Of course, that number of points is based largely on Rodgers' individual greatness, but it's also based on just how precipitous the fall off is from the franchise QB to his understudy. Well, on Sunday, if you're into looking for answers to the quantitative questions about quarterback play, then NRG Stadium was your personal laboratory, as 71,000 Texan fans had to endure the return of Tom Savage under center with Deshaun Watson now out for the season with a torn ACL.
Savage was woefully inaccurate, comically inept, and infuriatingly nervous, not to mention about as mobile as a tortoise. In other words, he was the exact opposite of Watson, and as a result, the Texans lost one of the few winnable games remaining on their schedule to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 20-14. For most of the game, Savage's throws may as well have been shot out of one of those haphazard T-shirt cannons, as he completed 9 of his first 29 attempts, before a late game flurry of accuracy allowed him to finish a less dismal 19 of 44.
The Texans fell behind 20-7 before Savage's first career touchdown pass — only took four years! — cut the lead to 20-14. The Texans finished the game failing on 4th and goal from the Dolphin seven yard line, as Savage was strip sacked by Jabaal Sheard to end the game. The Texans are now 3-5, two games back in the AFC South, and there is little joy in Houston right now.
Let's examine a few winners and losers from Sunday....
4. The Astros
The biggest cheer of the afternoon on Sunday at NRG Stadium was undoubtedly when a handful of the Astros got to come out during a break in the action, and show off the World Series championship trophy. It was a nice reminder that we are still only a few days removed from our city winning a major sports championship, although it was perhaps a little over the top to wonder how quickly George Springer could go through his progressions if we asked him to play quarterback. If I'm Bob McNair, I find a reason to invite the Astros to all three remaining him games. By the way, if you missed a few of the Astros on Saturday Night Live, here you go....
Thanks in part to the spate of anthem protests throughout this season, the NFL has an image problem right about now. My guess is that it was not helped on Sunday when there were unsportsmanlike incidents involving two of the marquee wide receivers in the league. First, there was A.J. Green of the Bengals putting Jacksonville's Jalen Ramsey in sleeper hold....
Then there was Tampa Bay's Mike Evans sucker-shoving New Orleans' Marshon Lattimore.....
The good news, I suppose, is that all of the Texans stood for the anthem this week, which made Salute to the Troops day a whole lot less awkward than it could have been.
2. Lamarr Houston
There were not many bright spots for the Texans on Sunday, but outside linebacker Lamarr Houston continued his stellar play. Since arriving here the week after Whitney Mercilus went down for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, Houston has been a consistent nuisance rushing the passer. From Pro Football Focus prior to Sunday's game:
In two games with Houston, outside linebacker Lamarr Houston has seven pressures. Six of those have come in fourth quarters of games. His 21.6 pass-rushing productivity in the fourth quarter is the best for edge defenders with at least 20 fourth quarter pass-rushes.
Houston continued to make a difference on Sunday with a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He's not Mercilus, far from it, but Houston is at least holding his own in the role defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel has carved out for him.
1. T.Y. Hilton
Hilton entered the game Sunday as one of my key players to watch from last Friday's preview post, as for his career he was averaging just over 94 yards per game against the Texans in ten career games. Hilton might be the most notorious non-QB Texans killer in franchise history. That's no exaggeration, and on Sunday, all Hilton did was fortify that resume, as he caught five passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which came when he made a long catch and run, appeared to be tackled at about the Texans' 30 yard line, only to get up and run the rest of the way when it was determined he was untouched. Hilton proved he didn't need Andrew Luck to tear up the Texans' secondary.
4. Robert Griffin III
With the statuesque Savage dragging the Texans' season into the abyss, we are all left to wonder just how salvageable things could be if the team had a quarterback with similar athleticism to Watson so that at least Bill O'Brien could keep calling some of the plays that worked so well with Watson under center. We got rumblings of Colin Kaepernick discussions in this pregame tweet....
This tweet made me think, given that Kaeprnqick and Robert Griffin III are the only really athletic quarterbacks on the street and desiring to work, how much it feel to be Griffin right about now? I mean, at least Kaepernick knows that it's his politics that are keeping him from gaining employment. With Griffin, it's almost like they're not signing him because he comes across as an egomaniac lacking in any form of self-awareness. (By the way, I would take eight more games of Kaepernick or Griffin before I take eight more minutes of Tom Savage.)
3. Brock Osweiler
If you're bummed out about the Texans' loss today, just know that Brock Osweiler started an NFL game for the first time since the loss to New England in the playoffs last season, and he was no better than Savage today, going 19 for 38 for 208 yards and two interceptions. Brock still sucks horribly at football, but his postgame press conferences are an amazing display of repetitive delusion. Enjoy!
I pray to all the football gods that they keep Brock starting in Denver. These press conferences may be the only thing that sustains me through the Tom Savage Era.
2. Bill O'Brien
A week ago at this time, things were okay for Bill O'Brien. Sure, he was under some fire for some late game play calling against the Seahawks, but overall, it was nothing he couldn't weather, given that he had just directed Deshaun Watson to a fifth straight game of over 30 points worth of offense. The pinball machine numbers from the rookie quarterback were making Houston fans forget, or at least somewhat ignore, O'Brien's blind spot in game management and the fact that he started the season with Watson on the bench. However, now that Watson is done for the season, expect the next eight games to be one gigantic microscope for O'Brien, who now coordinates an offense, with Savage at the helm, that is pushing a boulder up a hill every Sunday just to score a touchdown in the red zone. Also, Savage's return is now a full time reminder that somehow O'Brien and Rick Smith saw fit to make Savage the starter throughout training camp and into the regular season. Savage looks so lost right now, he is ruining it for every other backup quarterback who's kept a job merely because they've been "in the building" and "know the system," which brings me to....
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1. Tom Savage's agent
This clown's name is Neil Schwartz, and he had the gall to complain about Tom F-ing Savage, and his (at the time) ZERO career touchdown passes, getting benched at halftime in Week 1, and Savage presumably had the gall to green light Schwartz's going public with these complaints. If you have time to listen to it, this interview did not age well.... and it's hilarious now to think that there was someone begging the world for sympathy for Tom Savage, who is so clearly in over his head as an NFL quarterback that it would be funny if he weren't starting for my team....
Worth mentioning, Deshaun Watson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month in October. To use Schwartz's own words, watch the film.
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.