What a terrible, no good, very bad Sunday afternoon game against the Carolina Panthers. What should have been a layup to get above .500 for the first time in two years turned into a nightmarish trap game, complete with injuries, another bad game from rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, a disastrously underwhelming game from Dameon Pierce, and a fumble.
…Oh, and another, yes, another game-losing field goal to end the game.
There are no easy wins in the NFL, there are only games where the roster executes their game-plan well, and games where they don’t. On Sunday, the Houston Texans offense had their worst showing of the C.J. Stroud era, shocking Houston faithful who’ve quickly accustomed to more yards and points. The defensive performance prevented this headache from turning into a nightmare, highlighted by linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive linemen Maliek Collins and Jonathan Greenard having career days. It was all for not, though, as Bobby Slowik and the Houston offensive line stayed caught in mud drive after drive. Despite two rather impressive touchdown drives, Houston continued to be haunted by their ineffective rushing attack and were largely immobile for the rest of the game.
Maybe this was preordained by the spirits of All Hallows’ Eve, giving Texans fans one big scare before we escape into the November sun. Another trick played upon a Houston team just trying to build some real momentum, and another loss against an NFC South team that Houston should have put away in the first half. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. As rough as this loss may feel now, it will not kill the progress Houston has made in their journey up the power rankings…or will it?
Here’s where the Houston Texans have landed entering Week 9 of the 2023 season:
16. Houston Texans (3-4) (Last Week: 15)
This was a tough way for the Texans to come out of the bye, losing in the final minutes of a game they led for virtually the entire fourth quarter. The defense has done its job since the start of October, even if it couldn’t get off the field the final six-plus minutes, with four late penalties doing them in. But the bigger issue is that the offense has leveled off following C.J. Stroud’s hot start. The Texans’ lack of a threatening rushing attack meant the Panthers could drop seven and eight, play zone and force Stroud to take checkdowns all game. This is where first-year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik can try to help his rookie quarterback out a little more, although the Texans clearly still have offensive personnel limitations.
- Eric Edholm
23. Houston Texans (3-4)
Week 8 ranking: 17
Team QBR: 59.3 (13th)
Possible Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate C.J. Stroud has blown away expectations while leading the Texans to last season’s win total (three) through seven games. He hasn’t been only good for a rookie, he has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Stroud has thrown for nine touchdowns (tied for 16th in the NFL) and 1,800 yards (13th) while setting the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to start a career (186).
- DJ Bien-Aime
18. Houston Texans (3-4) (Last Week: 16)
Last week: loss at Carolina, 15–13
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay
Apropos of nothing, Tank Dell’s end around carry at the end of the first quarter was one of the fastest-looking plays I have seen live on a football field. It felt like he could have taken out Noah Lyles if he had more open field. Also, CJ Stroud’s rifle ball to Noah Brown setting up a fullback touchdown was one of the best balls I’ve seen all year.
- Conor Orr
16. Houston Texans (3-4)
Last Week: 13
Week 8 Result: Lost at Carolina 15-13
Over the first seven weeks of the 2023 season, the Houston Texans were one of the more surprising teams in the NFL.
C.J. Stroud has been the most impressive first-year QB in the NFL, setting a record for pass attempts without an interception to begin a professional career. All the Texans had to do coming out of the bye was down the winless Panthers to be above .500 seven games into the season.
Instead, the Texans looked a lot more like the hapless team of the past couple of seasons. Houston managed just 229 yards of offense, Stroud threw for just 140 yards and Houston lost on a last-second field goal.
While addressing the media after the game, Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans said that growing pains are just part of the process with a young quarterback.
“I think with any quarterback, especially a young quarterback, defenses continue to game-plan,” he said. “You get more film on him and see what guys do well and you switch your game plan accordingly to put the quarterback in difficult spots. He’ll just have to keep growing and keep learning. C.J. will do well with it. He’ll bounce back.”
Ryans isn’t wrong, but it was still a disheartening loss—and a reminder of how far the Texans still have to go.
- Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton, Brent Sobleski
Well, it was fun rocketing up the rankings while it lasted. It’s nice to see three of the four publications listed here keeping the Texans in a relatively similar position as last week, signaling some rooted confidence in this team. It’s been a very, VERY long time since there’s been real belief in a Texans football team, so even though this revelation has to come at the cost of a loss, it’s a welcome sight to see.
Next week, the Houston Texans will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a real gut-check game for this young Texans roster. The Bake Mayfield experience isn’t yielding the sharpest offense, but the Buccaneers defense is nothing to sneeze at. C.J. Stroud will have to throw into the eyes of cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean and star safety Antione Winfield Jr. in order to carve out another victory. Unless a remarkable about-face is imminent, I don’t expect the Texans ground-game to do much of anything constructive vs. Tampa Bay. But, if there were a time for me to dead wrong, it would be today!