The general feeling following the Texans' 34-16 loss to the New England Patriots in Foxborough on Saturday night was that they played about as well as they could have played, given their roster and the circumstances of the team. Yes, an 18-point loss in the playoffs feeling like some sort of accomplishment tells you all you need to know about what the offseason should look like for this team.
There will be time to get to this roster over the coming weeks and months, but for now, let's go back and do the autopsy on this game while it's still fresh. I think it's safe to say that if you told Bill O'Brien before the game that his team would be trailing 17-13 at the half on Saturday, he would have taken that. In fact, the announcing team on CBS (Jim Nantz and Phil Simms) made the point several times that O'Brien just wanted to be hanging around in the fourth quarter and then, he hoped, steal a win.
Someday, we can only hope, this franchise won't go into games like this HAVING to have that hybrid David/loser's mentality, but in 2016, with Brock Osweiler as your quarterback, it is what it is. That said, when merely hanging around is your goal, eventually you get hanged. (I just made that up; I'm pretty proud of that.)
Here is the sequence of series and plays that decided Saturday night's game. We pick things up with the Texans exiting the tunnel to start the second half, in the midst of accomplishing their goal of "hanging around"...
1st and 10, NE 25 yard line
15:00 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: A.J. Bouye dropped interception (and possible pick six)
Re-watching .... can't fault Bouye overall, he's been great this year. That said, he catches and keeps feet here, Texans lead 20-17... pic.twitter.com/bSxIZRtIAq— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) January 16, 2017
On the play-by-play sheet, this shows up as a pass breakup for A.J. Bouye (a positive play, right?). But man, this could have been huge. If he'd been able to hang onto the ball and keep his feet, it likely would have been a pick six, and the Texans' first lead of the game. At the very least, he gets tackled and they come away with a field goal to tighten things up. (See? Brock has me assuming that red zone trips are field goals. Damn you, Brock.) Tom Brady almost never makes these types of mistakes, and he made them multiple times on Saturday. And the Texans still lost by 18. We continue...
1st and 10, NE 10 yard line
12:30 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Brady pass deep left to Julian Edelman 26 yards
Brady releases this and takes a wallop before Edelman even comes out of his break. Dropped right in the bucket. Unfair .. pic.twitter.com/UfEgioCHbo— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) January 16, 2017
This was the first play of the 90-yard drive that essentially served as the reminder that "We're the Patriots, and you're the Texans." Brady just lets this go right before taking a huge hit from Whitney Mercilus. Edelman hasn't even come out of his break, but Brady knows right where to put it. That's one of the biggest differences between the Bradys of the world and Brock Osweiler — when Brady throws a deep ball and drops it in like that, you're 100 percent certain that's exactly what he envisioned happening the second the ball leaves his hand. When Osweiler throws one deep like that and it happens to be on target (like the Fuller drop later in this quarter), you feel the same way you do watching your five-year-old playing Skee-ball and randomly dropping one into the 100 point center spot.
"WOW, WAY TO GO, BROCK!"
1st and 10, NE 36 yard line
12:10 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Brady pass short left to Edelman to midfield
Two plays and they're out to the 50 yard line. Placement punt by Lechler completely diffused.
1st and 18, NE 42 yard line
11:18 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Brady pass deep left to Chris Hogan for 21 yards
On the first play after getting to midfield, the Patriots ran LaGarrette Blount to the left for a big gain, but a holding penalty brought it back. So on 1st and 18, they decided to go right back to the air, unfortunately, and Chris Hogan does bad things to Corey Moore and A.J. Bouye.
3rd and 3, HOU 19 yard line
9:14 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Brady pass to James White for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWN
When the Patriots lined up, before the snap, I turned to my cohost Ted Johnson and said "James White." And sure enough...James White. Too bad I couldn't text Corey Moore right before the play to get him to help out over the top a little faster than the sedated tortoise he appeared to be impersonating. So now it's a two-score lead for the first time all night...Patriots 24, Texans 13.
3rd and 4, HOU 46 yard line
7:34 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Osweiler throws an interception to Devin McCourty while targeting (shocker) DeAndre Hopkins
The replay of this pick where they showed Brock's eyes... stared at Hopkins the entire play... pic.twitter.com/URZ2WdhBA5— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) January 16, 2017
It was just a matter of time, really. Still, even after this soul-crushing play, the Texans defense stood up and forced a punt. The Texans started at their own 2 yard line, and managed to get into Patriots territory, and then this...
3rd and 8, NE 45 yard line
2:16 to go, 3rd quarter
PLAY: Will Fuller drops a sure touchdown pass
Will Fuller's drop issues show up the one time Osweiler fires an accurate pass. pic.twitter.com/W2w3Zkfyl6— Jonathan Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) January 16, 2017
Honestly, Brock makes like one of these throws every six weeks. When it happens, you have to make the catch, and when it happens on the road in the playoffs, you REALLY have to make the catch. Fuller's rookie year overall was respectable. He got off to a fast start, the league seemed to get hip to what to do with him, he had some injuries, a few drops, and his quarterback is a giraffe. I think, overall, when you compare him to the Texans' other successful first-round picks, his rookie season ranks behind only those of Cushing and Watt, for sure, and is probably a decent impersonation of Hopkins's rookie season in 2013. Fuller will be fine.
4th and 4, NE 28 yard line
14:55 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Nick Novak 46-yard field goal
I realize that this is a play the Texans scored points on, so calling it a "losing" play seems counterintuitive, but honestly, when they didn't come away with six points following the final Brady gift of the day (the interception to Andre Hal), the game was over. Going for it here on 4th and 4, while unconventional, would have been justifiable. I get the "cutting it to one score" mentality, but to think your gassed defense was keeping the Patriots off the scoreboard the rest of the way was folly. O'Brien missed several opportunities to take big swings on fourth down in this game, and this was one of them.
1st and 10, HOU 11 yard line
13:00 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Osweiler interception to Logan Ryan, on a pass (wait for it... wait for it...) intended for DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is actually open here, but... well, yeah ... anyway ... pic.twitter.com/F6cO0ir5s0— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) January 16, 2017
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Just a terrible throw by a bad quarterback. I'm not sure there's much left to say.
2nd and goal, HOU 1 yard line
12:18 to go, 4th quarter
PLAY: Dion Lewis up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN
31-16. Game over, season over. Whether the Osweiler era is over, that remains to be seen. Stay tuned...
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.