Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 13: Colts-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

David Culley's 2-9 start has happened twice before in Texans history, to dire effects for the head coach.
David Culley's 2-9 start has happened twice before in Texans history, to dire effects for the head coach. Photo by Jack Gorman
December is here, so this 2021 Texans season, that we all end of knew would feel interminable by the time the holidays rolled around, is winding down to an end. Six games remain, and then it's onto the 2022 NFL Draft to try to find some help. Right now, the Texans sit at 2-9 on the season. In the franchise's history, they've been 2-9 (or worse) just twice 11 games into a season.

Back in 2005, the Texans started out 1-10, on their way to a 2-14 stinker. At the end of the season, head coach Dom Capers was fired. In 2013, amid high preseason expectations, the Texans started out 2-9 on their way to another 2-14 season. In early December, Gary Kubiak was fired.

So there IS a trend here for head coaches — start 2-9 (or worse), get fired. Now, do I think David Culley is going to get fired after just one season? I'd bet against it, but it wouldn't hurt him (or the psyche of this city) for the Texans to win a couple games on the way out to Cancun this offseason. If they start by beating the Colts, they'll move to 3-9 on the season, but hey! 3-1 in the DIVISION!

Here are four things to watch for on Sunday, through the eyes of Coach Culley's press conferences this week:

4. Jonathan Taylor
In his second year, Taylor has been a monster, after being selected just one pick after the Texans took defensive tackle Ross Blacklock. Normally, I would say "that one hurts," except I think even a back as great as Taylor would get murdered behind THIS Texans offensive line. Here is Culley on Taylor:
How tough is it to stop Jonathan Taylor and the Colts running game?
“It’s very important when you’re playing him, obviously. We saw a stat this morning that when he rushes for 100 yards this year, they’ve won every game. When he hasn’t rushed for 100 yards, they’ve lost. Obviously, it’s very important for our defense to have gap control, especially run gap control. Stay in our gaps more so than any time this year, not that it’s not as important as always, but obviously, this guy’s playing very well right now. Their offense is playing very well, they’re running the ball really well. Carson (Wentz)’s doing very well at the quarterback position. He’s having a great year. They’re doing a very good job right now.”

3. Justin Reid aftertaste
The big story following the Texans' loss to the Jets Sunday was the benching of safety Justin Reid, who reportedly got into a verbal dustup with some teammates on the offensive side of the ball in a team meeting. Culley played coy for the 24 hours following the Jets game as to whether or not Reid would be back this week, or face further discipline. Wednesday, Culley answered the question definitely, finally:
Have you decided if DB Justin Reid will play on Sunday?
“He’ll play on Sunday. We’re moving forward, back to business as usual.”

How did that meeting with DB Justin Reid go?
“It really wasn’t a meeting. We just said we’re back business as usual, we’re ready to go. He served his time and we’re moving on.”


2. Turnover causing machine
If there is one thing the Colts do well (unfortunately, there is way more than one), it's force turnovers on defense. They lead the league in turnovers caused with 27, and in turnover margin at +15. Here is Culley on the dynamic Colts defense:
Can you talk about the Colts defense and what you are seeing from them?
“They’re leading the league right now in takeaways. Not only that, their linebacker is leading the league in causing fumbles. They’ve been playing very, very good team defense, the way you want to play team defense. They’re playing 11-on-11 defense all the time. They’re not giving up a bunch of big plays. They’re playing consistently all over the field, and it’s a tough duty. When you’re playing teams like that, you’ve got to do things the right way. You’ve got to make sure you take care of the ball, more so because this team right here, whether it’s causing a fumble or getting a takeaway in the pass game, they’ve been as good as anybody in the league this year. As a matter of fact, they’re the best in the league right now in doing that.”

1. Youth getting served

Finally, if the Texans can accomplish ONE thing down the stretch, outside of actually winning games, it would be getting a clear view on exactly what they have in their younger players on the roster. Specifically, we need to continue to see regular reps for the rookie class. As Culley points out, they've all started to flash signs of contributing in the future in SOME way:
Can you evaluate your overall rookie class and what do you want to see from them the rest of the season?
“For them to keep growing. They are growing. They are doing a good job of getting better each week. All we want them to do each week is to get better. All of those guys who are playing for us right now, regardless of what their role is, are getting better. You are starting to see it with Nico (Collins), starting to see it with (Roy) Lopez. You are starting to see it with (Garret) Wallow on special teams. All of those guys are doing a really good job of progressing and I think that’s a credit to the veteran guys on this football team. They see how they are being professional about going through a tough, tough year with a won-loss record and still going out there every day and doing things the right way. Those guys are falling right into that and they are getting better because of that.”

SPREAD: Texans +8
PREDICTION: Colts 30, Texans 13
SEASON RECORD: 9-2 SU, 6-5 ATS


Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast