I'm not generally a fan of doomsday predictors. I like them only marginally less than rose-colored glasses wearers. I tend to prefer reality and the reality is the Texans have a serious problem. Before you start shouting the name of the current starting quarterback or the perfect-haired play caller on the sidelines, let me suggest to you that the problem is, instead, un-reality.
After a miserable overtime loss to arguably the best team in football (in truth, no one would win that argument if the other option was Denver right now, but still), caused in no small part by a horrible decision by the QB on an abysmal play call in the fourth quarter, the answers were as plain and simple as one could imagine. Gary Kubiak made a bizarre and ridiculous call. Matt Schaub threw one of the most idiotic passes you will ever see a quarterback make. Both accepted blame and both will continue on tomorrow. Therein lies the problem.
They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest members of the asylum, your Houston Texans. Next week, they will trot out the same schemes, the same rigid adherence to a failed game plan, the same shell of a quarterback and try to tell us they just have to "play their game" and "take what the defense gives them" and everything will be OK. If we believe that, we are crazier than they are.
For now, on to the discussion of the latest debacle.
What went right: The Running Game
This is the first time I can put those words next to "right" this season. Arian Foster finally looks fully healthy. He put up 171 total yards of offense -- 102 rushing on 27 carries and 6 catches for 69 yards -- and a touchdown. While his 3.8 yards per carry was low, it didn't reflect the impact he had on the field, particularly early on. Even Ben Tate was running well until he coughed up another fumble and was promptly sent to Kubiak's dog house, which has plenty of room since the main guy who should be in there was the one throwing the ball. Foster's improvement was encouraging. They'll need more of it.
Runner Up: JJ Watt's bloody nose was the hit of the day online and on TV. That bloody nose was all over the field and made plenty of room for guys like Whitney Mercilus, who had 2.5 sacks. Way to go, bloody nose.
What went wrong: The Second Half
Up 20-3 in the third quarter only to lose 23-20, the Texans went 8 possessions in the second half without a single score. Pass protection was good, but Seattle wasn't fooled -- much like the Ravens last week -- by any of Kubiak's schemes. It's as if they naked bootleg has no chance of working ever again.
What must improve: Schaubiak
If these two were in the second grade, their teacher would have separated them by now because the science project they concocted -- a baking soda volcano -- blew a hole in the back wall of the room and killed the foreign exchange student and yet they insisted on trying it one more time.
Runner up: Containment was an issue all day against the very talented and agile Russell Wilson. Too often, the Texans lost contain, which let Wilson get free and pick up yards and key first downs. If guys like Brooks Reed think Wilson was tough, wait until next week and Colin Kaepernick.
What should stay the same: O-Line Play
Give it to the offensive line. They were short their best player and they still had a very good game against one of the best defenses in football. Schaub was sacked four times, but overall protection was good and they opened running lanes for Foster.
Runner up: Speaking of the running game, there definitely needs to be more of that in the weeks ahead. What did we learn from the game?
Something that has been clear for some time now is that the Texans simply cannot play "off schedule." They are like a classical orchestra. When it all goes flawlessly, it can be brilliant and beautiful, but the moment they try to improvise, it's a train wreck. Kubiak is so rigid, yet so remarkably conservative, if he were a gambler, he'd be a guy terrified to make a wager, but so addicted that he just bet $1 over and over and over. Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.
What do we never want to see/hear again?
I know I will see it, but I could go a lifetime without seeing Schaub crumble into a fetal position before a defender even hits him. I could have sworn I heard a whimper at one point in the fourth quarter.
Key Moment of the Game
We all know it, but I'll say it for the record: there was no excuse for that pick six in the fourth quarter. With the Texans still up a touchdown and driving on third and short, they call a naked boot that was well defended and Schaub threw it up for grabs against the best secondary in the NFL. Predictably, it was suddenly a tie ballgame.
Game Balls: Arian Foster
Very strong day from Foster, who was also visibly upset after that pick six, probably because the ball should have been in his hands. He wasn't perfect, but he sure looked like his old self.
Not just because he played well before suffering a concussion but because of how the defense cratered after he left the field. He and Watt are clearly both necessary for the Texans defense to be good. He better get back soon.
Goat of the Week: Matt Schaub
In four games this season, Schaub has scored 21 points for the other team. He looks terrified, weak and, to put it simply, overmatched. His decision making -- something most never questioned -- is now a huge concern. He can't improvise and Kubiak wouldn't let him even if he could. I'm not sure how the team can get through the season with him at behind the line and don't think that TJ Yates or Case Keenum are options. They aren't.
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Random thought of the week:
I began to feel really bad for Andre Johnson towards the end of this game. Johnson is without question one of the great wide receivers of this generation. Despite playing for some really rotten teams, he has racked up numbers that would make any player jealous. Yet, as he gets closer to the end of his career, he faces the continuing prospect of never going deep into the playoffs thanks to forces beyond his control. A player of his talent and magnitude deserves better.
Next Up: At San Francisco
The 49ers are rapidly turning their sinking season around and the Texans will be saddled with the task of chasing Kaepernick while trying to hold off the stingy Niner defense. It could be a long day San Fran next week.