It’s been a long while since the Houston Texans have attracted this much excitement from the fan base. It wasn’t so long ago that Texans fans got accustomed to looking at upcoming games with dread. But now: anticipation and genuine optimism. Houston’s victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers changed the tone of the season overnight, it validated the encouraging performances we saw from rookies earlier this year, and, most importantly, it redefined expectations for this team.
It was the perfect litmus test of a game, and Houston’s grand success not only showed progress, but a lot of it. There was clearly more to this team than raw talent and the faint promise of a better future; a 24-point victory against a team like then Steelers doesn’t happen by accident. There are highlight-reel plays and good performances, yes, but a win like that meant there had to be something more. What that “more” was, nobody was quite sure, but it was a perfect recipe to get Houston fans as hyped about Texans football as they’ve been since 2019. A win like that means more are sure to come, right?
Well, unfortunately, last week was not the big victory like many of us hoped. It was a harsh loss, a big bump in the road on the long journey to contention. The Houston Texans lost to the Atlanta Falcons 21-19 on Sunday, having their hearts ripped out by a last-second, game-winning field goal by Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo.
What a rough way to lose for such a young team and coaching staff. Out of all weeks for Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder to answer the call and become a starting caliber NFL quarterback, it just HAD to be this one. I guess someone has to play to fall guy in these kind of games, and let it be the Texans, whose shocking improvement from the doldrums of 2022 has made them a difficult opponent for any team. These Texans went toe-to-toe with a loaded Falcons roster that could see both their quarterback and head coach fired if their season doesn’t end in the playoffs, so if it has to be someone, let it be the plucky Texans that causes their hearts to race until the final seconds of regulation. If Houston keeps this trajectory going, they’ll soon be on the other side of such exchanges.
Here’s where everyone has the Houston Texans ranked after their loss to the Atlanta Falcons:
21. Houston Texans (2-3)
Last Week: 15
The Texans did almost everything right against the Falcons, winning the turnover battle (2-0) and committing fewer penalties (7-5), with C.J. Stroud leading a rousing TD drive to take the lead with less than two minutes left on the road. That Stroud has thrown an NFL-record 186 straight passes without an INT and hasn’t taken a sack since Week 2 is frankly incredible. If you want to gripe about Houston’s defense giving up the game-winning drive, I won’t blame you. But given the high level Stroud is playing at, it was disappointing the offense couldn’t muster better than 4-for-13 on third downs or 1-for-3 on red-zone possessions. Maybe DeMeco Ryans is regretting kicking a field goal early on fourth-and-1. Either way, this team is farther along than I imagined it would be.
- Eric Edholm
22. Houston Texans (2-3) (Last Week: 20)
Week 5 ranking: 20
Fantasy surprise: RB Dameon Pierce
Pierce hasn’t come close to his production from last year. In his rookie season, he averaged 72 yards rushing per game. This season, it’s at 49.4. He only has one game over 70 yards rushing with multiple outings of under 40. There have been a rash of injuries on the offensive line, but when left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Tytus Howard were available against the Atlanta Falcons, Pierce only averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
- DJ Bien-Aime
22. Houston Texans (2-3) (Last Week: 20)
Last week: loss at Atlanta, 21–19
Next week: vs. New Orleans
One of those games where the shots simply didn’t fall for Houston, and that’s O.K. If I’m a Texans fan, all I really care about is that C.J. Stroud came back in that game and threw a go-ahead touchdown. This Texans team possibly has an outside shot at the division, but far more important is the idea that Stroud is getting comfortable in the uncomfortable. Was that reflected on his S2 score?
- Conor Orr
21. Houston Texans (2-3)
Last Week: 18
Week 5 Result: Lost at Atlanta 21-19
The NFL is all about results, and on the scoreboard Sunday the Houston Texans were losers.
But as it turns out, this past April the Texans appear to have been one of the biggest winners of the 2023 draft—and hitting on C.J. Stroud matters a lot more for the franchise’s long-term future than a Week 5 game against the Falcons.
Sunday in Atlanta, Stroud completed 20 of 35 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. And in doing so, he broke Dak Prescott’s record for the most pass attempts to begin a career without an interception in NFL history.
Stroud admitted to reporters after the game that the achievement matters to him.
“It’s cool. I got close a couple of times. Those DBs are really good,” Stroud said. “It’s important to take care of the football. I don’t think I’ve put it in harm’s way too many times. I just want to let our offense know and let my coach know they can trust me with the football, because turning the ball over is a recipe to lose.”
The Texans still have a way to go to be a contender. But Stroud has already made them exponentially more competitive than they were a year ago. There’s no more important function for an NFL front office than hitting on a quarterback.
From all indications, the Texans have.
- Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton, Brent Sobleski
Admittedly, I had a hard time believing in the Texans to keep this win-streak going. The Atlanta Falcons are a really good team, capable of beating opponents in a multitude of ways. Even though they beat Houston with a lot more passing than I expected, their defense fits the bill to be a top ten group and predictably gave C.J. Stroud one of his worst games this season (which was still a pretty great game for a rookie quarterback.) This hype train was bound to hit some rocks along the way, and better it be sooner rather than later.
Next up, a frustrated Houston Texans squad come back to NRG Stadium to host the 3-2 New Orleans Saints. Two comparable teams, the Saints are little more reliant on their defense to control the game than Houston. If C.J. Stroud can bounce back from his poor performance on third-downs against Atlanta, then Houston should be able to score enough to steal the game yet again in the fourth quarter. This time however, I’d like to see a few more touchdowns, a few less field goals, and a few more stops on defense.