Bill O'Brien loves him some "complementary football," Obie-speak for the optimal combination of offensive, defensive and special teams proficiency to bring the hometown team a victory each Sunday (and God willing, the occasional Thursday or Monday, the last two games notwithstanding).
For these 2014 Houston Texans, complementary football is almost a necessity. Against 90 percent of the league, this team has to have each facet of the machine running smoothly in order to emerge with a victory. For good teams with great quarterbacks, complementary football is a luxury, because the superhero under center can mask a lot of flaws.
The Houston Texans right now are neither a good football team nor employing a great quarterback (or even an average quarterback, for that matter), therefore.....COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL, YO!!
Now, it's one thing for a team to go through spells where some of the parts aren't quite working. In spurts, average teams can weather a non-complementary storm. However, the problem with the 2014 Houston Texans is that when one piece begins to falter, the other pieces follow right down into the abyss, and all of a sudden the team is in a tailspin that turns into a nosedive.
Call it BIZARRO COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL, where each of the parts simultaneously and symbiotically fails, resulting in a brief but soul-crushing tsunami of points, yards and inflicted punishment by the opposition.
In all four of the Texans' losses this season, they've victimized themselves with ugly phases of Bizarro Complementary Football.
WEEK 3: at NEW YORK (L, 30-17), Part I 17 NYG points in 7:40 of game time * 7-0 NYG, TD 3:30 left in 2Q After a three and out by the Texans OFFENSE (which made a total of ten plays on the previous three drives for O'Brien's crew), the Giants score a touchdown on a nine-play, 83-yard drive on which Eli Manning tore up the Texans DEFENSE by going 5-6 for 71 yards and a 26-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz on which Kareem Jackson tackled like 2010 Kareem Jackson.
* TEXANS TURNOVER (INT), 2:00 left in 2Q On a 3rd and 19 play from their own nine yard line, Bill O'Brien makes an egregious error in COACHING, asking Ryan Fitzpatrick to convert a third and 19 with his arm (I'm not even sure Fitzpatrick can throw it 19 yards.). Turnover, NYG return it to the Texans' two yard line, and now the Texans OFFENSE has really screwed over the Texans DEFENSE, which....
* 14-0 NYG, TD 1:10 left in 2Q The Giants use two runs from Rashad Jennings (who would wind up with around a thousand yards that Sunday) to bang it in from two yards out, and the Texans promptly go from "Okay, down one score but we get the ball to start the second half" to "Shit, down two scores and now these drunk New Yorkers are INTO this thing, man!"
* TEXANS TURNOVER ON DOWNS, 13:17 left in 3Q The Texans get the ball to start the second half, complete a couple of passes to Garrett Graham (a tight end sighting!), but the OFFENSE proceeds to fail in short yardage in their own territory, with Alfred Blue getting stuffed on 3rd and 2, then again on 4th and 1.
* 17-0 NYG, FG 10:50 left in 3Q For the second time, the Texans' OFFENSE has put the Giants' offense in a plus-territory situation, and they proceed to hand the ball to Jennings five straight times (why risk it?) and kick a 39-yard field goal.
BIZARRO COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL SUMMARY, NYG Part I: * 17 NYG points in 7:40 of game time * Three NYG possessions stemming from a three-and-out, an INT, and TO on downs * Two NYG possessions starting in Texans territory at the HOU 2 and HOU 45
WEEK 3: at NEW YORK (L, 30-17), Part II 13 NYG points in 6:45 of game time
* 20-10 NYG, FG 12:22 left in 4Q The Giants answer the Texans' first touchdown drive of the afternoon (really two big plays, Blue for 46 yards off tackle, and Damaris Johnson on a bomb for a touchdown) with a ten-play, nearly five-minute drive on the Texans DEFENSE to make it a two-possession game again, with a Josh Brown 29-yard field goal.
