Welcome back to Houston Texans football!
Did you think it would be normal? Did you think history was going to be made in their first game of the season? Did you, within the wrinkles of your wild speculation, daydreaming, and childlike excitement about the upcoming season, consider the possibility of an opening weekend tie?
In an offseason that drove speculation into overdrive for Houston, a team practically unknown in its potential and general direction, both young and old, there existed a sense of wonder for what this mystery of a team will unfurl into. We should have known that even when we are overwhelmed with possibilities, the Texans can and will find a way to take us by surprise.
In an offseason where the dominating question among fans and analysts was “what even are the Texans? Are they good or are they bad,” Houston used its first game of the season to offer back an enthusiastic, “Yes.” This yes, this non-answer, in its beautiful, frustrating ambiguity, gets the rare opportunity to function as both a “no” and a “yes” simultaneously.
That was a quintessential Davis Mills game. Quick and accurate underneath, hit a few nice throws between the numbers. Largely got what he wanted for three quarters because HOU had a lead. He was fairly good when it was easy to be good.— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) September 12, 2022
Are the Texans good?
Well…yes because of the handful successful drives when throwing the football 10+ yards down the field. Yes because of forcing turnovers and getting points off of turnovers. But…no because of the return of erratic play from Davis Mills. A passing offense can only be as reliable as the quarterback, and Mills is still far from reliable. But…yes because he’s a 3rd round quarterback playing about as well as the 5 first round quarterbacks taken before him in his 12th start as a pro. Things appear to be looking up…but…are they? Is this what progress is supposed to feel like? Is progress 5 punts and a fumble in the final 32 minutes of the game?
Is the defense good?
Against the pass? Maybe! Free agent signing Steven Nelson and rookie defensive backs Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley all made excellent plays in coverage, making a week one victory appear inevitable after taking a 20-3 lead in the third quarter.
Jalen Pitre (5) whew. quarters coverage and everyone to his side breaks outside, so he works back to the MoF for work. hammers Alec Pierce trying to make a catch in traffic pic.twitter.com/6GuGGeQ5W2— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) September 12, 2022
Against the run? Well, stopping Jonathan Taylor and the Colts’ offensive line is no easy task, but the Texans made it very clear yesterday they are absolutely not up for it. The Colts were able to claw their way back from a 17-point deficit almost entirely off the back of Jonathan Taylor, with a smattering of poor coverage by Texans linebackers. Having a team come back from a lead that large by continuing to run the ball is not just bad, but deeply worrying.
Is the offense good?
Well, if you dare to venture deeper behind the Davis Mills enigma, only more puzzles will await. A group of receivers remarkably similar to the 2021 team highlighted the offense for the most part, led by 2 touchdowns by recent signee O.J. Howard…Is it good that our best receiver on opening day has only been on the team for a little over a week? What does that say about what else we have? Either way, they’re still touchdown passes, and a showcase for what Davis Mills could be:
big boy throw from Davis Mills, my goodness. this is what I want to see more of from him. pic.twitter.com/hIjMZlS1yo— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) September 12, 2022
The offensive line is certainly improved in pass protection, rookie guard Kenyon Green showing promise in limited action on Sunday. Mills often had a nice pocket to work within…even though that did little to prevent him from making massive mistakes down the stretch. A lost fumble deep in Houston territory and a terrible sack in overtime ended up being the difference between winning and…tying.
Davis Mills *has* to throw the over here. It's open and he knows it's open. Waits two beats too long and now it's 2nd-and-17. pic.twitter.com/CSvVCRDA9j— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) September 12, 2022
The rushing attack immediately presented questions when rookie phenom Dameon Pierce took a back seat to Rex Burkhead for a majority of the game. Smith said today that he, “…understand[s] how many plays Dameon Pierce played. The plan was for him to play more.” In this element of the offense, the Texans were legitimately bad nearly all game, regardless of who was carrying the ball. 28 rushes for 77 yards is no way to establish anything, and the Colts defensive line and linebackers frequently clogging lanes had a lot to do with it.
Lovie Smith: 'I understand how many plays Dameon Pierce played. The plan was for him to play more.'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 12, 2022
What about the coaching?
In Lovie Smith’s debut as head coach of the Houston Texans, he made the executive decision to tie. On 4th and 3 on the Colts’ 49 yard line, with 24 seconds left, Lovie Smith chose not to win, but to tie. While this is already egregious enough, the play before the punt of sighs is the real stomach turner:
…I just don’t know…I have no words to describe such an event that I viewed live with my own eyes on the television screen. We all make decisions that change the course of our day and are victims of the decisions made by those around us. Usually these decisions are either subconscious or tolerated without much thought, but sometimes a decision happens upon us that really makes you feel something. It may not have been a good decision, but Lovie Smith certainly made me feel something on Sunday.
Depending on your perspective, a tie is either a representation of what you are or what you aren’t. Because of the Texans failing to put away a game they were once leading by 3 scores in the 4th quarter, many will believe they represent a mistake-prone team that is not to be counted on to win. But, they didn’t lose! After all that we can say and criticize, they absolutely and officially did not lose. How much credit are you willing to give them for that? I think I know my answer…