There are points in every season when the fortunes of NFL teams change for the better or worse. The Texans, still holding onto the slim chances of reaching the playoffs, have seemingly had their fair share of those moments this year. From the exhilaration of new quarterback Ryan Mallet leading the team to a win against Cleveland on the road to the depression of seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick's left lack snap during their loss in Indianapolis on Sunday, this season has had some incredible highs -- J.J. Watt for MVP! -- and some disgusting lows -- Mallet lost for the season.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise then that on Sunday, with their playoff chances somewhat hanging in the balance -- they aren't mathematically out of it, but still -- they were forced to play a fourth-round rookie at quarterback and lost for the 13th straight time on the road to the Colts. As a franchise, they have never won in Indy. That's a remarkable feat and, much like Sunday, a big time downer.
After Fitzpatrick left the game on a cart, the victim of a broken leg, young Tom Savage looked like a terrified rookie for most of the rest of the game. Still, the Texans were in the game well into the fourth quarter. If not for a questionable holding call on a wide receiver that nullified an Arian Foster touchdown (which would have evened the game at 14) and a late interception by Savage (after he hobbled back onto the field, an injury that will require an MRI today and could end his season as well), this could have been a win for a Texans team that was brilliant on defense all day long.
And so it goes...
Offensive Game Balls
The Training Staff I'm not sure what they have to do to keep their quarterbacks upright. Maybe they need some fancy medical equipment or a shaman or something. Whip up some Eastern medicine or voodoo. I'm guessing if Dr. Walter Lowe thought a magic incantation would help Fitz's leg heal faster, he'd be chanting like a Tibetan monk.
Defensive Game Balls
(J.J. Watt has already been retired from consideration, FYI, or he would be in here every week.)
Kendrick Lewis All season, Lewis has flown under the radar as a steadying influence in the secondary. On Sunday, he grabbed a pick six and reminded fans why the Texans signed him as a free agent in the offseason.
Romeo Crennel His defense was outstanding again on Sunday. They were particularly good in the second half and his game plan against both Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton was superb. They Texans won't be a playoff team this year, but they have a playoff caliber defense without question.
DeVier Posey I almost feel bad putting Posey here, but if you are a wide receiver and you get caught holding, it's bad. If it happens on a touchdown that would have tied the game, it's catastrophic. Maybe it was a questionable call. Maybe the defender flopped like Manu Ginobili in the NBA Finals. But, even so, you can't have that happen in a critical game like this one. What Should Stay the Same
The defense was, once again, tremendous on Sunday. A secondary that during training camp appeared to be one of the biggest weak spots on the team has become strangely reliable. They held T.Y. Hilton, a Texans killer, to only 5 catches and none after the first quarter. The Colts were only 2-12 on third down and Andrew Luck 18-34 with a pick six. Indy's rushing game isn't good, but they were downright awful on Sunday holding them to 3.3 yards per carry.
What Needs to Improve
Does anyone know a witch doctor? The Texans have been, for the most part, healthy this season, but the last couple weeks have been a killer. From Mallet to Fitzpatrick to Savage to Andre Johnson to Jadeveon Clowney to Whitney Mercilus, the team has had to absorb some significant losses. It's unreal how thin they are at certain spots on the field and those all seem to be racking up injuries as well.
Despite the questionable and critical holding penalty, it's nice to see DeVier Posey get off the back of the milk carton and on to the field. On his only target, Savage connected with him for a 30-yard sideline route. Posey has a lot of talent, but whether it is a numbers game at outside wide receiver or just a lack of knowledge of the system, this has been a bummer of a season for him. On Sunday, he got a chance to play and managed one good play and one not so much.
Bill O'Brien made some seriously boneheaded calls on Sunday including a fake punt on fourth down when they could have just run it with Arian Foster. The team had some penalty problems as well, but he did manage to steady his young quarterback and the defense kept them in it. Overall, it was up and down.
After being benched and then returning to win a couple games, Fitzy is back on the shelf with a broken leg that will end his season. Needless to say, the dauber is down on the Fitz-o-Meter. It is difficult to know if he will be back next year, hopefully as a backup if at all, but if one thing is clear, it is that we would have been better off with him than Savage on Sunday. Imagine that.
The big question after this weekend's game is who will be the Texans starter at QB next week if Savage is indeed out. They signed Thad Lewis when Mallet was lost for the season and he would appear to be the next man up. News broke Monday morning that Case Keenum, the former record-breaking UH quarterback, will join the Texans' active roster for the teams final two games of the season.
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Play of the Day
In truth, there were a handful of plays that could qualify from the pick six to the touchdown overturned by a penalty to two missed fourth downs and the final interception that sealed it. For a game as boring as this one was at times, there were a number of plays that turned the game around for both teams.
The Texans welcome the Baltimore Ravens and former head coach -- now offensive coordinator -- Gary Kubiak back into the building. Both teams are fighting for a wild card spot, so don't expect the Ravens to go easy on what could be a Thad Lewis-led offense. Though the Texans season ostensibly ended on Sunday, there's a good chance next week will make it official.