When you have a 6-6 team that, thanks to its shoddy quarterback play, feels like a 3-9 team, your definition of "progress" differs from that of somebody who follows a team that is perennially making late January, football-related travel plans. The Houston Texans lost again on Sunday, for the third time in a row. That's the bad news.
Here is the good news...[chugs whiskey]...[prepares for hours of self-loathing]...[wipes away tears]. When I've done these "How to Lose a Game in Ten Plays" posts previously, the ass-kicking sequence used to come much earlier in games and the Texans just chose never to fight back (read: at Minnesota). Then they started to come later in games, as in the second quarter instead of the first, and they even punched back in the second half (read: versus San Diego).
On Sunday, against Green Bay, the Texans lasted until almost the fourth quarter before self-destructing! PROGRESS! (I made it abundantly clear two paragraphs ago, I hate myself for this little bit of analysis. It's what they've reduced me to.)
So for this week's edition of "How to Lose a Game in Ten Plays," we pick things up late in the third quarter in Green Bay territory. The Texans have just tied the game at seven earlier in the quarter, and on the previous series, the defense stymied Green Bay's offense on 4th and 2 near midfield. MOMENTUM WAS FLOWING, PEOPLE.
Now, following a Jonathan Grimes 14-yard dare play on 3rd and 12 (are you kidding me?!), and a five-yard run by Lamar Miller to make it 2nd and five, the Texans were on the move at the Green Bay 36 yard line. Then the disaster unfolded...
HOU 2nd and 5, GB 36 yard line
3:20 to go, 3rd quarter,
PLAY: DeAndre Hopkins dropped pass over the middle
This was it, this was the play where the floodgates slowly creaked open. In the Blame Pie Chart for this error, 96 percent of the pie has Hopkins on it, but the other 4 percent belongs to Brock, because if you re-watch this throw, a good pass out in front of Hopkins probably gets the Texans inside the ten yard line on a catch and run.
Floodgate play here, all downhill next ten minutes. Texans were moving, ready to take a lead ... pic.twitter.com/mzOewRn8sM— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) December 5, 2016
As it was, Hopkins had to slow down to make the catch, a catch he normally makes in his sleep. Even if Hopkins is tackled where he catches the ball, the Texans have a first down at about the Green Bay 25 yard line, and are looking at, minimally, a field goal to take the lead. Instead, on third down, Brock threw aimlessly into triple coverage, and the Texans were forced to punt from the opposing 36 yard line because of the wintery conditions. This is a mistake most teams can afford to make. The Texans are not "most teams."
GB 2nd and 10, GB 2 yard line
2:55 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: A. Rodgers short pass to TE R. Rodgers for 9 yards
Shane Lechler did his best to use his right leg to keep momentum in favor of the Texans, pinning the Packers on their own two yard line. Unfortunately, they have a quarterback who can casually drop back in his own end zone and carve out nine yards of field position on 2nd and 10 like he's playing MADDEN. And then, on the very next play...
GB 3rd and 1, GB 11 yard line
2:13 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Ty Montgomery picks up 3rd an 1 with a 13-yard run and steamrolls Johnathan Joseph out of the game in the process
Not only did this play pick up the first down, but Montgomery — a wide receiver being asked to play running back — delivered a great stiff arm to Bernardrick McKinney and then ended Joseph's afternoon with a crushing shoulder to Joseph's ribs. The significance of this play was, in part, the down and distance result, but more so the injury to Joseph, which made Charles James a more significant part of sub packages. It's no coincidence that Rodgers got more than half of his passing yards once Joseph was out of the game. Pre-Joseph injury, Rodgers was averaging 4.6 yards per attempt on 22 attempts; post-Joseph injury, Rodgers averaged 13.5 yards per attempt on eight throws.
GB 2nd and 6, HOU 43 yard line
13:39 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Rodgers scrambles for 11 yards
This was one of those "quintessential Rodgers" plays where, even with a tweaked hamstring, he was able to pump fake one poor sap to the ground, and then slide for a comfy 11-yard gain into field goal range. It was one of those underrated "oh crap" kind of plays that you sometimes forget Rodgers is capable of, because he is so talented throwing the football.
GB 2nd and 10, HOU 32 yard line
12:50 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Rodgers touchdown pass to wide open Jordy Nelson for 32 yards
Here is the first play in which the presence of James on the field as a CB really came back to roost, although to be fair, he did fall down on this play. (However, my guess is, even if James were in coverage, Nelson is probably finding a way to make a play here.)
HOU 1st and 10, GB 47 yard line
10:39 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Osweiler aborted screen pass to Alfred Blue for -9 yards
At this point, the game was still within one score, and the Texans had moved the ball into Green Bay territory thanks to a couple of stellar Alfred Blue runs of ten and 25 yards. However, this play pretty much ended the drive, as Osweiler, in shotgun formation, got buried quickly by a blitzing Jake Ryan, whom nobody picked up. Instead of throwing it incomplete at his receiver's feet — something Osweiler has been very proficient at all season long — Osweiler threw it to Blue like a real screen pass, and Blue got buried by two Packer defenders nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. 2nd and 19 is not really the Texans' kind of deal, ya know? Two plays later, they were punting the ball back to the Packers, and Rodgers went to work...
GB 2nd and 7, GB 14 yard line
8:16 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Rodgers 21-yard pass to Jordy Nelson along the right sideline
Nelson got right in the soft spot of the Cover 2 zone, and avoided an attempted maiming by Corey Moore, who slightly maimed himself, actually, in the process. A few plays later...
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GB 3rd and 6, 50 yard line
5:54 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Rodgers 28-yard pass to Jordy Nelson over Kareem Jackson
One of those plays where their guy is just better than our guy.
GB 1st and 10, HOU 22 yard line
5:06 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Jeff Janis 19-yard end around to HOU 3
And as much as we like to make fun of Mike McCarthy, this was the perfect call after the Nelson catch over Jackson. The Texans on defense were reeling a little bit, Rodgers was dealing, the footing was terrible...an end around with the Texans' entire defense flowing the other way was absolutely brilliant.
GB 1st and goal, HOU 3 yard line
4:18 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Aaron Ripkowski up the middle for a three-yard touchdown
21-7, Packers. Game over.
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.