After the Houston Texans' 30-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon, a final score that ended the Texans' stint atop the division (for now), a key theme, understandably, centered around the word "frustration." Are people — Texans players, fans, media — frustrated that the Texans can't seemingly string together an extended run of consistent play so far this season?
Well, it depends on whom you ask. Deshaun Watson, for example, doesn't seem as though the frustration bug has bitten him yet:
“Am I frustrated? No, I’m going to keep my composure. It’s a long season. We have to give the Colts credit, they handled what they needed to handle. We didn’t execute enough to be able to capitalize. We have to take our game to the next level and we’ll get back to the drawing board and get ready for the Raiders. That’s the biggest thing. We can’t get frustrated. We can’t get discouraged. We have to keep a positive energy and stay motivated. Like I said, anything can happen. This is the NFL. It’s a new week every week.”
Defensive end J.J. Watt, on the other hand? He seems pretty frustrated:
“It’s obviously frustrating. (It was) a tough division game on the road. You really want to come in here and get the win and we didn’t do that. We obviously had too many penalties. The goal was to stop the run and we did that effectively, but too many passing yards. Got to give credit to them and give credit to their quarterback. He took a ton of hits today and he kept getting up. (I) respect the hell out of that – just have to get better. We gave up five first downs on penalties. We’ve just got to be better.”
On the post game show yesterday on SportsRadio 610, my cohost (and former NFL quarterback) Clint Stoerner was frustrated that the Texans lost, but saw enough in the game to know that, in his opinion, the makings of a really good team still exist. Fans calling the postgame show were having none of that. They are undoubtedly frustrated.
Here's the thing about the 2019 Texans, and really the sum total of all the Texans teams with some glimmer of possible greatness — the reason the frustrated people are frustrated is because, for the third time this season, in just seven weeks, the Texans have given them reason to believe, and they have immediately chased that within a week or two with a performance that makes you question whether the team even enjoys prosperity.
In Week 1, ironically in a loss, the Texans' effort against the Saints was enough to think "Man, this team may have something here." The next week they needed a last second stop of a two point conversion to beat a rookie starting QB for the Jags. The following week, they beat the Chargers in Los Angeles, and promptly follow that up with their worst effort of the season in a home loss to the Panthers.
So with a win over Kansas City last weekend, it wasn't just Texan fans buying in, but it was national media, too. Yet now, here we sit, seven days later, picking up the pieces of yet another loss to Jacoby Brissett (4-0 now as a starter against the Texans) and the Colts. That's the frustration — fans want to buy into this team so badly, but every time there's a sliver of reason to believe, the Texans go out and poop the bed in the red zone three times and commit ten penalties. It doesn't help that they exist in the same sports ecosystem as the Houston Astros, who can seemingly do no wrong and have never met a big situation that they don't savor. Fans expect Jose Altuve to hit a game winning home run. Fans expect the Texans to chase a win or two with a head scratching loss. That's pretty much it.
Let's get to yesterday's winners and losers.....
4. Brock Osweiler
Is Brock Osweiler a winner because he announced his retirement last week, and can now sit around lighting cigars with the stacks of $100 bills paid to him by the Texans? Sure, sure he is. However, at this point, Osweiler is also the answer to a Colts-Texans related trivia question — with the loss on Sunday, it has been clinched for at least one more season that the only Texans quarterback to sweep the two game season series from the Colts is indeed Brock Alan Osweiler, who did it in his only season with the team in 2016 behind an overtime win in Week 6, and a win in Indy in December. Pretty amazing.
3. Kenny Stills
After tweaking a hamstring in the Carolina game in Week 4, then missing the games in Week 5 and Week 6, Stills was back on Sunday and contributed in a big way, with four catches for 105 yards, including two explosive plays of over 40 yards each. With Will Fuller leaving in the first quarter with a hamstring injury of his own (more on this in a moment), Stills' ability to get deep will be necessary to have the Texans' offense functioning as close to optimal level as possible. I'm not so sure, at this point, that, when healthy, Stills hasn't been the more consistent player between him and Fuller.
2. Crossing routes galore
So digging into this loss, there are plenty of reasons to cite in how the Texans arrived at a 30-23 loss. At or near the top of the list was the consistent play of Brissett, who completed 26 of 39 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns, and perhaps most importantly, no interceptions. All day long, Brissett just riddled the Texans' injury-depleted secondary with crossing routes to Zach Pascal, Eric Ebron, and T.Y. Hilton. Brissett is not Andrew Luck, but he is more than good enough to win ten games in the 2019 iteration of the AFC. The Colts are not going away.
1. Colts schedule
I'll use a tweet I sent out during the game to lay this one depressing thought out....
Here’s a “nobody’s talking about” on why this game is crucial … Texans & Colts two “variable” games on the schedule are with the corresponding teams in the AFC North and AFC East based on last season’s standings:— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) October 20, 2019
HOU — @ BAL, vs NE
IND — @ PIT, vs MIA
That’s a BIG problem.
The crazy thing about this — Frank Reich was given so much grief over his decision in Week 4 last season against the Texans to go for it on fourth down in overtime in his own territory, a decision that backfired and instead of a tie, the Colts lost the game a few plays later. The critics said "If he took the tie, Reich would have won the division!" However, as it turns out, he beat the Texans in a wild card round playoff game anyway, and is now reaping the benefit of a second place schedule. So the decision to go for it on fourth down in Week 4 actually is now BENEFITING the Colts. Weird.
Well, it's now reached a point where unfortunately Will Fuller leaving the field in the first quarter of a game with some kind of injury has become an annual tradition. Yesterday, it was a hamstring injury, which means that Bradley Roby (didn't travel with the team), Kenny Stills (returned yesterday after missing two games), Johnathan Joseph (back after one game missed), and Fuller have all suffered hamstring injuries in the last few weeks. I know the Texans have made several improvements to their training and medical processes, but they need to bring in someone who specializes on hamstring maintenance. Whatever they're doing isn't working. (I'm being tongue in cheek... sort of.)
Yesterday, we were deprived this magical Deshaun Watson moment by the referees....
Deshaun Watson just pulled this off, but the refs blew the play "dead" early lmao pic.twitter.com/DNTfd8Qivc— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) October 20, 2019
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I don't know what the ref was thinking here, other than he blew the whistle to protect Deshaun Watson, a task he executed poorly because Watson still got blistered, while having the refs cost him and his team four points. Thanks for nothing, zebras.
2. Texan opening drives
For the seventh straight game, the Texans opening drive of the game was an uninspired mess, with this one eventually petering out at midfield when the officials penalized newly acquired tackle Dan Skipper for not reporting as an eligible receiver on what would've been a 4th and 1 conversion. So the Texans had to punt, which means in their first drives of the game they've punted five times and turned the ball over twice. The first drive is the one that would seemingly reveal preparation chops of a head coach, and if that's the case, things have not reflected well on O'Brien, and that angst over coaching inconsistency is exacerbated when O'Brien butchers the clock as badly as he did in letting the clock die down before using a time out to call an intentional safety late in the fourth quarter. I don't know what he is doing sometimes.
1. Penalties and the red zone
It's easy to point the finger at the head coach, but the players are culpable as well (obviously), and on Sunday, the Texans shot themselves in the foot with red zone ineptitude in the first half (three trips, three field goals, granted one of the three trips was the botched sack call on Watson above) and penalties throughout the contest. In fact, the Texans had three defensive penalties in 3rd and one situations that allowed the Colts offense to stay on the field. Overall, the Texans had 10 penalties for 54 yards, so there were no gigantic yardage swings with the penalties, but it seemed like every penalty came at the least opportune time.