With revenge in mind the 2-9 Houston Texans came to play on Sunday and found themselves in a shootout with one of the AFC’s best. The Texans lost, but the play-calling was 10 times better than it was in the past few games.
All year, the Texans have been guilty of trying to mix it up, only to see it fail and result in interceptions. On Sunday, though, they mixed it up the right way and it resulted in perhaps their best drive of the 2013 season early in the first quarter.
The best part of Kubiak’s play-calling this week was the running game. Running the ball to the strongest side of the offensive line made sense, instead of trying a bunch of runs to the outside that result in nothing. Ben Tate and Dennis Johnson were able to get great runs against the Patriots’ defense.
It was also good to see other wide receivers, like DeAndre Hopkins, utilized more. Andre Johnson has been the go-to man for the past month, and, as we saw last week against Jacksonville, it’s become pretty predictable for defenses.
Gary Kubiak may be as good as gone by season’s end, but at least Sunday showed something different.
It’s been a long season of incomplete performances for a team that should be better. The Texans have so far scored only four touchdowns in the second half in 10 games, and two of them occurred during the team’s only wins.
Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said after the 34-31 home loss to the that his opponents seem to know all the Texans’ defensive plays, and he found that suspicious. Smith even went so far as to suggest the Patriots may have been spying on them.
Smith says the Texans introduced new elements to their defense this week that they had never previously shown in games, therefore he believes no team would have been prepared for the new plays. But the Patriots were.
“I’m very suspicious,” Smith said. “I just think it will be a big coincidence if that just happened by chance. I don’t know for sure, but I just know it was something that we practiced this week.”
Maybe Smith’s lack of halftime coaching and adjustments from the Texans have him confused about how they should work. The Pats scored 27 second half points against the Texans.
As far as problems go, it’s another big one to add to the laundry list that faces Kubiak. If he stands any chance of keeping his job, the Texans need to play a complete four quarters, not half of a football game.
The reasoning for the Texans’ poor attempts at staying in the game after everyone has visited the locker room falls on Kubiak’s hands but also some of his players. In every single one of the Texans’ 10 losses, the protection has broken down significantly around either Matt Schaub or Case Keenum.
When the Texans had their chance on Sunday to march down into field-goal position, the offensive line held up until the last couple of plays. Third-and-long went nowhere, and with 4th-and-15 next up, Keenum was sacked from behind when trying to muster up some sort of Hail Mary shot.
But after blaming the linemen all season, it’s obvious the tight ends haven’t done a good job at keeping Keenum safe either. Garrett Graham had a game to forget this week, and even though Owen Daniels’ receiving skills are missed, it’s his protection of the quarterback’s blind side that the Texans are sorely doing without.
Tom Brady was Tom Brady on Sunday. He found Rob Gronkowski when it mattered, and the two finished with a handy 127 yards between themselves. The Texans should have that kind of production, too, with the weapons they have, but sometimes it’s simply a nice idea and nothing more.
Sunday, Houston finally scored some points in the second half. It was all thanks to Ben Tate’s cuts and some much-needed play-calling that got the Patriots defense thinking pass, only to see Tate run the other way. Unfortunately though, it’s taken 14 weeks for Houston to crack the scoreboard in the second half.
Andre Johnson said the Texans’ offense sucked last week, but now the entire team officially does. The 2-10 Texans became the undisputed worst team in the NFL via a 34-31 home loss Sunday to New England and Atlanta’s 34-31 overtime victory against Buffalo.
Even as the Texans keep loosing, Johnson keeps winning. The 11-year veteran became the second-fastest player to reach 900 career catches, reaching the mark in just 150 games and trailing only Marvin Harrison (149). Johnson’s one of only 15 players to reach 900 receptions.
During another Pro Bowl-caliber season, Johnson put up another 100-yard game. He has five this year, as the 32-year-old continues to move closer toward an expected spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” he said. “To hear that, in my mind, Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver to ever play. So to do something faster than he’s done is a tremendous honor.”
The Texans face the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday evening and look for redemption after losing to them 13-6 the previous Sunday. The then face Indianapolis, Denver, and Tennessee. All three of those teams are playoff contenders. Looks like that number one pick wasn’t so far fetched after all.