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Incompletions: Texans v. Falcons (We Should've Stayed at That Bus Station)

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With so much to write and talk about after every game, and not enough time for one man to write about it all, the masthead joins together and reacts to the Houston Texans' loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Weston:

Last month I sat on a Greyhound bus and rode from New York to Scranton, and then a week later from Scranton to Virgina. During this time, I stared out the window and thought about all the possibilities of the future, read the 2015 FOA in between spouts of sleep, and pondered about what it would take for the Texans to make the playoffs.

The reality I dreamed up had a run game that was good enough to have Brian Hoyer attempt passes only in favorable situations and let him take advantage of easy throws off play-action against heavy boxes. But this reality wasn't entirely centered on him. Even if Hoyer was exactly what I thought he was, a quarterback who's "consistently" terrible, then at least we could see what Ryan Mallett could do, and maybe he was the 20th best quarterback in the league and someone you could win games because of, not with. The defense that was sixth in the NFL in DVOA last year would be even better despite a decrease in turnovers forced because of the additions of a healthy Jadeveon Clowney, Vince Wilfork improving the run defense and quenching the thirst of #nosetacklelust, Benardrick McKinney ending the Texans' tradition of crappy ILB2s, and Kevin Johnson being one of the rare rookie defensive backs who could start right away.

Then, after all that, the Texans would have to keep their head above water during the first month of the season until Arian Foster arrived. When he did start playing, Foster would have to immediately start slashing defenses like Joe Musash in Shinobi in order to transform a maybe average offense into the 15th best in the league. And finally, the Texans would need to win the one-possession games they lost last season, take advantage of an easy schedule in an easy division, and fall into a wildcard spot or enjoy the benefits of the Colts' lucky inflated record since Andrew Luck's rookie year finally deflating.

None of this has happened.

Brian Hoyer lasted three quarters. Ryan Mallett has thrown 137 passes (12th), and entering the Atlanta game he was 28th in the NFL in DYAR and DVOA.  The run game was 21st in the league in DVOA heading into Week Four, and these numbers will only be worse once the newest rankings come out. The Texans have run only 66 plays with a lead, and 55 of them came against the Buccaneers. Arian Foster, the missing piece to this offense, had eight carries for ten yards, and turned a 14-0 game into an insurmountable 21-0 after being stripped by Derek Newton. But most importantly, Foster couldn't accelerate after his cutbacks; he was a player who still needs time to get acclimated to regular season football.

The defense that I thought would be a minimum top ten unit can't tackle, has forced two turnovers (31st), still has only one pass rusher in J.J. Watt, who has to face double and triple teams every third down (Clowney has gotten close, but the production still isn't there), employs an old and slow Johnathan Joseph as CB1, and the two additions who were supposed to improve the run defense, Benardrick McKinney and Vince Wilfork, have been unable to do so.

The reality we are constricted to is a worst-case scenario .

I should've stayed at that bus station.

Brett Kollmann:

I'm going to be starting film study for the draft a lot earlier than I expected to this season, which is probably the most depressing part about all of this. That's all I've got to say for now. I hate everything

Ahhhh, the joys of being alive...

kdentify:

​I'm trying very hard to find positive things to say about this team right now, but we're inept. This is a franchise in disarray right now. We've had years of poor drafts, so that even when we were under Kubiak, too many of our draft picks didn't make the expected impact, so that when it came time for Rick Smith to begin to craft a roster for O'Brien's needs, he essentially performed a mass cull.

I loathe Bill Polian. I loathe him. I really, truly loathe him. I don't loathe that many people, but I really do loathe him. But, in between his numerous after-the-fact outright lies about what he would have done with nonexistent draft picks, he said something that's always stuck with me. He said his greatest failure in Indy was that he never addressed the backup quarterback situation behind Peyton, so that when Peyton went down, they had nothing there. I feel that we did the same thing behind Schaub. We had Yates, but Kubiak apparently felt that Yates was too limited to be a credible option when Schaub Schaubed his way through 2013. And we had Keenum who cannot run an NFL offense. This meant that we had a black hole at the most important position on any NFL team. In an effort to fill that hole, the Texans have played Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage, Case Keenum, and Brian Hoyer. None of these men have shown that they have a future as a starting franchise quarterback in this league, and the fact is that without a QB, you don't have a realistic shot of getting in the playoffs in the modern NFL.

In addition to the hole under center, there's a hole in the coaching and preparation. When O and Co were brought in, we were all told that all would be right with the world because OB believes in making adjustments during the game, rather than sticking with something that's clearly not working. While it's nice that our coaches can go into the locker room at halftime and make adjustments based on what they see throughout the first half, for some reason, for four games now, this team has come out in the first half wholly unprepared to play the game.

Our offense is pathetic, and because they're unable to sustain long drives (or to score touchdowns), our defense is on the field too long. Most Texans fans knew that our big stars actually play on defense, but we're having an issue with playmaking. We can boast of having Watt, Wilfork, Cushing,  and Clowney on the field. Opposing teams do what they need to do to try to neutralize Watt, but when he's being double- or triple-teamed, the players left unblocked are not doing anything to capitalize on that, and we're getting burned in coverage. Between the fact that we don't score and we can't stop another team from scoring, we're terrible right now.

I love Houston. I love the Texans. I know that there's another 12 games to play this season, but so far, the 2015 season is starting out worse than the 2014 season, and perhaps worse than the 2013 season (despite Schaub Schaubbing, our first four games didn't look like this trainwreck we see right now). I want to believe that O and Co can turn it around, but my doubts from his time at PSU and the coaching deficiencies he displayed there are creeping back in. I hate that, because I'd like to sit down every game day and believe we can beat whomever we face. But right now, we're not that team. And on a short week, I don't know that we're going to become that team before Thursday night on national TV.

#Analysis

Analysis

Capt Ron:

I had so much hope for 2015, but this year has brought so much suffering for many people in, or connected to, Houston:  a major oil-slump that has cost tens of thousands their jobs, wild swings in the global economy wiping out retirement savings, and local sports franchises that continue to test the emotional stability of fans.

This latest game just magnified the same issues we have seen in the first three, with significant problems at: quarterback, safety, linebacker, special teams and coaching.  The defense is not in position on far too many plays, and the mental errors resulting in blown assignments have quickly translated into points for the opponent.  On offense, the receivers keep running the wrong routes and can't catch the ball with any consistency.  I thought O'Brien was going to completely lose his mind at one point on the sidelines after another obvious disconnect between Ryan Mallett and the receivers.  If this offense is too damn complicated, and/or the players are just unable to learn and execute it,  it may be time for O'Brien and Godsey to simplify things.  Two of the starting receivers (Cecil Shorts III and Nate Washington) may be out for a while with injuries, so regardless of whether they were effective or ineffective, we are now back to DeAndre Hopkins and some scrubs.  The tight ends are far below average (and I'm going to end the sentence now because they aren't worth another word).

Finally, the coaches are clearly way out of their league.  I understand the mentality of keeping starters in the game to have them "finish" strong and not quit, but this team was getting rolled in a non-conference away-game just four days before their first divisional challenge of the season (at home) against a struggling Colts team.  The smart money is pulling the talent off the damn field when you are down 42-0 and getting on the charter plane with all focus on Indy for the flight home.  It was absolutely asinine, and an unnecessary risk, to have the starters finish this game.  In doing so, O'Brien may have lost: Kareem Jackson, Quintin Demps and Cecil Shorts III for the next game.  Putting J.J. Watt in on offense at the end of a game that was statistically over might be the dumbest thing I have ever seen.  Eddie Pleasant is a penalty magnet, collecting THREE more today, and yet he still holds one of 53 roster spots.  Why?!!

Alright, moving on.  The Texans are 1-3 with three out of four NFC South teams out of the way for this schedule.  The next four games (Colts, @ Jaguars, @ Dolphins, Titans) are all far more important and winnable if they stop shooting themselves in the foot.  If they use this embarrassment to snap out of their funk, they can be 5-3 at the bye week.  OK, who am I kidding?

/drink!

From One Third Quarter to Another...

Mallett Hoyer

MDC:

In 2007, the 2-1 Houston Texans traveled to Atlanta to take on an 0-3 Falcons team led by the immortal tandem of Joey Harrington and Bobby Petrino. The Texans kept the game somewhat close, at least if you are looking back at the 26-16 final score, but the game was really just a comedy of Texans errors.

This is the game where Schaub's 13-yard rushing TD, which would have cut the Falcons' lead to 3, was reversed and the ball was placed at the 1. The Texans then called a TOSS PLAY to Ron Dayne, who couldn't corral the ball, and the fumble rolled out of bounds at the 7. Then Kris Brown shanked the 25-yard FG.

Oddly, though, it's not the end-game failure that makes this game so vivid for me. Instead, it is a single play by Petey Faggins in the second quarter that I remember most.  Petey, matched up one-on-one with Roddy White on the outside, committed defensive holding at the snap, drawing an immediate flag. However, White got loose from the hold and Harrington tossed the ball in his direction. Petey, oblivious as always, made contact with White way too early, drawing a second flag for pass interference. To top it off, White still caught the ball, and it was Von Hutchins who came over to make the tackle. Meaning that Petey had an illegal amount of physical contact with White twice in the span of a couple of seconds, yet he couldn't prevent the catch or make the tackle on the play.

The game this past Sunday was just a 60-minute interpretive performance of the Faggins-White play

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