Oh, what a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, the Texans went into Ohio and whopped up on a Cleveland team with a new quarterback and a second string running back. This Sunday, another team from Ohio walked into NRG Stadium and put it to the Texans with essentially the same lineup, 23-13.
Many of the things that went so well in Cleveland failed the Texans miserably against the Bengals. Quarterback Ryan Mallett, who won praise from coaches, teammates and fans for his first game at the helm, struggled mightily with accuracy, perhaps due to a pectoral injury revealed after the game that could keep him out for several weeks. Alfred Blue, so effective last week replacing the injured Arian Foster, was stuffed by a Cincinnati defense that came in ranked 28th in the league.
In fact, the offense was so bad that it scored fewer points than the defense. It was only able to manage two field goals. Mallett had a particularly tough day going for 189 yards, many of those after the game was no longer in question, and one interception with no touchdowns. After the game, it was reported that Mallett was in treatment for quite some time after the game for an injured pectoral muscle, literally adding injury to insult.
The loss, while not mathematically knocking the Texans out of the playoff race, almost certainly ends the team's chances for the postseason. To make matters worse, there will be little opportunity for the Texans to evaluate Mallett if he is indeed out for several weeks and their record probably keeps them out of contention for one of the better quarterbacks in what could be a rather weak draft at the position. So, business as usual on Kirby.
Offensive Game Balls
DeAndre Hopkins It is rapidly becoming apparent that Hopkins has become the go-to receiver on this team. Maybe it's age. Maybe it is a beleaguered sense that he could have had so many better opportunities with other teams, but Andre Johnson just hasn't been the guy we've seen in previous seasons. Fortunately, Hopkins appears capable of taking his place. Hopefully, the Texans will give he better quarterbacks to work with than Johnson has had.
Defensive Game Balls
Jonathan Joseph A.J. Green had his way with the Texans secondary until Joseph switched off on him. He didn't shut green down, but he limited his catches and got a pick six of his own when safety D.J. Swearinger (another guy who deserves a game ball for his performance Sunday) hit Andy Dalton as he was throwing. Joseph ended up scoring more points than the entire Texans offense and special teams combined.
Red Heads Bengals ginger QB Andy Dalton managed to exorcise a few demons as he returned to the site of his recent playoff failures on Sunday. And with Mallett going down to injury, it would seem a safe bet that Ryan Fitzpatrick is back on deck for the Texans. And it wasn't even Battle Red Day at NRG.
Ryan Mallett I hate to pile on a guy who was supposedly injured for much of the game, but if he truly was struggling with an injury severe enough to put him out for future games, he should have begged off sooner, particularly with his passes sailing on him over and over. He was not good on Sunday. Hopefully, it was just because he was hurt.
What Should Stay the Same
It's tough to pull anything positive from this disaster. Jonathan Joseph had a good game as did D.J. Swearinger, but there really isn't much else to be cheering about from Sunday.
What Needs to Improve
The defense is still playing fairly well, but the offense is an unmitigated disaster. Getting Arian Foster back will help, but without a serious threat under center, not much will change. This team is in desperate need of a real NFL starting quarterback -- perhaps for the first time in franchise history. Until then, nothing can really be expected to significantly improve.
The biggest shocker on Sunday was that the mechanism that opens the roof at NRG Stadium does actually work.
Coach Bill O'Brien reiterated after the game how much he hates to lose and that the team was prepared for everything the Bengals threw at them, but they failed to execute. Not all of this is O'Brien's fault, but much of the blame must fall at the feet of the coach.
With Mallett supposedly out for at least a few weeks, it appears the Fitz-o-Meter will be active again starting next Sunday, so we have that to look forward to.
Here Comes the Sun
For the first time in a very long time, the roof was open at NRG Stadium on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day, but actually warmer than the last home game when the roof was closed. Walking around the stadium during tailgating, there were more than a few people complaining about having to sit in the sun. You can't win sometimes.
Play of the Day, Non-Texan Variety
If you didn't see one of the most unbelievable catches in the history of the game -- not much of an exaggeration -- from New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. check it here. It is one of the more unreal things you'll ever see on a football field.
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Play of the Day, Texans Specific
When it was looking like the Bengals were going to take an insurmountable lead against the Texans, Jonathan Joseph picked off Andy Dalton and took it to the house to keep the team in the game. It was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing game.
The former Houston Oilers come back home next Sunday. The Titans are not a good team with a rookie quarterback, but the Texans have their own problems at the moment. If Arian Foster is back, it will help, but, at this point, it is hard to predict if the Texans will show up next week against a division rival.