I was worried about this game. I think a lot of us were. Of course, as it turns out, I was just being #ConcernTroll.
The good: the game was never really close, despite the Texans (still) not playing up to their talent and ability. The team is starting to beat inferior teams with more ease than they did early in the season, even if it ain’t pretty. People will grouse about how they should score more and it should look better—and they’re not wrong—but Bill O’Brien has obviously made a conscious decision to go ultra-conservative after building wins the last two weeks because a.) that’s who he is, but more because b.) it’s what you do when you have a good run game, a good defense, and an offensive line that could still get your star quarterback killed at any moment in pass protection. So yeah, it ain’t pretty. But there are both maddening AND completely logical reasons for this.
The bad: the Texans still have not played up to their talent and ability. They’re getting a LOT of swings at it against bad and mediocre teams, but it isn’t happening. This is why there’s such a “paper tiger” feeling with this team. That said, I feel like the combo of Houston’s rush offense, overall defense, and solid special teams play will keep them close in any game—even against this year’s NFL elite class. I kinda wish we had a chance to see it in a pre-playoff dry run, but with remaining games against the Colts (Andrew Luck gon’ EAT next week), Jets, Eagles, and Jaguars—it ain’t happening. So we wait. We just wait.
I wanted to like Tyrann Mathieu as a Texan, and I have even enjoyed the few big positive plays he’s made, but holy hell the amount of attention (a) that he wants for himself and (b) that he gets from announcers is grossly disproportionate to the actual quality of his play. Throwing a fit because he wanted the interception on fourth down, when missing it was actually better for the team, is just the most perfect Tyrann Mathieu moment.
I mention all of that because, honestly, I don’t know what to make of this team as a whole. I still say it’s the most underwhelming 9-3 team I’ve ever seen. Yet there are moments when Brain O’Brain isn’t playing coward and the offense is clicking when it seems like they can beat anyone. Like, legit “That’s what a Super Bowl team looks like” moments.
Then there are moments where everyone in the whole stadium knows a run is coming, and the run comes, and it loses two yards, and that two yard loss throws off the next two plays, and they look like the same team that lost three straight to start the season.
So...yeah. I dunno. 9-3 is way more fun than 3-9 or whatever. Maybe they get a first round bye. Maybe they fluke into the Super Bowl. Maybe they get destroyed at home in the first round. Nothing will seem that surprising.
Texans Football 2018: It’s Like The Movie “Primer,” But More Confusing.
The best part of Houston’s successful spurt during the Gary Kubiak era was how casual most of their wins were. After so many years of maddening losses like Chris Brown fumbling into the end zone and Kris Brown missing game-tying field goals, it was lovely to turn the television on, not have to worry, not have to fret, over the final outcome of the game. Houston’s games against terrible teams were a briefcase. Casual business, stuffed full of slacks and oxford shirts. Play-action passes and nest pockets. Outside zone and nowhere to go with the ball. 28-10. 31-17. Games free of drama. Just your favorite team winning in a suffocating way. A leviathan sized snake wrapped around a prehistoric gnarled lizard.
The Bill O’Brien era has rarely been like this. Previous losses to Atlanta and Miami in 2015, along with an early season loss to the New York Giants this season, exemplify this. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the Texans come out hollow. They get obliterated. Terrible challenges, conservative play calling, and timeout mismanagement turn close games into frustrating losses. At other times, Houston has turned these games into banal drama. 20-13 wins where nothing is settled until the very end because of Houston’s offense barely scraping its way past 20 points.
Yesterday went exactly as it should and how it has in the past. The Texans played a young team seeping with talent, but a young team that’s still bad at playing cohesive football. They went up 13-0 thanks to two field goals and a floating touchdown pass to Jordan Thomas that hung in the air the way poisonous smoke does. Zach Cunningham dropped an interception, but didn’t drop the second one, and returned it for a touchdown. The Browns finally opened up and threw it downfield, but down 23-0, all there was left to do was watch the clock, stare at the horizon, and await the imminent nuclear end.
It was comforting to turn the television on and not have to bitch and complain about the team not throwing the ball downfield, or multiple players filling the same gap on red zone run plays, or seeing holes in zone coverage. All that was there this game, of course, but at 23-0, none of it mattered. A good team beat a bad team in a resounding way. Like a good team usually does, like it always should, and like it has to be this time of year.
