The Texans were supposed to get things straight against what appeared to be a hapless St. Louis Rams team that had struggled in virtually all facets of the game. Turns out, it was the other way around as the Rams feasted on the clearly overmatched Texans and dominated them in all three phases of the game. The rout quickly turned embarrassing after a fumbled kickoff return -- something that was a disaster all game long and included Daniel Manning fumbling in the end zone -- by Keyshawn Martin turned was run back for a touchdown.
Matt Schaub didn't throw a pick six or any interceptions for that matter, but when he had his ankle badly rolled in the third quarter, which was cheered by some fans at Reliant (more on that in a moment), his heralded replacement, TJ Yates, managed to throw his own pick six deep in St. Louis's end of the field. He threw another touchdown in the St. Louis end zone to total four turnovers for the day that takes the Texans to an abysmal -12 on the year in giveaway-takeaway ratio.
If last week was a nightmare drubbing by a better team, this week put the team and fans on notice that this is simply a bad football team. This is not a title contender. The Texans are looking more and more like a contender for a top 10 pick in next year's draft. At this point, they must go 7-3 to keep reach a winning record, 8-2 to get to 10 wins, the amount projected for a team in the AFC to make the playoffs. After the loss to the Rams, they may not mathematically be eliminated from the chase, but they are as good as done.
What went right: Arian Foster
The game plan was to put the ball into Foster's hands against the weak run defense of the Rams. The plan was working early on and Foster racked up 141 yards on 20 carries. He tacked on another 57 yards on 4 catches to go for nearly 200 yards of total offense. He was the lone bright spot in this hideous debacle.
What went wrong: The Defense
The vaunted Texans defense, ranked number one in several statistical categories, was picked apart by a very mediocre Rams offense. They still fail to create any turnovers, give up long drives, including two 80 yarders and one for 65 yards, don't pressure the QB nearly enough and are one of the worst in the red zone in the NFL. This is not a great defense. It is probably not even an average defense at this point. It's time to admit that and figure out how to fix it, if that is possible.
Runner up: One of the biggest failings of the Texans is to point to statistics as the reason they are good. Yet, today provided a stark reminder of how stats can fail. The Texans NEARLY DOUBLED the Rams offensive output 420-216, yet they lost by 25 points.
What must improve: Everything
Special teams is an utter disaster from coverage to returns. Defense, as illustrated above, is falling apart quickly. The offense can't manage to score the ball outside of an occasional field goal. The play calling is as predictable as the sunrise. And the team plays with little discipline racking up 95 yards of penalties. On the whole, this is one of the worst coached and poorest performing squads we've seen in several years.
What should stay the same: Nothing
At this point, maybe setting aside the play of Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and MAYBE JJ Watt, who had his worst game of the year Sunday, everything should be on the table. Players should start losing their jobs and coaches should be considering cleaning up their resumes. Without a drastic change, this is a 4 or 5-win team at which point heads better roll. What did we learn from the game?
At this point, virtually nothing is working. In the movie Forty-Year-Old Virgin, one character advises Steve Carell, who has done everything the right way or so he has thought for his whole life, "You gotta try some wrong." The coaching staff, the players and team management and ownership need to take a long, hard look at the organization from top to bottom and start making some hard choices. It is doubtful this season can be salvaged on the field, but you can at least begin the process of letting the fans -- and the taxpayers who footed the bill for your stadium -- that this type of effort and performance will not be allowed to stand. Of course, they stuck with David Carr and Dom Capers long after their shelf date had taken them from fresh to DEAR GOD DON'T EAT THIS UNLESS YOU WANT SALMONELLA! so, I'm not sure I trust them to do the right thing.
What do we never want to see/hear again?
The main storyline emerging in the aftermath of the game is how despicable it was for fans to cheer Matt Schaub's injury. There should be more emphasis on the game than on a few idiot fans, but let me say it unequivocally, this is absolutely deplorable behavior. Cheering on the injury of a player is disgusting and classless.
Key Moment of the Game
It wasn't a key moment so much as a series indicative of the entire Texans's season. In the first half with the ball near midfield, Schaub was flushed from the pocket and unable to complete a pass on first down. On second and ten, they handed the ball to Arian Foster who gained no yards. On third and ten, they threw the ball 5 yards and punted. It wouldn't be as frustrating if it weren't so commonplace in this offense.
Game Balls: Arian Foster
Through the awful play of the last four games, Foster has begun to emerge as one of the better backs in the NFL. Unfortunately, because the Texans get behind in every game, he doesn't get the opportunities to pound the ball he probably should. Had that happened today, he might have gone for over 200 yards.
Goat of the Week: Bob McNair
It all begins at the top and the team's owner has incubated an attitude that doesn't demand accountability and is happy with the status quo. When the cameras caught him sitting in his luxury box leisurely eating peanuts (or whatever the hell that was, maybe the souls of fans who ponied up for PSLs before this season) with his team being destroyed on the field below, I and a number of people on Twitter wondered out loud if that image wasn't simply a perfect example of why things have gotten so bad.
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Random thought of the week:
At one point during the game, Vince Young tweeted that he was ready to suit up for his hometown team. This is why some people should never use Twitter.
Next Up: at Kansas City
All the Texans have to do now is play the undefeated Chiefs with one of the toughest defenses in the NFL in one of the most brutal environments in sports, and possibly with TJ Yates as their starter. Yippee!