With the math of their playoff situation already putting the Houston Texans in a precarious position on Monday night in Baltimore, they ultimately did themselves no favors in the game, with crucial mistakes in all three phases and three gigantic turnovers by Tom Savage handing the Baltimore Ravens a 23-16 win, and essentially ending any hope the Texans have at a miracle postseason appearance.
Truth be told, the defense was not at fault in this one, as the Ravens started four of their five scoring drives in Texans' territory. Special teams was okay, but gave up the momentum swing in the first half on a fake punt, but at the end of the day, the combination of Tom Savage and four fifths of the offensive line (everyone not named Nick Martin) were to blame.
The Houston Texans, losing the war of attrition in 2017, just had too many guys on the field in the fourth quarter that don't belong on an NFL field — not in situations like this, at least. Let's do the autopsy on what was an entirely winnable football game for Bill O'Brien's squad.....
4. Jadeveon Clowney
If there is a silver lining in the downward spiral that this season has become, it is that the self-actualization of Clowney as a disruptive force appears to be complete. This game played out a little bit like the Rams game a couple weeks ago, where Clowney was a giant in the first quarter — a sack, a couple tackles for loss — and then faced constant triple teams the remainder of the game. Clowney had a sack for his fifth straight game, the longest such active streak in the league.
3. Anthony Weaver
Before the season, in West Virginia at training camp, I had a chance to chat with the Texans defensive line coach after one of the practices and commented to him on how good his position group looked. He smiled and said "Yeah, I'm a much smarter coach when number 99 is out there." Well, since Week 5, there has been no number 99, but Weaver's group has done a nice job defending the run, and has played well above their draft pedigree. D. J. Reader and Brandon Dunn have been solid, and at times spectacular, and rookie Carlos Watkins has done some good things, as well. If Watt comes back healthy (it hurts just to have to think about his health for another offseason), this will be the strongest, deepest group on the team next season. (NOTE: I count Clowney as a defensive lineman when I say that.)
2. DeAndre Hopkins
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith entered the game allowing a passer rating of around 25.0 when targeted this season, on pace for the lowest targeted passer rating in 12 years. Well, needless to say, after Hopkins was done on Monday night, Smith doesn't have to worry about breaking that record anymore. Hopkins beat the Ravens' secondary every possible way, with seven catches for 125 yards, drawing enough pass interference penalties to where his jersey looked like it's been through a wood chipper. It was literally ripped down the right hand side. Hopkins remains on track for All Pro honors following the season.
1. John Harbaugh, special teams guru
Early in the game, things were going exactly as the Texans drew it up — an early touchdown, and some clock eating ground game, to go with a stifling defense. The Ravens were stuck in mud. Then on a 4th and 6 from the Houston 41 yard line, John Harbaugh dialed up a fake punt, and punter Sam Kich hit Corey Moore with a 22 yard pass that completely swung momentum in favor of the Ravens. It was a classic call for Harbaugh, who was, of course, a special teams coordinator before becoming a head coach in 2008.
4. Bill O'Brien game manager
Someday, Bill O'Brien will make it through an entire game without my wondering if he knows exactly what he's doing when it comes to clock and game management. This time it was a small thing, but a thing nonetheless, as O'Brien used a timeout with about 90 seconds to go in the half after the Ravens got a first down on offense. I mean, it's something I've literally never seen before. I'm all for saving time, but typically you only do it if the down and distance are tipped in your favor. Using time outs on first down on defense is really only helping the offense get organized on their drive. I like O'Brien, but he makes no sense sometimes. This didn't lose the Texans the game, though.
If you're looking for items that cost the Texans the game, that's real simple. It was three things.....
3. Texans field position
The Ravens had five scoring drives and, thanks in large part to turnovers, on four of them they had starting field position that was on our inside the 50 yard line. The Ravens were constantly only having to play half the field, while the Texans routinely had to go the length of the field to score.
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2. Texans offensive line
The Texans have four players in their starting offensive line that don't belong on an NFL field, at least not on downs that matter in a Monday Night Football game. It didn't help either when Chris Clark went out and was replaced by Kendall Lamm, who gave up Tom Savage's seventh strip sack fumble of the season (18 quarters of play).
Speaking of Savage....
1. Tom Savage
He is the third and final reason that the Texans lost this football game, with the aforementioned strip sack fumble and two horrific interceptions. I'm not sure what to say other than Savage probably won't be here next season, so it's hard for me to get worked up. This will all be over soon.
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.