Rough day for Texans

The good, bad and ugly from Sunday's loss to the 49ers

T.J. Yates looked solid. Houstontexans.com

The Texans fell to the 2-10, Jimmy Garoppolo-led San Francisco 49ers 26-16 today. This was a winnable game against a “better than their record says” team. There were spots in which the Texans seemed like they were going to take control. However, they lost in the most 2017 Texans way possible: the late-game turnover.

The Good

-Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn got the scoring started with a career long 53-yarder. This was a good sight to see considering his case of the yips as of late. It also showed head coach Bill O’Brien’s confidence in his rookie kicker. Never in doubt with the length, it was right down the middle, almost half way up the uprights.

-DeAndre Hopkins was yet again the best option the Texans had offensively. Hopkins had 11 catches for 149 yards, and two touchdowns. His 149 yards accounted for a whopping 62.6% of the team’s 238 passing yards (67% if you take away yards lost via sacks, more on that later).

-Quarterback T.J. Yates came in, after Tom Savage suffered a concussion, and played as well as a backup quarterback could. Signed on November 3 after Deshaun Watson tore his ACL, Yates was brought back in his third run with the Texans. He went 14/26 for 176 yards and two touchdowns to Hopkins.

The Bad

-Cornerback Kevin Johnson gets called for as many pass interference, defensive holding, and illegal contact flags as opposing defensive backs do against Hopkins. As long as I’ve held off calling him a bust, it’s high time. If he’s not hurt, he’s getting flagged. He shows flashes of being worthy of a first round pick, but far too often shows why Marcus Peters or Byron Jones would’ve been better off being selected at 16th overall.

-When averaging 3.9 yards per carry is an improvement over the last three weeks, your run game is pitiful. The offensive line should take the brunt of the burden, but Lamar Miller should wear a scarlet letter for his part as well. Far too often he’s seen running agility ladder drills in the backfield instead of hitting the hole. I bet he’s really good at the run in place up downs, but his Vision rating on Madden should be a 56.

-Having to manufacture a pass rush by blitzing is showing its wear. Most times, it doesn’t have the success intended. Jadeveon Clowney has to rush from certain spots, angles, and against a favorable matchup in order for the pass rush to have any success. This isn’t a knock on Clowney. This is a testament to the injuries of J.J. Watt, and more specifically, Whitney Mercilus. The backups have been, well, backups. I’ve always maintained that the Mercilus injury was the bigger loss. But it’s more evident now.

The Ugly

-For as good of a year Hopkins is having, his fumble in the 4th quarter of the game sealed the Texans’ fate. Down 23-16 at that point, they had a shot to tie the game with just under six minutes left. The 49ers not only recovered the fumble, but added an insurance field goal to put them up by 10 with under four minutes left.

-Fairbairn may have set his career long to open the scoring, but he also missed another extra point, as well as a 52 yarder when the team was down 26-16 and attempting a miraculous comeback. The extra point was wide left, while the 52-yard field goal hit the left upright. Maybe it’s time to call in a shrink to help him get rid of the yips. I nominate Jobu.

-Savage’s concussion was bad enough. What made it ugly was the fact that he was examined, cleared, brought back in to play, then pulled from the rest of the game for Yates. The league says they’re committed to player safety, but scenes like this play out almost every week. There’s no way in hell a player should ever re-enter a game if he’s believed to be concussed unless he’s cleared by team and independent doctors. Things like this cause investigations into team practices, but the independent doctor had to have cleared him as well.

This loss drops the team to 4-9 on the season and guarantees O’Brien’s first losing season as Texans head coach. Fred Faour penned an interesting argument as to why he believes O’Brien is deserving of an coming back next year heading into his last season under contract. I firmly believe Fred is right. O’Brien has dealt with injuries, a quarterback carousel (partly his own fault), and an owner saying dumb things this year. Despite it all, the team was only “blown out” of two games this year, and have had a chance to win seven of their nine losses with one possession. Maintaining some semblance of order and competitiveness in a s---storm says something. While many may not like him, his attitude, or his lack of on-field results, he’s done enough to warrant a one-year  “prove-it” year next year when the cupboard is fully stocked.

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Deshaun Watson led the Texans in rushing. Steven Ryan/Getty Images

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Lamar Jackson another clear hurdle in AFC

Lamar Jackson was perfect on Sunday. Yes, it was against the Bengals, but perfection should never be denied.

The ultimate hurdle in the AFC was Tom Brady. You almost always have to go through New England if you want to play in the Super Bowl. This year began with the added challenge of the MVP Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs.

Well, sub Mahomes out for Lamar Jackson and those nasty Ravens. The Texans will likely need to go through Baltimore or New England for their chance at a AFC Championship game.

The timing of course is fun with the Ravens hosting the Texans this weekend. It is one of the best showdowns left on the NFL schedule as Deshaun Watson clashes with another MVP candidate, and likely leader for the award.

Is the NFL sure they can't put this on Sunday night football?

Tennessee isn't going away

The Titans surprised the NFL, and Patrick Mahomes, pulling off one of the many upsets on Sunday.

They have a weapon that few in the NFL possess in Derrick Henry who was a monster in the second half of the season last year. There is little reason to think he won't be a force down the stretch for the Titans again.

Ryan Tannehill has breathed life into a Titans team that looked to be headed nowhere earlier in the year. The Titans have four AFC South games left, including both of their games with the Texans. They aren't going to lose all of those and they're a threat to win them all too.

Their offensive line is shaky as it has been in a long time. Their defense is banged up but their bye week hits this week so they should get a little healthier. They have enough to annoy any good team, and as evidenced on Sunday, beat them. Tennessee might not make the playoffs, but they can keep someone else from making the playoffs.

Colts sunk with Hoyer as quarterback

This isn't Hoyer's fault. Not by a long shot. The Colts are just very limited with him and any mistakes get magnified. The Dolphins are playing their asses off but they don't have the talent that should hold offenses to 12 points.

They also have a flawed kicking game right now. