Well, that was a pretty freaking painful four days, huh?
If you're trying to construct the most painful way to chase an overtime loss to your hated in-state rival, the Texans did a pretty good job of it on Thursday night, falling behind the Indianapolis Colts 24-0 in the first quarter, riding the greatness of J.J Watt to a furious comeback, before two fumbles in the final five minutes allowed the Colts to breathe a sigh of relief and leave town with a 33-28 win.
It's painful to quantify just how disastrous this loss is, especially considering that a) the Texans have never won in Indianapolis (meaning 0-2 against them is heavy chalk) and b) Indy seems to be hitting its stride. If you're a Texans fan who aspires to have postseason football on the schedule in January, then the route (as jagged and unlikely as it may be) now goes through the collection of teams in the AFC North plus the Buffalo Bills in going after the other wild card spot.
Assuming the Patriots win the AFC East and the AFC West has two playoff teams (major chalk bets right now), then Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore is the new "division."
So great news, Texans Fan! You're 1-0 in the division! Suck it, Buffalo!!
Okay, now on to winners and losers....
4. Andrew Luck Not much to say about Luck that hasn't already been said throughout the season. Typical Luck game -- tons of plays down the field, superior game management, thousands of happy fantasy owners. If you want to get angry, Texans fans, just know that the price of getting Luck (and a playoff ticket for the next 12 years) was the same price the Texans paid for Jadeveon Clowney (who may wind up being a Pro Bowler but guarantees them nothing).
3. Every teenager playing Madden The last two minutes of the first half was a bad look for both head coaches, especially if they were ever trying to make a case that it takes a special kind of football acumen to make in-game decisions. After the two-minute warning just before halftime, O'Brien willingly allowed about 40 seconds to leak off the scoreboard with multiple timeouts remaining in his pocket. Then, after the Texans went three and out, with the clock running and around 40 seconds to go, Chuck Pagano failed to use his only timeout to leave his offense time to get more points...until there were three seconds left in the half, and then he called one. These guys badly needed a teenage Madden player on their headsets explaining math and strategy to them.
2. J.J. Watt I'm not sure what's left to say about J.J. Watt, but I better find some things to say about him because there's ten weeks left in the season, and I host roughly 20 hours of radio each week, not to mention a few thousand words per week here. On Thursday night, Watt had a game that's become the norm for him at home in 2014: seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, three passes defended, five QB hits, one fumble recovery and one touchdown, which now gives him more touchdowns on the season than Calvin Johnson and LeSean McCoy.
1. Arian Foster J.J. Watt has been the Texans' best player thus far this season. Hell, he's been the league's best player thus far this season. But Arian Foster's return to 2010/2011 form has been the most pleasant surprise, especially given his back surgery in 2013 and his dip in explosiveness in 2012. The highest compliment you can pay a running back is that he gets extra yards on nearly every carry that other backs just wouldn't get, by some superhero power. For example, Marshawn Lynch does this through brute strength, gaining four yards where there should only be two, six yards where there should be only four, etc. Arian Foster does this same thing through his elusiveness and vision. He has been a joy to watch this season.
4. Texans personnel decisions If I'm looking in my crystal ball, I think the thing that is ultimately going to make me sad at the end of the season is that we will have seen an all-time season by J.J. Watt, one of the last great seasons from Arian Foster, one of the only seasons where Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will be playing together at a high level, and it will be wasted on a roster filled with failed draft choices and quarterbacked by a ten-year journeyman who puts a firm ceiling on the offense of bottom third of the league. That sucks.
3. Third down It feels like a year ago when the Texans were making nearly 60 percent of their third downs and were in the top five in the league in converting third down. Of course, this was when virtually all the third downs were third and (a very manageable single digit). Last night, the Texans were 1-8 on third down. Even worse, they don't even run real football plays anymore if it's third down and longer than 10 yards to go, punctuated by an inexplicable draw play on 3rd and 14 from just outside the red zone that set up a Randy Bullock missed field goal that would've cut the lead from 12 to 9. (Yes, I know, there's so much wrong with that sentence, you want invite O'Brien to play Madden with you, don't you?)
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2. Brian Cushing I don't know what it was about Cushing last night, but he just looked out of it. When he penetrated the backfield or got in position to make a tackle, he had a tough time sealing the deal, and on at least three occasions, it was his teammates getting him into position pre-snap, as opposed to vice versa, a pretty harrowing circumstance if you're a Texans fan (or Romeo Crennel, who I am assuming is a Texans fan).
1. Texans kick return team This just about summed up the night....