Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 13: Colts 31, Texans 0 — Four Winners, Four Losers

David Culley has run out of answers for his team's poor performances.
David Culley has run out of answers for his team's poor performances. Photo by Eric Sauseda
As the Texans' skulked into the locker room, down 14-0 at the half against the Indianapolis Colts, what was left of the fans at NRG Stadium gave the team a healthy, audible round of boos. This is notable because the Texans evidently have fans that still care enough to boo the wretched product this team puts on the field every week.

To be fair, the Texans' defense is merely spunky and kind of mediocre, not a total dumpster fire like the offense. As if it weren't official already, the offense is no longer just a "Davis Mills had to play because Tyrod Taylor got hurt" problem. Taylor sucks just as bad as Mills. Before leaving the game in the third quarter with what looked like a leg injury, Taylor had generated 66 yards of offense on 27 plays.

When the Texans coined the slogan "That Football Feeling" for this season, I don't think this is what they had in mind. This is going to be a long final five weeks, people. Let's get to winners and losers....

WINNERS
click to enlarge Jonathan Taylor had 143 yards rushing on Sunday. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
Jonathan Taylor had 143 yards rushing on Sunday.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
4. Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor
Running back Jonathan Taylor is the second year offensive player on the Colts who gets most of the attention, and rightfully so. Taylor is an MVP candidate, and yesterday had the quietest 32 carry, 143 yard, 2 touchdown performance I can recall. Pittman also showed that he is going to be a problem for the Texans for many years to come, as he caught six balls for 77 yards, and carried twice on end arounds for 33 yards.

3. Bill O'Brien
Shifting over to college football for a moment, just a  week ago, Alabama's entire fan base was ready to drive offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien to the airport, as the Crimson Tide struggled to an overtime win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl. How quickly the worm can turn! On Saturday, in the SEC title game, O'Brien was the play caller behind one of the greatest offensive performances in SEC title game history, as Alabama QB Bryce Young likely clinched the Heisman Trophy with a 421 yard passing performance over a Georgia defense that was widely considered to be a once in a decade kind of defense. If you want to tie this bullet point back to the Texans in some way, now that Texan fans will probably be wanting the team to tank in 2022 so they can get the first pick in the 2023 draft, a pick that could very well be Bryce Young.

2. Kamu Grugier-Hill
Hey, one underrated thing about having your defense on the field for practically the whole game — there are a LOT of plays that require a tackle to be made. Yesterday, there were enough plays run by the Colts to where linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill was able to break the Texans' single game record for tackles in a game with 20 total tackles. So now, a random free agent signing will go down in the Texans' history book surpassing Brian Cushing, among others. it was appropriate that the record was broken on a play where Grugier-Hill had to tackle Jonathan Taylor about 12 yards downfield after another long run. We are reaching here, I know.

1. Frank Reich
As the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills in the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history, down 35-3 to the Houston Oilers in a 1993 playoff game, Reich was already hated by Houstonians. Now, as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, we are probably looking down the barrel of at least two more seasons until the Texans can function on the same field as Reich's squad. The Colts have one of the brightest general managers in the league in Chris Ballard, and the gamble they've made on QB Carson Wentz is playing out fairly well, in no small part due to Reich's handling of the former MVP candidate.

LOSERS

4. Zach Cunningham
Man, for a team that is priding itself on the caliber of teammate and human being behind the scenes (something fans care about very little when your record is 2-10), the Texans sure do have a lot of guys who the team feels the need to bench over disciplinary reasons. A few weeks ago, it was cornerback Desmond King, last week it was safety Justin Reid, and yesterday it was inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, who was also benched for the first quarter of a game earlier this season against the Browns. If they could, they would probably like to just move on from Cunningham, but the problem is his contract extension is ridiculously overpriced, a remnant of the era where Bill O'Brien and Jack Easterby were running personnel.

3. Joe Brady
When the Texans, and several other teams, were looking for a head coach in early 2021, one of the hot names out there was 32 year old Joe Brady, who's masterpiece bit of coaching was turning Joe Burrow into a transcendent Heisman Trophy winner at LSU in 2019. Matt Rhule brought Brady to Carolina in 2020, and the Panthers offense never really got out of second gear, not with Teddy Bridgewater under center in 2020, and not with Sam Darnold (and eventually, Cam Newton) under center this season. That said, I would take him here coordinating the Texans' offense in a heartbeat.
click to enlarge Tyrod Taylor left the game Sunday in the third quarter. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
Tyrod Taylor left the game Sunday in the third quarter.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
2. Tyrod Taylor
Late in the third quarter, Taylor went into the blue medical tent with what looked like a tweaked leg injury. He immediately emerged from the tent, put his helmet on, but did not reenter the game. Davis Mills went in, and the day was done for Taylor, who generated just 66 yards of offense on 27 plays. David Culley has said repeatedly that Taylor give the Texans the best chance to win, and compared to Mills that may very well be true. However, this is a lost season, and whatever watchability Taylor brought to the position earlier in the season, before the hamstring injury that sidelined him for over a month, has dissipated. This is the worst offense in the league, whether it's Taylor or Mills under center. It doesn't matter.

1. Deshaun Watson
Someday, the Texans will trade Watson, who is still listed as a healthy scratch each week, and that will be that. Watson will be gone from here, which is all he has wanted since last January. However, the one fly in the ointment that has developed for Watson is that the one team for whom he has waived his "no trade" clause, the Miami Dolphins, has all of a sudden won five in a row, and may decide that they are better off NOT gutting their future drafts to trade for Watson, and NOT spending $40 million per year to pay him for his services. In other words, Watson and his camp may need to go back to the drawing board to find a few new potential destinations to send him.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast