My biggest question coming into Sunday's game between the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears had nothing to do with the "man event" storyline for the week, the battle between the two pivotal quarterback figures from the 2017 NFL Draft. I was more intrigued by what type of effort we would see from the Texans, especially early in the game.
Considering that Week 13 ended in about as catastrophic fashion as you could draw up — a bad snap with a minute to go in the game, inside the Colts' five yards line, driving for a go ahead score — against the worst possible opponent, and functionally ended their season, dropping them to 4-8, my fear was the Texans would come out like a bunch of zombies against the Bears.
My fears were confirmed early in the game, as the Texans gave up an 80-yard touchdown on the Bears' first play of the game, took a 30-7 halftime lead, and wound up losing 36-7. Like the final upcoming three weeks of the NFL season, let's get this over with ... winners and losers... here we go...
4. Khalil Mack
There were two players playing in this game that were acquired by their teams for multiple first round picks. One played well, the other played like dog crap. Let's talk about the one who played well first. Khalil Mack returned from injury and was wildly impactful, especially early on when this game was still a game (it wasn't long, but it was a game for part of the first quarter). Mack forced and recovered a fumble from Duke Johnson on the Texans' second drive of the game. He had a sack, a TFL, a pass defended, all later in the game. Khalil Mack was a problem for the Texans' offensive line, which doesn't necessarily make him special, it just makes him the latest. But he was really good.
So you'd like to have Zach Fulton block Khalil Mack... pic.twitter.com/QPNMNDsNb7— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 13, 2020
3. Miami Dolphins
Now onto the story of the player acquired for multiple first round picks who stunk. Looking at you, Laremy Tunsil...
Tunsil had multiple penalties and spent the afternoon looking apathetic as Deshaun Watson was getting his head handed to him. The Dolphins, the recipients of the multiple first round picks from the Texans for Tunsil's services, are laughing watching the Texans' season slide into the toilet, and watching those picks rise up the board.
2. Allen Robinson
The Texans went into this game without Bradley Roby (suspended), Phillip Gaines (injured), and John Reid (injured). Three cornerbacks, all out. The Texans top three corners on Sunday, in fact, were Vernon Hargreaves, Keion Crossen, and Cornell Armstrong. Three minimum salary guys. That's how Mitchell Trubisky ends up looking like Joe Montana, and Robinson (9 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD) ends up looking like Jerry Rice.
1. Bill O'Brien
This designation — Bill O'Brien, WINNER — might make you scratch your head. He is anything but a winner, aside from financially, where he is sitting on a mountain of cash from the remaining two years on his deal, post-termination. O'Brien started the season 0-4 before being fired, so by the literal definition of "winning," he is the opposite of that. The reason O'Brien is a winner by Sean Pendergast's subjective measure is because the awful, awful product we were subjected to on Sunday is 100 percent his baby. He put it together, and it stinks. And he gets to watch it from home without having to answer for ANY of it. Bill O'Brien should have to do a press conference every week from now until Whitney Mercilus' contract is up.
4. Opening drives.... again.
My "broken record" bullet point of the week — the Texans' offense punted on their opening possession. This is 12 of 13 games this season where they've punted on their opening drive. Meanwhile, defensively, here's how the first Chicago offensive play went...
That's six of the last seven games in which the Texans have given up a touchdown on their opening drive defensively. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
3. J.J. Watt
Similar to O'Brien not being listed as a "winner" because he is, by definition, a winner, I don't list Watt here for ANY "loser tendencies". In fact, it's quite the opposite. In his age 31 season, he still gives great effort, makes the occasional splashy play, and is a pro's pro. Look no further than the third quarter, when Watt chased down a running back on a screen pass 18 yards down the field, while his slap-nut teammates stand around and watch. The cameras on CBS caught Watt in a reflective moment in the second half, starting off into space, and I can only imagine which of the other 31 NFL teams he was dreaming he was playing for.
2. Whitney Mercilus
While I have Watt under "losers" for ironic reasons, Mercilus is here for the absolute football reasons that SHOULD put someone here. For the second straight game, Mercilus, played a majority of the snaps, and didn't register a single stat. Not a tackle, not a QB hit, not even an assist on a tackle. NOTHING. He is in the first year of a four year, $54 million contract extension handed to him by William O'Brien, for no real good reason other than Mercilus is "tough, smart, and dependable." He may be all of those things. However, he is not good at football anymore.
1. All of us
Hannah McNair is all of us pic.twitter.com/nNliHJysSe— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 13, 2020
We feel you, Hannah. We feel you.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.