Let’s dispense with one debate right off the bat. Is it better for the Houston Texans to win football games or continue to lose? That will be the chief debate on talk radio throughout Houston and beyond this week as the 2022 season comes to a close. It’s not an insignificant debate. Losing guarantees you a chance at Bryce Young. Losing makes it easier to justify regime change. Every year there is a guy that everyone thinks is the consensus number one overall pick (or should be). Tanking for that guy makes so much sense.
Of course, anyone claiming that has never played or coached on a significant level. Coaches and players want to win. Coaches have an easier time selling their vision when they win. Players will more likely continue to work when they win. It is so very important with the young players like Christian Harris and Jalen Pitre. They need to see that when they do the things the way you want them done then good things can happen.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The Titans are not a good football team right now. They did not play a good football game. You can certainly claim that they lost the game more than the Texans won it. There is a difference and if you watch enough games you will see it once or twice a week. Some teams win because they are clearly better than their opponent. More often than not, teams win like the Texans did on Saturday. They really want to you win the game based on stupid mistakes and lackluster play, so if you manage to stay out of your own way you walk away with a win.
Inside the Numbers
Total Yards: Texans 285, Titans 272
Rushing Yards: Titans 184, Texans 70
Passing Yards: Texans 215, Titans 88
Total Plays: Texans 63, Titans 58
Rushing Attempts: Titans 31, Texans 30
Passing Attempts: Texans 33, Titans 27
Yards Per Play: Titans 4.7. Texans 4.5
Penalties: Titans 5/30, Texans 4/35
Time of Possession: Texans 33:03, Titans 26:57
Turnovers: Texans 1, Titans 3
Three and Outs: Titans 4, Texans 5
If you connected Lovie Smith to a lie detector test he would tell you this the kind of football he loves. You play good, hard defense for most of the game and you get your opponent to make key mistakes at crucial points in the game. Your offense isn’t revolutionary but they make fewer mistakes and make key plays when they have to. You walk away with a hard fought win over a division rival.
It’s the same blueprint he has tried all season and for the second time it has worked. At this point, the philosophical debate should rage on. Has it only happened twice because the team lacks the talent overall to make that strategy work or has it only happened twice because it just isn’t a winning formula? There are statistics and points of contention on both sides.
The Texans held the ball longer than their opponent. They were able to create more turnovers in the fourth quarter (two interceptions). Good players made great plays. Brandin Cooks returned to action and made a difficult touchdown catch down the stretch. Christian Harris made a key interception. Jalen Pitre closed out the game with his fourth interception. Most good players weren’t always good. They became good. Ultimately, that will be the key to this whole thing. Are those two defenders coming of age before our eyes or did they just make some plays in one isolated game? Only time will tell.
The Mills Report
Yards Per Attempt: 6.4
The masthead occasionally discusses things behind the scenes and Sunday night’s game was one of those cases. A couple of us were discussing quarterbacks around the league and one mentioned Baker Mayfield. For me, Mayfield is a fascinating example of a question that will plague Davis Mills. Is Mills bad because Mills is just bad or is he bad because the Texans just don’t have good coaching?
Mayfield in Carolina: 6 GS, 57.8%, 1,313 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT, 6.4 YPA, 74.4 Rating
Mayfield in LA: 3 GS, 69.0%, 571 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 6.8 YPA, 98.9 Rating
It would be easy to say that the Los Angeles Rams have more talent than the Carolina Panthers, but they are going to finish with a worse record and their best two receivers have been out as long as Mayfield has been there. It is all Sean McVay. Sure, Mayfield has to make the throws and make the plays, but McVay is just better at putting guys in the right position to succeed. Mayfield’s best effort may have been when he had been in town for less than 48 hours and still led the team to a come from behind victory.
The whole point of this exercise is not to say the team should sign Baker Mayfield in the offseason. The whole point is that the polos on the sideline are as important if not more important to the guy making the throws. Mills made some nice throws on Sunday in key moments, but this offense is still not good enough. Saturday’s win still hopefully brings us one step closer to a change of coaching on the sideline.
Believe it or not, I’m happy when the Texans win. A part of me really wants Bryce Young because I think he gives us the best chance to win long-term, so I’m also happy with any result that brings that closer to fruition. There are those that don’t want them to win these last two games. I definitely get it because a part of me is thinking the same thing. Yet, we are just happier when the Texans win. We should be. The benefits are real. The growth is real. Embrace the growth.