.

Taylor was a revelation. He was the feel good hit of September. In six quarters he changed our attitudes and beliefs about this team. The Texans were no longer atrocious, ridiculous, or horrendous. They were scrappy, enjoyable, and well coached. Jack Easterby was removed from the pulpit. Nick Caserio’s contract restructures were forgotten. Deshaun Whatson? Deshaun Whoston?

I don’t know what Taylor did in a previous life, or why he has to suffer through the trials placed in front of him so he can discover his true purpose, whichever the reason, Taylor is cursed. He was cursed playing in Buffalo when Rex Ryan ruined their defense and mitigated the success he had with Greg Roman, he was cursed playing for Hue Jackson, and he was cursed in Los Angeles thanks to an inerrant jab. Now, here he is, breaking past the rigid confines of a previous reality, finding that next step, only for it to be spoiled by a rotten hamstring when he escaped left from the pocket.

The thing that we loved has soured. Davis Mills was underwhelming in college. He struggled with play by play accuracy, drunken Zach Methenberger pocket awareness, balloon arm, and he didn’t have the athleticism to make up for this faults. This was on display again yesterday when he quickly pulled himself together to see a NFL field. The 2021 Texans are the Texans with Taylor, they aren’t with Mills.

Lovie Smith’s defense only works when they are forcing turnovers. Justin Reid has forced three of his own in two games. It was a given they would get better in this facet of the game after being historically terrible last season. Down by down, this defense has been worked. They don’t force incompletions, they can’t tackle, and they aren’t getting much at all from their front four pass rush.

This week is going to be an atrocity. Carolina’s front recently devoured a better New Orleans offensive line, and a better rushing attack. Mills almost died twice in Cleveland, and he may very well die against Carolina. The Texans are not only going to be bad, but they are going to be bad and boring.

For our own enjoyment, for Mills’s safety, we need Taylor’s hamstring to quickly repair itself. Without Taylor the Texans are the 0-17 abomination we all expected, with Taylor Houston is the admirable underdog. Get well soon TYGOD. We all need you.

HE WILL NEVER DIE:

BIGFATDRUNK:

First, let’s give credit where it’s due.

Tim Kelly as an offensive coordinator >>>>>>>>>to infinity>>>>>>> Bill O’Brien. These first two games are a stark contrast with BOB’s Old Poodle Offensive, and the Texans are gaining easy yards for the first time in years. The screen pass to Phillip Lindsay was art.

For the first time in years, the offensive line looks, dare I say, competent? Mike Devlin was an albatross over this team for nearly a decade, and his loss was the team’s gain. Kelly has also done a good job helping his line by keeping in extra blockers. Now, we still can’t run the ball, but we can protect the QB, and that’s a big victory.

As for the rest? Yeesh.

While the Texans need to run the ball to be successful, they went for just 2.9 yards per carry. The Browns got 4.6 yards per carry, even including Baker Mayfield running a yard at a time. While Lovie Smith’s cover two has bent but not broken this year, it is exploitable. If Justin Reid misses time, and he’s created three (3) of the five (5) turnovers, the defense is especially weak.

And the Davis Mills experience? File that under “Yikes.” Sure he looked fine in prevent defense trash time, but even with that boost, he was still 8/18 for 102 1/1 and a quarterback rating of 58.1. He’s just as likely to hit his wide receiver as he is to miss him by 10 yards.

Next week’s game against CAR is shaping up to be a real sword fight.

I GOT IT DAMMIT:

L4BLITZER:

What a strange game. The general flow of the matchup was not that odd, in that the Texans did manage to catch Cleveland off-guard and did get an early lead in the game. The second half saw Cleveland take control of the game, especially with its formidable running game and grind out a victory in the third and fourth quarter.

Within that narrative though, it was a strange trip. At one point in the first half, the teams had more combined turnovers (3) than incompletions (2). Taylor was determined to win this game by himself and in the first half, he almost did. Then his injury curse returned. Welcome to the Davis Mills Era. Cleveland responded accordingly and the pass defense that was non-existent in the first half returned in the second. Mills did eventually make a couple of plays, but he does not inspire great hopes for success at this point.

This game also showed more reasons why people were down on this team to begin with. What the Easterby was Culley thinking with the whole declining a penalty to punt on 4th and 1 in Cleveland territory? While that decision did not burn them on the subsequent drive, my faith in any sound judgement by Culley went way down. Don’t get me started on the execution at the end of the half. Again, the Browns didn’t score, but the poor running game execution and lack of decisiveness to at least try for the 1st down that got Taylor hurt just further added to the pain of this game.

Perhaps it is well that the Texans can at least get a turnover or two, because the rest of the defensive execution is way too similar to the 2020 variant. If the team plays like they did in the 2nd half with zero turnovers, teams will carve up the Lovie Smith defense any which way you please. The offense with Mills did move the ball eventually, but relying on defensive pass interference calls to help move the ball is not a viable, long-term strategy with Mills under center.

