HOLIDAY JEER

The 12 nightmares of Christmas from the Texans 34-6 loss to the Steelers

The Steelers were a nightmare for T.J. Yates. Bob Levey/Getty Images

I was in a rock band in the early 1980s, and we wanted to write a Christmas song. So we came up with a metal classic called Christmas in Hell. The lyrics were bad, and it was basically three chords with loud, screaming guitars. The chorus was pretty simple:

Your skin on fire, searing flesh you will smell

Come on down and spend Christmas in hell

Texans fans know that feeling all too well. Sunday’s game with the Steelers was another predictably hellish experience in what has been a nightmare season all around. So in honor of the season, we provide the 12 nightmare gifts of Christmas, Texans style, from Monday’s 34-6 loss to Pittsburgh. The Texans were not supposed to win this game -- the Steelers are one of the best in the league -- but for a second straight week they failed to compete. (And yes, this is a stretch, but you try writing about this disaster of a team on a weekly basis).

A partridge in a pear tree

One of the rare times in the first half where the Texans mustered some offense, they had third and goal at the one foot line. They had run the ball down the field with efficiency. But they threw on third down, then again on fourth when it was intercepted. Typically awful Bill O’Brien playcalling in the red zone. Bird in the hand, Bill. Run the bleeping ball.

Two turtle doves

For the second week in a row, the Texans were dead at halftime. It was 31-0 last week, 20-0 this week. The Texans turtled up...again after that.

Three french hens

Try French toast instead. Specifically the secondary. Jonathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson and Andre Hal all took turns getting burned. This unit has been bad all year and Monday was no exception.

Four calling birds

Something called Taylor Heinicke became the fourth player to call signals (see what I did there?) for the Texans at quarterback this season when he took a snap late in the second quarter. The offense generated minus-7 passing yards in the first half. T.J. Yates suffered a potential concussion late in the half. Yates was 2 of 7 for 8 yards, a pick, a fumble and was sacked four times in the first half alone. Henicke then had his own head injury after one series and Yates returned. Yates would finish 7 of 16 for a paltry 83 yards, a touchdown and the pick and fumble.

Five golden rings

In the five game losing streak, the Texans have celebrated a touchdown just five times. They have just two in the last two games. Your team simply has no chance when you generate no offense. Considering how well they ran the football against the Steelers, it’s hard to imagine they got just one TD but the non-existent passing game was a killer.

Six geese a laying

Speaking of laying eggs, let’s go with the offensive line, with another poor effort in pass protection, although they did run block well. They often played with an offensive lineman at the tight end position, (so six at once, so this kind of works). And they all laid eggs at some point.

Seven swans a swimming

The Texans front seven on defense struggled to get to Ben Roethlisburger. The group has been riddled by injuries, and at this point is fielding the equivalent of a third unit. Jadeveon Clowney, Bernardick McKinney and rookie Zach Cunningham played OK at times, but they simply do not have enough help. Even when Clowney finally managed a sack, he got called for a facemask. This group is...swimming upstream?

Eight maids a milking

The Texans as a team managed EIGHT completions. EIGHT. They were sacked almost as many times, with seven. They managed to, um, milk those catches for 51 team passing yards.

Nine ladies dancing

Props to the Steelers for their celebration after LeVeon Bell’s second half touchdown. They danced around and had a snowball fight. The relaxed celebration rules have led to a lot of fun ones, and this one was very good. Meanwhile, Steelers fans also won the day. They made NRG sound like Heinz south and at least made it sound like a meaningful game -- even if it was the other team. So lots of dancing fans, too.

10 lords a leaping

How about No. 10? DeAndre Hopkins made yet another highlight reel catch for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He has simply been amazing this year, and one of the few bright spots in a lost season. The catch was the only real highlight for a team that never had a chance.

11 pipers piping

Let’s give this one to the Steelers defense, which locked down the Texans all day. They did give up a lot of rushing yards, but they also completely shut down the passing game.

12 drummers drumming

And the beat goes on, so one drummer for each drumming the Texans will have taken this year, as they fell to an embarrassing 4-11 on the season and will likely lose again to the Colts next week to finish 4-12.

 

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The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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