* TEXANS PUNT BLOCKED, 10:41 left in 4Q Faced again with 4th and 1 in his own territory, O'Brien makes an odd COACHING decision, choosing to punt on 4th and short down two scores with ten minutes left in the game (when he had chosen to go for it earlier in the half with plenty of time remaining). SPECIAL TEAMS ensures that O'Brien's decision will be questioned after the game by not only allowing the punt to be blocked, but for future Hall of Fame punter Shane Lechler to get injured on the play. (Lechler would return, hobbled, the next week.) Giants take over at the Houston 29 yard line
* 27-10 NYG, TD 9:34 left in 4Q Rashad Jennings for five yards, Rashad Jennings for 15 yards, Eli Manning nine-yard TD pass to some dude named Fells. Texans DEFENSE allowing the Giants to make it look easy.
* TEXANS TURNOVER (INT), 9:25 left in 4Q Fitzpatrick makes an atrocious throw to DeAndre Hopkins on the first play after the touchdown, it gets picked off, effectively ending any chance the Texans have at a comeback.
* 30-10 NYG, FG 5:37 left in 4Q The Giants just toy with the Texans, handing it to Jennings and Andre Williams, grinding the clock down to a nub before getting another field goal to close out their scoring.
BIZARRO COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL SUMMARY, NYG Part II: * 13 NYG points in 6:45 of game time * Three NYG possessions, two stemming from a blocked punt and an INT * Two NYG possessions starting in Texans territory, each at the HOU 29
WEEK 5: at DALLAS (L, 20-17 OT) 14 DAL points in 11:28 of game time
* 10-7 DAL, TD 6:18 left in 3Q After the Texans took the lead for the first time in the game on an Arian Foster-fueled 71-yard drive, the Cowboys bounced right back with big plays against the Texans DEFENSE, first a 34-yard seam route to Jason Witten on 2nd and 15, and then a 43-yard TD pass to Terrence Williams in which J.J. Watt missed a sack on Tony Romo and Kendrick Lewis fell down in coverage.
* 17-7 DAL, TD 9:50 left in 4Q After the Texans forced another red zone turnover (this one a Romo INT to Lewis), the Texans OFFENSE responded by going three and out, and then on the punt, SPECIAL TEAMS allowed a 38-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris, setting Dallas up at the Houston 30 yard line. Three DeMarco Murray runs and a short back shoulder route to Dez Bryant later, it was 17-7.
BIZARRO COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL SUMMARY, DAL: * 14 DAL points (of the entire 17 they scored in regulation) in 11:28 of game time * Two DAL scoring possessions, total of eight plays * Two plays of 30+ yards on same drive * One scoring possession starting in Texans territory at HOU 30
WEEK 6: vs INDIANAPOLIS (L, 33-28) 24 IND points in 11:17 of game time
* 3-0 IND, FG 11:17 left in 1Q Colts get the ball on a punt after the Texans OFFENSE goes three and out on the first possession of the game, including a drop by Hopkins on third down. The Colts only end up with a field goal on the drive, but a message is sent with the big play setting them up being a 40-yard strike from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton, a sign of things to come for the Texans DEFENSE.
* INDIANAPOLIS ONSIDE KICK, 11:13 left in 1Q Texans SPECIAL TEAMS fall asleep at the wheel when Colts kickoff specialist Pat McAfee executes a dribbler to himself to perfection. The Colts actually set this up on the opening kickoff by lining up wide and veering in on the approach to the kick. This time they stayed wide (and the Texans stayed wide with them), leaving the entire middle of the field open....
Texans special teams coach Bob Ligashesky could be seen saying "fuck me" to himself, implying COACHING may have been an issue. The Texans would be shell-shocked by this for the next several minutes.
* 10-0 IND, TD 10:45 left in 1Q Two plays is all it took, a 49-yard deep ball to Hilton on a blown coverage by the DEFENSE (may as well have been a 54-yard TD, Kareem Jackson actually touched Hilton accidentally while he was on the ground), and Trent Richardson waltzed in from five yards out.
* 17-0 IND, TD 7:05 left in 1Q After another three-and-out by the Texans OFFENSE and a 14-yard punt return allowed to Griff Whalen (Days of our Lives character or white punt returner?) by SPECIAL TEAMS, the Colts set up shop at their 44-yard line. Luck hit four different receivers, including Ahmad Bradshaw on a touchdown where Brian Cushing totally spaced out and didn't cover Bradshaw out of the backfield, another error on DEFENSE.
