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Incompletions: Texans v. Panthers (No One Died This Time)

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 Davis Mills’s still beating heart.

Carolina Panthers v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images


The Texans didn’t play not to lose on Thursday Night Football in their loss to the Carolina Panthers. They played not to get embarrassed, and not to allow Davis Mills to die at their own hands. Tim Kelly ran the Fisher Price offense for him, screens, short passes, and an outside zone run game that went nowhere. In the third quarter they opened it up some more. Using empty and shotgun formations where Mills made some fine throws in rhythm to Brandin Cooks, and Brandin Cooks, and Brandin Cooks again. He even threw a touchdown pass, which rewarded him with having David Culley’s hands on his neck. I’m so jealous.

Still, despite all of this, Mills was sacked four times, and hit nine times. He’s still taking bone rattling shots in the pocket. The same inaccuracy problems are there. We saw one of the slowest scrambles we’ve ever seen from him on a clay trudging third down conversion attempt. I don’t think Mills was good at Stanford, I don’t think he was good last night, and I don’t think he’s going to be good, but hopefully we see him thrown into a real offense sometime this year, one where Houston isn’t giving him a butter knife he ends up cutting himself with.

Teams understand how to work Lovie Smith’s defense. Cleveland did, and Carolina did too. They’ve known how to do this for a decade now. Houston forced zero turnovers, and didn’t have a single stop in the second half. It took Sam Darnold and Joe Brady sometime to figure out their offense without Christian McCaffrey, and two miserable redzone trips left points on the board. The pass rush being better was its only saving grace, but better still isn’t good enough for this defensive scheme against a terrible offensive line. Receivers standing still wide open in the middle of zone coverage, vertical routes stressing the safety and creating open 20+ yard throws, and the occasional big outside zone play were all there. 24 points is misleading against a Panthers offense that had been merely mediocre even with McCaffrey to start the season.

The Texans schemed themselves into a moral victory, and they got it. They weren’t shut out, they weren’t trounced, and they have their dignity. Mills has survived another day. Our candles and prayers worked, but we still have plenty of work to do, because next up is a Buffalo defense that has found itself again, and most importantly, loves to blitz.



Well, that went about as expected. Carolina came in and left with a double digit win. They are 3-0 and couldn’t ask for a better start...for the most part. The injuries to some of their key players, especially McCaffery, are concerning. The curse of the short week for a game is that there is a greater likelihood for injuries. The blessing is that there is more time for recovery on the back end. Still, that is a problem for Week 4. Until then, Carolina is 3-0 and in good shape to have a vastly improved season from last year.

As for the Texans, this game is the tale of two 4th downs. The 4th down stand in the second quarter on the 5 yard line at least sparked something in the defense; they would play with increased ferocity and nearly get two sack/fumble recoveries that might have shifted the balance of the game. Mills, held in check by a conservative gameplan and the Carolina defense, got a chance to get some rhythm and complete some actual passes, culminating in his first TD. While they trailed at the half, the team seemed to be right in a game that felt like it was a horrible blowout for being 7-0.

In the 3rd quarter, the team was able to move the ball into Carolina territory, and missed on what could have been a super highlight 3rd Down conversion. 4th and 4 at the Carolina 39. Kinda/sort in Slye’s range, but the chance to convert when you have all the momentum, moving into legit scoring position...and Culley elected to take the delay of game and punt. The team pinned Carolina deep, but the momentum of the game shifted from there. Carolina reasserted control and the Texans never really got back into the game.

If you take away Cooks’s receiving performance, the remaining production and result for the team would be horrific. At times, the Carolina Defense looked like the ‘85 Bears, and the Texans looked like one of the ‘85 offenses that had to face said Bears. The Texans couldn’t run, and could barely pass protect. The offensive line should burn the game tapes, as there was very little redeemable about this performance for them.

The defense had its moments, but given that the offense did practically nothing, they were bound to break, and they did. Granted, playing way off on receivers like DJ Moore, particularly allowing huge cushions in the middle of the field, especially in obvious passing situations, is not a recipe for success.

As for Mills, he had his moments, but I think he better get ready to be blitzed, blitzed, and blitzed some more. I don’t know if Taylor would have held up in this matchup, but from what we saw of Mills, I think Taylor would have played much better if healthy.

From here, the Texans are about to enter into a hellacious stretch of games. The next, best chance for a legitimate win may not come until the Jets in week 12. Next up, the team gets 10 days to get ready for Buffalo. The offensive line really needs to pick up its game, and Mills will need to be ready to adjust to the blitz.



Let’s start off with the fact that the Texans offense looks completely different when Tyrod Taylor isn’t under center (Brandin Cooks is a sole exception). More specifically, the quick pace that Taylor provided in the first two games of the season was completely nonexistent against Carolina. The entire game felt like a slow, sluggish matchup with penalties flying in every direction.

The Panthers lost a few key players on both sides of the ball, but the Texans failed to take advantage of this. Despite Houston’s defense being better than expected, they still let Sam Darnold throw for over 300 yards.

Finally, we have to talk about Davis Mills’ first start. For a guy who many didn’t expect to even play this year, the performance was decent. However, fans must’ve had flashbacks to the David Carr era when they saw Mills constantly going down and taking hits as the game went on. Despite the continuous pressure, Mills made some good throws and showcased a bit of his deep-ball abilities. Although Mills went up against a pretty tough defense, things won’t get much easier for him in the coming weeks (next three opponents are Buffalo, New England, and Indianapolis).



I’ll be the first to admit that Davis Mills looked a lot better than I expected. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, a rookie quarterback’s best friend is a solid running game and Houston hasn’t had one of those in awhile. Who got the most carries? Phillip Lindsay. What did he do with it? 7 carries for 5 yards. Five. But, the run game starts with the offensive line, and we haven’t had a good one of those in a long time either.

On the second quarter scoring drive, the offense looked poised, steady and commanding. Mills stood tall in the pocket, mostly improved his footwork, launched the ball with authority and let Brandin Cooks do the rest.

Going into the half, the game was a missed extra point from being tied, the Carolina Panthers had lost Christian McCaffrey and Mills & Cooks had just given notice the Texans were in the building.

Then they came out for the second half and went right back to being who we thought they were.

Oh well, that just means we’re one loss closer to getting this season over with.



In an exciting game, the Houston Texans out-cultured the Carolina Panthers to a 9-24 victory. Jack Easterby really came through in the clutch by hanging the inspiring “Hang in There Cat” outside of the locker room. Every member of the teary-eyed team lovingly stroked the poster on the way to the field. CULTURE!

This was one of the few games on the calendar that the Texans had any hope. The Texans lost TyGod; the Panthers lost CMC. It was a pathetic sword fight between two teams, one of which has youth, and the other old and pathetic.

Houston’s 2.5 ypc was *chef’s kiss.*

Most of Mills’ success was throwing the ball to Brandin Cooks, who had 9 receptions on 11 targets. The rest of the team had 10 receptions on 14 targets. It was a Simi Fehoko flashback: cover Cooks, and you stop Mills.