I’ve committed most of my adult life to numbers. Whether it has been writing books about baseball and baseball statistics, tracking student grades or standardized test scores, or commenting here, numbers have played a huge part of my life. It would be easy to take a game like Sunday and wantonly throw all of that away. The basic numbers don’t tell the story of this game, but they rarely ever do when you think about it.
That doesn’t mean we should give up on numbers though. People often chalk these things up to tangibles and intangibles. We put our trust in intangibles because there are things we simply can’t quantify. The truth is we can’t quantify them yet. If we broke down the game quarter by quarter we would see a different story. That story would show the Houston Texans “dominate” the fourth quarter when the game was really no longer in doubt. That has a way of making everything else look better in comparison.
While the HOTD feature has a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 feel to it, it also represents our unabashed feelings of the game in real time and occasionally you get real time statistics thrown in. For instance, Davis Mills had less than 50 yards passing and less than three yards per attempt. This was at halftime.
Total Yards: Texans 387, Giants 367
Rushing Yards: Giants 191, Texans 101
Passing Yards: Texans 286, Giants 176
Total Plays: Giants 67, Texans 60
Rushes: Giants 47, Texans 19
Passes: Texans 41, Giants 20
Time of Possession: Giants 33:20, Texans 26:40
Penalties: Giants 5/24, Texans 7/40
Turnovers: Giants 0, Texans 2
Three and Out: Giants 2, Texans 3
In this case, the overall numbers and an alternative narrative are doing a ton of heavy lifting. The game was technically a one score game. The Texans had two key turnovers in the second half deep in New York Giants territory. You can see the wheels spinning in overdrive at this point. “If the Texans had scored even a field goal on those two possessions then the score is 24-19 and the Texans had the ball deep in Giants territory at the end. Who knows? Maybe they get one in the end zone and win the game!”
Watch enough Texans football and listen to enough postseason press conferences and you realize this is a common narrative. We were in the game going into the fourth quarter. How many times have we heard this? However, it begs the question: were we really in this game? Does the final score really indicate how competitive this game was? Do these narratives really accurately reflect what we are actually seeing each Sunday?
When you are coaching an undermanned team you have a few options. Your first option is to look at the talent you have and craft an offense and defense that takes advantage of the talent you have and just hope for the best. Your second option is to run the system you want to run and what you know works in the NFL and hope the talent adapts to those systems. Then there is door number three. You can go ultra conservative and hang on for dear life. You can keep the score close and hope no one notices that you aren’t really competing at all.
The past two seasons of Texans football feel like the coaching staffs are hoping that ownership and upper management isn’t watching and aren’t looking close enough. So, the coaches give them the narrative they are giving us. “Look at how many one score games we are in!” “If we just get a little more talent then these one score games may turn into wins!” Yet, to believe that you would have to be watching something else and only looking at the numbers above. Unfortunately, most Texans fans know better and we hope management does too.
The Mills Report
Ultimately, Davis Mills embodies the discussion we were just having above. The numbers say one thing and if we only looked at the numbers we would surmise that Mills was making some level of progress, The truth is that Mills looks like a good quarterback for a drive, a quarter, or even a half. He still has never looked like a good quarterback for an entire game. If you want proof, reference the first half numbers I quoted above.
At this point, I don’t know what to say anymore. Most of us know what we are looking at here. The questions start above Mills and not at Mills himself. Is the coaching staff simply holding back the reins because they know what he is? Would they be more aggressive with someone better? Or, is this what the coaching staff is and it would look the same no matter who was quarterbacking?
We had naturally assumed that we should be subjected to Mills no matter what because we needed to be sure he wasn’t the guy. At this point, we know. What we need to know is whether Mills is holding back Pep Hamilton or whether Pep Hamilton is holding back Mills. We will only know that if we see Kyle Allen. I suspect we will never know unless there is an injury. Besides, winning at this point might be seen as an impediment.