Tom Savage had another rough day. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Anyone who thought this game was going to be a blowout wouldn't have been laughed at. The Rams came into the week with the No. 1 scoring offense, averaging 33 points a game and the Texans still had Tom Savage. There was a lot of concern that this game would be over before it even really began but the first half was a surprise. The Texans' defense was strong to start the game and their offense gave them little help. At halftime it looked like it could be a low scoring game. The Rams didn't let it end that way. They made big plays and ran away with the game 33-7.
The very first drive made Houston fans fear the worst as defensive tackle Aaron Donald got to Savage for a sack fumble that was recovered to the Texans 12-yard line.
It was the first possession by the Rams that Houston felt like there was hope. They forced a 3-and-out and a field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein to make the game 3-0. The offenses then traded punts twice and Savage was able to get something going.
He led them on a nine-play drive into the red zone where penalties by the Rams and a few mid-range throws put them in great position to tie the game. For the second week in a row, Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a makeable field goal.
The Rams took over on the 24 yard line and took only 6 plays to go 62 yards. Zuerlein made his second field goal and gave them a 6-0 lead. The big play on that drive for the Rams was a 43-yard screen pass from Jared Goff to Todd Gurley that set them up on the right side of the 50-yard line. The very next play was a 15-yard run by Gurley and it looked like the Texans' defense was falling apart. But they held again and it was time for them to get help from the offense.
They actually did. The Texans took over on their 25-yard line and marched 75 yards in 8 plays for a touchdown. Big passes for Savage included a 17-yarder to Stephen Anderson, an 18-yarder to DeAndre Hopkins, and the 26-yard pass to Bruce Ellington for the score. Unexpectedly the Texans led 7-6, with a defense that was holding the other team at bay.
The Rams must have sensed a momentum shift was needed if they were going to get back in the game. After their offense stalled again they attempted a trick play on 4th and 7. Their punter Johnny Hekker completed a pass to wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. A great open field tackle by safety Kurtis Drummond held the play to 6 yards and gave the ball back to the Texans offense at the Rams 38-yard line.
But Savage couldn't make anything happen. In 6 plays they made it to the 20-yard line where he threw an interception to linebacker Mark Barron. That led to a 2-minute drill by Jared Goff and another field goal sending Los Angeles into halftime with a 9-7 lead.
A slow start to the second half ended on the Rams second possession. Their 9-7 lead quickly grew to 16-7 when the third play of their second drive was a 94-yard pass from Goff to Robert Woods. For the Texans offense, that was too much. From then on they had to force plays and were not able to make anything happen.
Meanwhile; special teams--another area of weakness--allowed a 27-yard punt return that gave LA great field position and set them up for a three play touchdown. A loss of five on the first play was followed by completions of 24 and then 17 yards to Sammy Watkins, the second a touchdown. Now it was 23-7 Rams and there was no looking back.
One play later LA had the ball back. Linebacker Samson Ebukam sacked Savage and forced a fumble putting the ball at the Texans 12-yard line. One play after that the score was 30-7 on a pass from Goff to Woods, his second touchdown reception of the day and 14 points in 19 seconds for them.
The Texans were done after that. There are no 30 point plays in the NFL. The Rams just controlled the clock on their next possession, taking 6:26 seconds to finish with a field goal and 26 point lead with 7:38 left in the game. Meanwhile their defense was now in prevent mode and could wait for Savage to throw another interception, which he did.
For everyone who thought there was a slim chance the Texans could salvage anything the rest of the way, today was a wake up call. Sure, the Rams have a great offense but Savage turns the ball over too much. Today he threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. He was wildly inaccurate most of the day and held the ball too long. They managed only 89 yards on the ground and despite the one touchdown looked like they couldn't get it done.
There are still 7 games left in the season and each one of those is a chance for something good to go Houston's way. It will start next week at home against a Cardinals team that is equally having its struggles.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.