Absolutely nothing changes with this game. It still looks like we are replaying 2015, relying almost solely on the defense to keep games competitive. Once again, the defense scored as many touchdowns as did the offense. Fantasy tip: Ka’imi Fairbairn is - wait for it! - AWESOME to have on your fantasy team.
* There is no denying that the offensive playcalling has evolved from the first game of the season. All the stuff Big Matt and I have been calling for on BRR - chipping pass rushers, play action, pushing the ball downfield - are happening. Our coaches is kinda learning.
* I’ve seen some chatter that BOB should be considered as Coach of the Year. No. It should be Romeo A. Crennel, whose defense created four turnovers and a TD.
* Justin. Kittening. Reid.
* The TE Jordans are a ton of fun to watch.
* The usual suspects.
* Zach Cunningham with maybe the best game of his career.
* One touchdown for the offense. Five field goals. With all of the gifts Baker “Nathan Peterman for a Half” Mayfield handed us, that’s pathetic.
* The cornerbacks are toastable, as Mayfield showed. What a weird game when considering that stretch in the third where Callaway should have scored twice.
* The offensive line is taking a beating.
Houston’s offense scored 22 points today, right in line with normalcy. The offense is 21st in DVOA. The defense is 4th in DVOA. The total is 12th in DVOA. This feels 100% correct to me. The Texans are a middling team, propped up by an outstanding defense, but not an elite defense. It’s Groundhog Day from 2015.
I had to listen to the first half over the radio while driving, but I was able to view the network broadcast for the second half. It was a solid game from all three phases against a young team loaded with many top draft picks who are all finally coming together. Once those youngsters gel a bit more, I suspect they will dominate that division for the foreseeable future.
While I’m absolutely satisfied that the Texans took care of business to extend the winning streak to nine, I’m still just a bit disappointed that the offense settled for field goals instead of engineering touchdowns. When a team gets four turnovers in an NFL game, they should absolutely dominate the scoreboard. This tendency of struggling in the red zone will bite them in the ass against the NFL’s elite teams in the playoffs. The Texans absolutely need to find a way to resolve this, and I think they can. Hopefully they peak here in the next few weeks for a strong finish to the regular season and a potential shot at some hardware at the end.
Now it’s time to focus on beating the Colts next week to secure the AFC South title. Then Indy can proudly hoist a banner as the 2018 AFC South Runner-Ups while Houston edges toward a first-week bye and home field advantage. Who saw this coming when the Texans were 0-3?!!
Like the Monday Night Football win over the Titans and the Thursday Night Football win over the Dolphins, yesterday’s game was fun to watch as a Texans fan. There was no sense of dread. The Texans were firmly in control throughout the afternoon.
Sure, you’d always like to see more touchdowns and less field goals, but it seems silly to complain about a game where the good guys were up 23-0 and were never in any real danger of the Browns making a contest of it. The defense made big play after big play. Special teams were on point yet again. The offense had several chunk plays.
I respectfully disagree with BFD about 2018 being a repeat of 2015. Deshaun Watson ain’t Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett. Unlike those two, DW4 is growing. He’s a threat with the ball every time he touches it. That alone gives Houston’s offense a ceiling that it never could have approached in 2015.
I don’t pretend to know how this season will play out. All I know is that your Houston Texans can clinch their division with a victory over the Colts next week. Frankly, the Texans already clinched it for all practical purposes when they won yesterday and the Jaguars upset the Colts. They did this in Week 13, and they did it after starting the season 0-3. That’s amazing.
What’s more, the Texans are currently tied for the third-best record in the NFL. They’re tied for the second-best record in the AFC, a mere game behind the Chiefs for the best record in the conference. They’re where they are after starting off 0-3. That’s absurd.
This season has defied logic. It’s defied explanation. And gloriously, it ain’t over yet. Your Houston Texans are 9-3, with a three game lead in the division, with four games left to play. ALL AFTER STARTING 0-3. You could watch football for the rest of your life and never see a team or season like this again. These are the salad days, my friends. Relish them.