If the team were a younger squad looking to go on the upswing, I would be good with moral victories. However, this is one of the oldest teams in the league. Moral victories have no meaning here. The team must play smarter. They don’t have the talent to overcome turnovers, penalties and What the Easterby coaching decisions. Unfortunately, the New but Nowhere-Near-As-Good “Over The Hill Gang” gets an improving Carolina team on a short week. Signs are not encouraging for the still Divison-leading Texans for Thursday or that lead. (But high draft picks are still in play, so there is the silver lining).

KAREEM MY CHUBB:

EVAN WILLSMORE:

My prediction was a 35-21 Browns win, and I wasn’t far off. However, Tyrod Taylor’s injury is already a major blow, since Davis Mills will have to start against the Panthers. When a quarterback’s first career start comes during a primetime game, it’s usually not a good thing.

Mills had a decent few drives against the Browns, but there was still a lot of room for improvement. Before Tyrod was injured, the Texans were able to keep up with the Browns’ pace. However, Cleveland took advantage of Mills’ inexperience and jumped out to a sizable lead. From that point on, they never looked back.

The rest of the Texans players were also decent, but it was no surprise that they had difficulty later on in the game. The momentum was there, but it slowly faded as exhaustion took over. With a short week coming up and a new man under center, that exhaustion will have to go away sooner than later.

ADMIT TO IT:

MIKE BULLOCK:

The Cleveland Browns didn’t beat Houston, the Texans did.

Losing Tyrod Taylor to injury, having to trot out Davis Mills, failing to close the running lanes, and a litany of other mistakes are what cost the team this game. They weren’t nearly as outmatched as it seemed on paper rolling into the weekend.

Since Taylor has already been ruled out of Thursday’s game—please don’t let this turn into him losing his starting spot to yet another rookie due to injury—we should expect more on-the-job-training for Mills, who went 8 of 18 for 102 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, which earned him a quarterback rating of 58.1 and a QBR of 10.0.

However, if Lovie Smith can scheme something that doesn’t allow for multiple 20+ yard runs, the Texans might still go 2-1 yet. But if Smith doesn’t, and Nick Chubb and his running mates did what they did, Christian McCaffery and his Carolina Panthers are going to gash this defense even worse. And, Davis Mills, is certainly not ready for prime time.

But, that’s ok. As counter-intuitive as it is, we want the Texans to lose, even though it hurts my soul to type that out. It’s all about the 2022 NFL Draft.

SURE, IT’S WORTH A SHOT:

RETURN_ON_RYBERG:

I was a touchdown off of my 31-28 prediction but the boys did cover and man was that first half fun. The worst thing you can do as a fan is say what if about a game and this is one of those games. What if we don’t muff the opening punt? What if we make that field goal at the end? And the biggest, what if Tyrod doesn’t go down in the second half?

You have to feel for Tyrod Taylor at this point. He was having a perfect first half, playing mistake free football to keep us neck and neck with the best overall roster in the AFC and he goes down. Give David Culley all the credit in the world to still have an offense look competitive with a back up 3rd round rookie quarterback.

Quick turn around this week and the Panthers are getting 7.5 points to open the week. On the road. Feels like I’m going to be saying this all year but this team should never be two score dogs. Honestly think Vegas doesn’t watch the games at this point.

THIS IS DRUGS:

MATT ROBINSON:

I have genuinely enjoyed watching the Tim Kelley play calling experience one and a half games into this season. It will be very interesting to see how much easier he can make life for rookie starter Davis Mills on a short turnaround time going against a very talented, young, and emerging Carolina defensive unit.

My heart goes out for TyGOD who is gone way too soon after another promising showing but this time against much better competition. Hopefully he can use the long rest going into week four to come back strong but once again he is being replaced by a rookie not even a quarter into the new season which cannot feel great to take in stride.

The defense clearly got worn down as the game went on leaving the outcome to seem inevitable regardless of who manned under center. While I expect this limited defense to to give up its fair share of plays for every turnover they have. The offense has shown great game planning and an understanding of their personnel which is a welcome change from the previous regime.

The Culley penalty decline was bananas but I’ve felt worse stings from O’Brien decisions. The slew of injuries on defense is reminiscent of the Jacksonville opener Deshaun Watson’s rookie year, coming at the worst time before a Thursday night turnaround. Certainly does not bode well for this defense to be on all cylinders against proven play caller Joe Brady and what looks like a sharp Sam Darnold. Also, can we talk about Zach Cunningham getting benched for attendance issues? Not the best look for your highest paid defensive player to be giving snaps to Grugier-Hill. Rivers McCowns clip of Grugier respond to this question was also interesting to me in regards to what is going on behind the scenes.

IT FEELS BAD MAN: