Well, that sucked.
From the Ryan Mallett interception on the Texans' first possession of the day to every emasculating Devonta Freeman run between the tackles to the final play of the game when Cecil Shorts not only fumbled trying to make a crazy shmozz play for a meaningless touchdown, but may have injured his shoulder in doing so, the Texans' 48-21 loss to the Falcons on Sunday was the most depressing, infuriating, embarrassing display of football I've seen from a Texans team, possibly ever.
Considering we've endured a 2-14 season in 2013 and multiple multi-touchdown losses in 2012 within the last few seasons, that's saying something.
There's very little to evaluate or debate in terms of nuance to Sunday's game. The Texans were pitiful at everything in falling behind 42-0 in the third quarter — they were poorly coached and executed like garbage in all three phases of the game. Period. Let's get right to it in finding winners and losers amidst the rubble…..
Just two weeks ago, Freeman was the less buzz-worthy member of a RB tandem with Tevin Coleman. Now, one Coleman injury later, Freeman has become one of the most productive running backs in football the last two weeks, carving up the state of Texas in the process, Dallas last week and the Texans yesterday. Sunday, Freeman tallied 149 total yards and multiple explosive plays in the passing and running game. His two early touchdowns were right up the gut for 16 and 23 yards and set the tone for the day — a tone which sounded something like the Texans losing their collective manhood.
3. DeAndre Hopkins fantasy owners
DeAndre Hopkins is four games into his third year, which is a pivotal season for first round draft choices as teams like the Texans like to lock up those players long-term a year before their 4-year rookie contracts expire. Perhaps the best thing to happen to DeAndre Hopkins statistically so far is the Texans' being forced into futile chases down double digits in these games. Yesterday, Hopkins had three catches for 46 yards on nine targets as the Falcons built a 42-0 lead. Once Brian Hoyer came into the game midway through the third quarter, Hopkins had six meaningless catches for 111 equally meaningless yards on 13 scattershot targets. Basically, DeAndre Hopkins is the Jerry Rice of garbage time.
2. Gary Kubiak
For the fourth tine this season, the Broncos found a way to win a football game, running their record to 4-0 while eking out a 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The team's offense is still lackluster, but the defense is elite, and they appear to have a winning formula, even with Peyton Manning operating with the physical skills of a Walmart greeter. Somewhere, Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips are sharing a pitcher of lemonade, reading Texan box scores, and chuckling uncontrollably.
1. Houston Astros
Well, at least Houston has one team whose performance they can be proud of….
Hey, A.J. Hinch stole O'Brien's "f-bomb volcano" gimmick!
4. Eddie Pleasant
If you search the play-by-play of the game for the name "Pleasant," it shows up four times — one for an innocuous tackle on a two yard run and three other times for penalties. One of the penalties was declined (a third down defensive hold in which the Falcons completed a pass for 15 yards) and the other two occurred almost directly before Falcon touchdowns — an illegal use of hands that nullified a Brian Cushing sack (next play, Freeman scored from 23 yards out) and an unsportsmanlike conduct for a late hit (three plays later, Terron Ward scored from 8 yards out). This doesn't count all of the superfluous idiotic woofing Pleasant was doing with his team down by six touchdowns. He was in full on "Swearinger at Jacksonville in 2013" mode. If any player should've been made to find his own way back to Houston, it would have been Pleasant.
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3. Ryan Mallett
So what have we learned in Ryan Mallett's three starts? Well, we learned he has basically one speed at which he throws the ball — 98 miles per hour. We learned that accuracy is more than just a minor issue for Mallett. He routinely skips balls at his receivers' feet or sails the ball over their heads. When there's no running game backing him up, you're just as well off having a JUGS machine back in the pocket as you are having Mallett. So who should start on Thursday for the Texans? Who cares, honestly. Mallett's no rookie. This is who he is and who he will be — just a different flavor of ineffective from Hoyer.
2. Cecil Shorts
This is what you get for fake coaching hustle. The Texans, down 42-21, were using their timeouts in the final minute and calling plays like they were trying to win the Super Bowl, when in fact, they should have just been trying to get the hell out of Atlanta with no more injuries. With 20 seconds left in the game, and the clock winding down, Chris Myers and I were both sitting in the 610 studio saying "Ok, let the clock run out and let's get out of there, no more injuries". Instead, the Texans rush to the line, and run two plays, a pass to Hopkins which was originally called a TD but reversed to an incompletion and a pass to Shorts on the final play of the game, in which Shorts tried to make a scramble-shmozz into a meaningless touchdown. It wound up being the worst play you could ask for — Shorts fumbled, Atlanta LB Nate Stupar scooped it and ran 84 yards for a TD, and Shorts was injured on the play. Add this injury to Nate Washington's hamstring injury, and you could see Keith Mumphrey starting at receiver on Thursday night. This was just one of several severe misfires by O'Brien. Speaking of which…..
1. Bill O'Brien, QB genius
If you recall, in the preseason, O'Brien not only backed his two hand picked quarterbacks (and rightfully so, he's their boss), but angrily sold them to the city as two disrespected players we should all be proud of (wrongfully so, because that's absurd). O'Brien's entire first season was one 16 game honeymoon, with most normal thinking people happy with a 9-7 finish after 2-14 in 2013. However, in Year 2, the condescending manner in which he's force-fed the Hoyer/Mallett suck-xacta to the city may wind up defining his second year as an NFL head coach, and his choosiness in ignoring every decent young QB in the 2014 draft (along with the general underperformance of his 2014 draft class as a whole) is providing the seeds of his undoing, at least until he chooses a QB in this spring's draft. All in all, these have been four very bad weeks for O'Brien's equity with the fan base.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.