Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 18: Texans 32, Colts 31 — Four Winners, Four Losers

We've probably seen the last of Lovie Smith as head coach of the Houston Texans.
We've probably seen the last of Lovie Smith as head coach of the Houston Texans. Photo by Eric Sauseda
In the minds of most Houston Texans fans, the optimal thing for the Texans to do in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon was the one thing that they've become very proficient at over the last three seasons — losing football games. A loss to the Colts would sew up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and thus give the Texans the direct line to selecting Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

Of course, like most things with the Texans these last few years, they couldn't even do that right. The Texans were able to generate more points in a game than they have all season, and executed some miraculous fourth down conversions on a last minute drive, which included a two point conversion for the win, in a 32-31 win over the Colts.

The players afterward were jubilant, but Texan fans on social media and calling into my postgame radio show were largely livid, as angry as I've seen them since the DeAndre Hopkins trade back in March of 2020.

So now, the offseason begins, and this should be an eventful week, both around the NFL and here in Houston, as Lovie Smith is expected to be cut loose as head coach of the Texans, meaning the team will be conducting its third head coaching search in three years. As for Sunday, there were winners and losers, so let's highlight a few:

WINNERS

4. Jordan Akins
Akins has been one of the better surprises for the team this season. After returning to the Texans on the practice squad early in the season, Akins has been perhaps the team's best offensive playmaker not named Dameon Pierce. On Sunday, he had four catches for 70 yards, the final touchdown, and the game winning two point conversion. With improved scheme and QB play, Akins could put up even bigger numbers next season.

3. Demar Hamlin playoff contingencies
The biggest story of the week and probably the season has been Bills safety Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest incident on Monday Night Football and the league's subsequent reaction to the cancellation of the game. With Buffalo and Cincinnati now playing one fewer game than the rest of the league, the league approved contingencies for the postseason tied to the spots each of those teams have in the standings. In the end, we will get a neutral field AFC title game if it involves the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs, a reasonable solution.

2. Davis Mills
2022 was not the type of season Mills hoped for, as he regressed in nearly every statistical category. However, he put together a great drive to win the Tennessee game two weeks ago, and similarly put together a damn near miracle drive to win Sunday's game. Mills had a rough stretch at the end of the third quarter with two picks, but if this was a his final start as a Texan (which it may very well be if the team drafts a quarterback), he came away with the win.

1. J.J. Watt
Watt had two sacks on Sunday, giving him 12.5 on the season, so he rides off into the sunset still playing professional football at a more than respectable level for the high standards he set back in his heyday. The 12.5 sacks represent the fourth largest single season total in Watt's career.
Thank you, J.J. indeed.

LOSERS

4. Rookie class health
The Texans' rookie class has been a collective positive this season. Individually, it's had its ups (Dameon Pierce!) and downs (Kenyon Green), but perhaps the biggest concern that I have is the overall health of the group throughout the season. Derek Stingley and Dameon Pierce finished the season on injured reserve. Kenyon Green was slow starting out in camp recovering from a knee injury, and a shoulder injury suffered in Week 7 slowed him down. Christian Harris missed all of camp and six weeks of the season with a hamstring. Teagan Quitoriano was banged up all year. Maybe it's just dumb luck, but I'm wishing better health for Texans rookies in 2023.

3. Jeff Saturday
I'd seen the Colts' record since hiring Saturday, a  former player and commentator with no significant coaching experience, but hadn't watched a ton of Colts football. I knew they'd blown the biggest lead in NFL history on Saturday's watch, but not much else. Well, on Sunday, getting to watch Saturday do his thing was pretty, um, interesting? He burned a timeout to change his mind about going for a TD on fourth down (unsuccessfully) in the first half, and Saturday's clock management made Bill O'Brien look like a game management genius. I hope the Colts give him a ten year contract to coach the team moving forward.

2. Jeff Driskel
The Driskel thing, where they use him in the running game in certain situations, was fun in the near upset of the Cowboys, but it should have been killed the following week. For some reason, OC Pep Hamilton loves to use it. On Sunday, Driskel ran for seven yards on three carries. He was fooling nobody. Thankfully, it appears the "Driskel Cat" will die with Pep Hamilton's Texans coaching career.

1. Bryce Young fans
Right now, Young is the consensus top player in this draft, but it's far from a lock he will be the first player, or even the first QUARTERBACK, taken. There is along way to go, and Young's diminutive size (6 foot, 194 pounds) is going to be a huge topic. It would have been fun, though, speculating about Young as a Texan with the first overall pick. Now, with the second overall pick, most Texan fans are now scared the Colts will trade up to No. 1 with the Bears. Not fun!

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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast