NFL Week 17: Titans 24, Texans 17 — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
Tom Savage's concussion is now a story line for the Texans heading into the playoffs.
Given the players they designated as "inactive" heading into Sunday's game in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans — seven, including stalwarts Jadeveon Clowney, Lamar Miller, Johnathan Joseph and Brian Cushing — the Texans' goals for the game, given the 46 players taking the field, had to go as follows:
1. Keep QB Tom Savage healthy
2. Win the game
In a game that was otherwise meaningless in terms of the standings and playoff seeding, the Texans accomplished neither of those goals, losing 24-17 to the Tennessee Titans, snapping their ten-game AFC South winning streak in the process. Perhaps more important, they may have lost starting quarterback Tom Savage to a concussion for their wild card round playoff game this weekend on a play that was entirely preventable, a fourth down QB sneak where, apparently, Bill O'Brien and George Godsey thought it would be a good idea to send their QB head first into a pile of large men.
This is a weird team, man. The defense is not aesthetically spectacular, but it's ridiculously efficient and fundamentally sound, one of the best in football. The offense is an utter train wreck that can't get out of its own way, with the most complicated playbook-that-feels-like-it-has-maybe-a-dozen-plays in the history of the NFL.
In short, it feels like all of Houston wants to build a statue for Romeo Crennel, and that those same folks would gladly drive O'Brien and Godsey to the city limits and leave them somewhere near the Buc-ee's in Baytown.
Now come the Oakland Raiders, who, believe it or not, are dealing with quarterback issues even worse than the Texans'. They lost MVP candidate Derek Carr to a broken leg last week, and his replacement, Matt McGloin, was knocked out of Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. There's a decent chance that rookie fourth round pick Connor Cook will start on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Prepare yourself, Houston. If you're someone who is still wondering how in the blue hell a team that lost the turnover battle all season long, and finished 31st in DVOA on offense and special teams, won a division title, the Texans are about to be favored in a playoff game.
Not much to break down from Sunday's game, since the Texans were playing second stringers the whole second half, so let's just do a few random winners and losers from the weekend in football...
4. Steve Smith
There was a really good article on The Ringer website this past week with analysis on the retiring/retired cadre of wide receivers, specifically Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith. It's definitely worth a read, as it outlines the pros and cons of each player's Hall of Fame case. I won't spoil the order they rank these guys in, other than to say Texans fans might not be happy. Regarding Smith, one amazing stat was that, of Smith's 81 career touchdowns, 66 of them were of distances ten yards or longer. That's remarkable. Smith is retiring to spend more time with his family. This is one of the best impromptu press conference answers you'll ever hear from one of the NFL's most raw, honest players....
3. Chip Kelly
The next few days, as usual, will be a whirlwind of firings and "retirements" in the head coaching business. Some of the coaching news cycle got revved up early this weekend when news broke that the York family, owners of the San Francisco 49ers, would be firing head coach Chip Kelly after just one season. (GM Trent Baalke is gone, too.) While the 49ers, who will be on their fourth head coach in four seasons, have a long climb back to even being mediocre, Kelly will now be the hottest commodity on the college coaching market this fall. The Niners did Kelly a favor, assuming he is self-aware enough to realize he is a great college head coach, and a mediocre NFL head coach at best. (Of course, he wasn't self-aware enough to say "NO" to the Niners, so we will see.)
2. Gary Kubiak
In the other bit of Sunday morning head coaching news, it was reported by ESPN.com's Adam Schefter that Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, less than a year removed from winning a Super Bowl, would be stepping down for health-related reasons, at the encouragement of his family. The timing is probably good for Kubiak, who is one of the all-time nice guys in the history of the NFL. His locker room in the first season post-Peyton Manning had reportedly devolved into a quasi-civil war between the offense and the defense. Kubiak is good at a lot of things (and not so good at others) — locker room mutinies and triage are not among them. I wish him well in retirement. (Also, there is zero chance he stays retired long-term. These guys can't step away, ever.)
1. New Year's Eve shows
Last year on New Year's Eve in Houston, there was a free concert (televised by Channel 13) from the B-52's. It was unquestionably the most horrific televised musical event in the history of TV or music. It was an unforgettable night on Twitter, too, as you can imagine. This year, our city obviously couldn't find a crappy '80's band to give another legendarily bad performance, so we had to settle for national broadcasts. Thankfully, Mariah Carey did not disappoint...
4. Kirk Cousins
Playing in a win-and-go-to-the-playoffs situation in the final game of his one-year franchise tag deal ($18 million!), Kirk Cousins lost at home to a Giants team that had nothing to play for, throwing two crucial interceptions in the process. Honestly, if that's enough for the Redskins to hesitate on giving Cousins a long-term deal, then maybe it's worth it NOT to make the playoffs, speaking as a media member in a city where the team gave $37 million guaranteed to a guy with seven starts for a Super Bowl team. Either way, Cousins's pooping of the bed makes these little snippets even more absurd...
3. Steve Sarkisian
If you're an Alabama fan, certainly you're happy with the win Saturday and another trip to the national title game. However, those same fans (and anyone who was laying the two touchdowns on Saturday) were probably ready to murder Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, whose play-calling was the only reason Washington was still within striking distance for most of the game. Once the season is over, though, Kiffin is gone, headed to Florida Atlantic for its head coaching job, at which time Bama's new OC will be THIS guy...
How's that taste, Bama?
2. Someone prominently involved in coaching the Texans offense
After the Texans game was over on Sunday, we were treated to this very depressing tweet from ESPN's Stats and Info department:
The Texans finished the regular season with 25 touchdowns, the fewest by a playoff team in a 16-game season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2017
I can't think of a worse look for a head coach reputed to be a very good offensive coach when he arrived in Houston. Offensively, it's been a slow and steady tumble since O'Brien's arrival, as the Texans have gone from 21st to 24th to 31st in the league in offensive DVOA in his three seasons here. Someone has to answer for this. George Godsey's title is offensive coordinator, which means this is HIS area where the team is failing. (It's really O'Brien's, too, but O'Brien isn't getting fired.) If Godsey doesn't get fired after the season (or, honestly, any time now would be fine), then it's fair to ask O'Brien, "What exactly does George Godsey do?"
1. This poor bastard on Ohio State...
If you've spent any amount of time around football players, you've probably heard stories of the horrific things that go on at the bottom of a pile. Spitting, grabbing, pinching, cursing — it's an ugly place, man. Nowadays, with dozens of high-definition cameras around the stadium, it's harder than ever to get away with bottom-of-the-scrum shenanigans, and it's especially difficult when you do stuff like this out in the open...
Of course, the bigger question, Christian Wilkins, is WHY IN THE BLUE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT? Why would you grab the taint of an opposing player? Seriously, if there's a media day for the national championship game (and I think there is), I wouldn't seek out Deshaun Watson or Mike Williams...I'd find Wilkins and ask him about this.
Somewhere, Dwight Howard approves of Wilkins' touchiness...
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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