* 24-0 IND, TD 0:00 left in 1Q After another three-and-out by the Texans OFFENSE, which included two sacks of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Colts went 68 yards in 11 plays to cap off the worst first quarter in Texans franchise history. On the drive, Luck went 5-7 for 64 yards, including another big play for 37 yards to Hilton given up by the Texans' DEFENSE.
BIZARRO COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL SUMMARY, IND: * 24 IND points in 11:17 of game time * Four IND possessions stemming from three there-and-outs and an onside kick * T.Y. Hilton with catches of 40, 49, and 37 yards (He would finish with 223 yards on the night) * Luck was 12-18 for 208 yards and two touchdowns passing.
WEEK 7: at PITTSBURGH (L, 30-23) 24 PIT points in 2:55 of game time
* 13-3 HOU, FG 3:13 left in 2Q This was the seemingly innocuous drizzle before the unplanned-for hurricane that would eventually come, and ironically, the first stumble came from the best player in football, when J.J. Watt jumped offside on a 3rd and 15 that would've gotten the Texans' DEFENSE off the field. Instead, Le'Veon Bell took the next play 43 yards on a a catch and run (which single-handedly may have ruined Brian Cushing's rep as a plus inside linebacker in the process), leading to a Steelers field goal that got them on the scoreboard for the first time that night. It wouldn't be the last time.
* 13-10 HOU, TD 1:36 left in 2Q Needing a couple of first downs to get into the locker room up 10 and getting the ball to start the second half, the Texans' OFFENSE instead goes three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Steelers, who need only two plays -- a 28-yard catch by Bell, and Martavis Bryant's first career catch for 35 yards and a TD -- to cut the lead to 13-10. But wait, there's more...
* TEXANS TURNOVER (Fumble), 1:14 left in 2Q After Danieal Manning fumbled the ensuing kickoff and recovered it in time to get to the Texans five yard line (SPECIAL TEAMS error), on the second play from scrimmage, Arian Foster fumbles (OFFENSE error), and the ball is recovered by Pittsburgh at the Texans three yard line. But wait, it gets better....
* 17-13 PIT, 1:10 left in 2Q The Steelers go into major "heat check" mode, running a wide receiver pass option end around where Antonio Brown throws a touchdown pass to Lance Moore, who's caught three passes all season. The crowd is in a frenzy. But wait, there's more....
* TEXANS TURNOVER (INT), 1:03 left in 2Q For some reason, Bill O'Brien thought, "What the hell, this place is coming unglued, we've given up 17 points in two minutes, but I've got RYAN FITZPATRICK. Let's go GET US SOME POINTS...", even though the Texans just needed to run out the clock to quiet the crowd, and down one score, get the ball to start the second half. Well, you know what happens now. Fitzpat-pick....Pick-patrick....Fitzpickrick...whatever funny nickname you want to come up with....Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an INT....to a defensive lineman....with a beard bigger than his (beard conspiracy?). Steelers ball at the Texans eight yard line. Huge OFFENSE gaffe, huger COACHING gaffe.
* 24-13 PIT, 0:18 left in 2Q As if it couldn't get any worse, miraculously, it did. Not only did the Texans give up a touchdown, but they replayed the Ahmad Bradshaw TD catch from the previous Thursday with Brian Cushing choosing to just let Bell walk out to the flat uncovered and catch an easy touchdown.
BIZARRO COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL SUMMARY, PIT: * 24 PIT points in 2:55 of game time * The mother of all Bizarro Complementary Football meltdowns * Three TD possessions, total of FIVE plays (FIVE!) * Three touchdown receptions, two of them by WR's who had three catches COMBINED all season coming into the game * A wide receiver threw a touchdown pass * The final two touchdown drives started at the HOU 3 and HOU 8 yard lines * I punched myself in the nuts after this flurry ended
CONCLUSION In the Texans' four losses, they've played a total of 247:15 of football (including overtime in the Cowboys game.) They've given up a total of 113 points in those four games. As you can see from the stats above, 92 of those 113 points came in a cumulative span of 40:05. It takes a special kind of football masochism to give up 81 percent of your points allowed in 16 percent of the game time. It takes everybody simultaneously letting go of the rope at the same time, everybody pulling in the absolute wrong direction.
It takes Bizarro Complementary Football. And the Texans are the best at it.