EARLY EXIT

5 things the Texans need to address in the off-season after losing to the Colts

The Texans could not cover tight ends all season, and it bit them again Saturday. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The off-season is here early for the Texans.

The season ended with a thud on Saturday, as they simply were outplayed in almost every way in a 21-7 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Texans fell in a 21-0 hole early and never recovered. The Colts did not punt until there was less than 11 minutes left in the third quarter. The Texans defense was better in the second half, but when the game was on the line, they had no answers.

In the first half, when it was decided, we saw a lot of familiar problems that haunted Houston all season. The Texans once again had nothing to stop T.Y. Hilton and Andrew Luck. They could not cover the tight end. They got no pressure on the quarterback. The defense could not get off the field on third down. They had untimely bad penalties on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Deshaun Watson and Deandre Hopkins needed to be brilliant, and they were not. Hopkins looked hobbled and had just 37 yards on five catches. Watson completed 29 of 45 passes for 235 yards, one TD and an interception. He rushed for 76 yards on eight carries but was sacked three times and pressured throughout the game.

The result is a roller coaster season that comes to an early end. The Texans looked dreadful in an 0-3 start, then reeled off nine wins in a row before the defense struggled mightily down the stretch.

The Colts move on and will face Kansas City next week. For the Texans, the attention now turns to what the do in the off-season. Here are five things they need to address:

1) Get a legitimate NFL offensive tackle. Two if possible. That was an issue all season, and it needs to be addressed with high draft picks, free agency or even a trade. One big addition can make the entire line better. This is a must before next season or they will get Watson killed. Last year's third-round pick, Martinas Rankin, will likely be an above average guard at some point. With him, Nick Martin, Senio Kelemete, Zach Fulton and Greg Mancz, there is enough to put together a decent interior. The two outside positions, however, HAVE to be upgraded.

2) Revamp the secondary. They need to get faster at cornerback, and find someone who can cover T.Y. Hilton. Jonathan Joseph still understands the game, but he no longer has the coverage skills to be a No. 1 corner. Aaron Colvin was a free agent failure. You could do worse than bring back Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson at safety, but they need at least two new corners. Free agency is the most likely path here.

3) Changes on the coaching staff. Bill O'Brien won't be going anywhere, but he needs to make changes on his staff. It's probably time to let Romeo Crennel ride off into the sunset. He has been an excellent defensive coordinator for a long time, but he is 71 years old, and the game might have passed him by. They never made any changes in how they defended the Colts in particular, and tight ends in general, until the game was decided. There will be some very good defensive minded coaches available that have been head coaches. A new scheme and some new thoughts could do wonders for the Texans. A new voice on the offensive line would not be a bad idea either. An offensive coordinator with head coaching experience could also make Watson even more dangerous.

4) Figure out what to do with Jadeveon Clowney. His contract is up, and he is going to want to be paid Khalil Mack money. Truthfully, he is not worth that. A franchise tag and then a trade is certainly worth considering. Ideally, he would be re-signed, but not in a record-breaking deal.

5) Add another set of wheels in the backfield. Lamar Miller is solid, and maybe D'Onta Foreman fills this role next season. But he missed almost all of 2018 with an Achilles injury and who knows if he will ever be 100 percent of what he was? Some reliable depth would be a welcome addition.

The good news is they are set at the most important position on the roster, quarterback. They are probably OK at wide receiver if Will Fuller can return healthy next season. If not, perhaps Demaryius Thomas will. Keke Coutee has potential if he can stay healthy. They will have enough cap room to make significant additions on both sides of the ball.

But there is a lot to be fixed. And the Colts - who were clearly the better team this year - should be even better next season. Jacksonville might bounce back. Who knows how many more All-Pro type seasons J.J. Watt has left in him? The window for this team is right now and big moves need to be made.

The Texans did not get the job done in 2018, so there will be a lot of work to do in the off-season.

An off-season that started too early.

NOLA.com/Times-Picayune

By now we all know exactly what happened at the end of regulation in the NFC Championship game. The refs blew a blatant pass interference call that could've sent the Saints to the Super Bowl. Yes, there were other plays that could have been made in the game that would have resulted in this play either being a moot point, or it not having occurred at all. Nevertheless, it happened, guilt by all parties involved was admitted, and it won't change a damn thing.

The sad part is that there's nothing new under the sun, and screwjobs are a part of that. Things like this have gone on for years in one way, shape, form, or another. Here's a look at several scewjobs that are either proven/acknowledged, or widely accepted:

2002 NBA Western Conference Finals game six

Disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy

Getty Images

The Lakers were down 3-2 entering game six. They won that pivotal game 106-102 amidst a host of questionable calls. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers shot 27 free throws. Overall, they had a 40 to 25 advantage in free throw attempts in that game. The fact that convicted felon Tim Donaghy was on the ref crew that game tends to add to the idea that this game was rigged. Donaghy was sentenced to two 15-month sentences to be served concurrently and three years probation for his role in a gambling scandal on July 29, 2008. We can all thank him for forever thinking sports are rigged.

The Montreal Screwjob

Bret Hart confronting Vince McMahon backstage

wwe.com

November 9, 1997 will live in infamy for wrestling fans. Pro wrestling has pre-determined outcomes of every match, but this one was different. Bret Hart was set to leave then WWF for then rival WCW amidst a contract dispute. To complicate matters, he was the champ at the time. Vince McMahon didn't want Hart taking his title to his biggest rival who was threatening his existence. McMahon called for the bell prematurely while Shawn Michaels had Hart in his own submission hold and all hell broke loose. The picture used here was taken right before Hart ended up punching McMahon in the face. Hart didn't want to lose in Canada and has maintained he was never planning on taking the title with him when he left. McMahon, sporting a black eye, came on Monday Night Raw the following Monday and explained the situation famously saying "Bret screwed Bret" and the his bad guy persona of Mr. McMahon was born.

The Titanic

The Titanic sinking

Raymond Wong, National Geographic

Billed as the ship that would never sink, the RMS Titanic was huge disaster. It was an 883' long engineering flop that sank on it's maiden voyage. There were 2,224 people on board and more than 1,500 of them died. Most of you will only remember the movie and the song, but this was an epic fail in real life. Two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg on its sixth day in service, it was nothing more than ocean debris. Craziest thing about it was that there were a lot of rich people on board due to the first class accommodations.

The NCAA

The legal mafia of college athletics

NCAA.com

Where do I even start with this load of crap? Whether it's allowing coaches to move from job to job freely while holding "student-athletes" hostage, or it's making money hand over fist while restricting those "student-athletes" from monetarily capitalizing on their image or success, the NCAA is a organization built on hypocrisy. The land is littered with stories of "student-athletes" who have been screwed by the NCAA over the years for one reason or another. The transfer portal in football has recently given a bone to football players, but it came after years of pressure. Theodore Roosevelt must be rolling in his grave.

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