Another week into the season, another week further away the Houston Texans get from their last victory. This is one constant we have adapted to as Texans fans. Houston was able to build hype entering this season with their slew of new players and coaches, and yet, the days since we last tasted victory just keep adding up. The flavor of the week this time around was blue (eugh!), but featured on the wrapper was the enticing rookie quarterback matchup of C.J. Stroud vs. Anthony Richardson. But, despite the alluring QB battle, us Texans fans are yet again biting right into the juicy center of another loss.
The game started with a quick, methodical touchdown drive capped off with an 18-yard run by the aforementioned Anthony Richardson. C.J. Stroud immediately responded with a fumble recovered by the Indianapolis defense, becoming another touchdown run for Richardson. Not even six minutes into one of the most hyped Houston home openers in recent history, and the game already feels out of reach. After so many weeks of anticipation surrounding the new roster and coaching staff, all this progress made, and the Texans still have difficulty keeping the grunts of the league from delivering a blowout.
Now, granted, this game was far more about offensive production than defensive performance. Neither team’s defense held much water, Indy’s 28 points the most scored by any NFL team in the first half so far this season, and both offenses were able to churn out yards in the air all day long. Richardson looked sharp, if a little antsy, throwing the ball, made great use of his legs again, and took advantage of an early fumble by C.J. Stroud to run up the score. Then, Richardson suddenly left the field with little notice for concussion screening, leaving the rest of the game in backup Gardner Minshew’s hands. Linebackers Denzel Perryman, Henry To’oTo’o, and Safety M.J. Stewart were repeatedly diced up by Minshew, revealing a concerning amount of air in the supposedly-mighty Texans secondary.
Although, on offense, Houston was great! After the poorly timed fumble, C.J. Stroud was an exceptional passer for the vast majority of the game, nailing open receivers downfield over and over again. Nico Collins has clearly become his #1 target, reeling in seven catches for 146 yards and C.J. Stroud’s first touchdown pass!
Stroud was one of the few consistencies on Houston’s team, going 30/47 for 384 yards, tw touchdowns, and a passer rating of 103.5. In just his second game in the NFL, Stroud nearly threw 50 passes, nearly eclipsed 400 yards passing, and STILL had a passer rating of 100! This is second game in a row where Stroud has been pretty much the only fulcrum to offensive production, and in both games he’s played well above my expectations. He’s clearly been the best rookie quarterback thus far!
By the second half, Houston had collectively tightened up a lot of the loose bolts on defense, only giving up 79 total yards in the second half. C.J. Stroud continued his positive performance, getting WR Robert Woods in the mix and getting rookie receiver Tank Dell his first touchdown as a NFL player:
The first of MANY!— V̷a̷t̷o̷r̷ (@VatorSports) September 17, 2023
C.J. Stroud to Tank Dell for the TD!
Hopefully, this is the first of many between Stroud and Dell, who both appear to off to a fast start in their careers. Their success put a much more positive face on the ultimately disappointing final score, but the defense’s lowly first half prevented any significant movement on most writer’s power rankings.
Here’s where the Houston Texans are ranked entering Week 3 of the 2023 NFL Season:
31. Houston Texans (0-2) (Last Week: 31)
There’s only so much silver lining a franchise can inlay after an 0-2 start, which was preceded by 11 victories over the previous three seasons. But it’s hard not to give Houston credit for fighting back against the Colts with a group that entered the game missing both starting safeties, both starting tackles and two interior O-linemen (and replacement safety Eric Murray was hurt on Sunday). Probably the brightest part of the 31-20 loss was rookie QB C.J. Stroud, who gutted through a right shoulder injury throughout. He overcame an early fumble to throw for 384 yards and two TDs despite taking six sacks and at least nine hits. But can the Texans protect him? That’s what has to keep DeMeco Ryans up at night.
- Eric Edholm
31. Houston Texans (0-2) (Last Week: 31)
Week 2 ranking: 31
Player: CB Steven Nelson
Current contract situation: Under contract through the 2023 season
The Texans gave Nelson a small raise in August but no long-term extension. Through two games, he has an interception and another pass breakup. If he maintains this level of play for the rest of the season, will the Texans extend him before the end of the season or let him test free agency? Allowing him to test free agency could leave the Texans with a void or questions at cornerback going into 2024.
- DJ Bien-Aime
27. Houston Texans (Last Week: 31)
Last week: loss vs. Indianapolis, 31–20
Next week: at Jacksonville
If you’re a Texans fan taking a long-term view, you care far less about the fact that they dropped a random September game to the Colts and far more about the fact that CJ Stroud had his best performance as a professional (yes I’m tying in meaningless preseason games). He was throwing receivers open and was finally able to develop a rhythm in his drop backs. No longer was there an evident pause or panic. This happened sooner than I expected.
- Conor Orr
30. Houston Texans (0-2) (Last Week: 31)
Last Week: 31
Week 2 Result: Lost vs. Indianapolis 31-20
The NFL is a zero-sum business. You either win and all is right with the world, or you don’t.
After their comeback attempt came up short against the Colts, the Houston Texans are now 0-2. Given how poorly the Texans have played defensively to date this season, wins likely won’t be easy to come by.
But there were positives—even in defeat.
In his second professional start, rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud put on a show, going 30-of-47 for 384 yards and two scores without an interception. Wide receiver Nico Collins hauled in a career-high passes for 146 yards and a score.
After the game, Stroud said the Texans are headed in the right direction.
“Once we play together as a team, watch out,” Stroud told reporters. “... We took a step, we need to keep taking steps.”
In some respects, Stroud is right. But the Houston run game has been atrocious, averaging only two yards per carry against the Colts. The offensive line was again an issue, surrendering six sacks.
Seeing Stroud progress in his second NFL game is a good sign. But the Texans are not a good team, nor are they all that close to being one.
- Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton, Brent Sobleski
This game, like many other Texans games of the 2020s, felt already over shortly after it had started. So many half baked, uncompetitive, and disappointing games, yet we have still apparently not reached the end of them four years into the new decade. In fact, I don’t know if the Texans have ever breached the top half of any power rankings since before 2020. At some point, all of this supposed progress and rejuvenated core to the team has to come together to yield some real movement on the weekly power rankings. But all that glitters is not gold, and it’s going to take at least a little while longer until these Texans are leaping up the list. Next week, the Texans visit the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Stadium, in search of their first win of the 2023 season. Houston has still beaten the Jaguars at least once every season since 2017, a record that Stroud is more than capable of continuing.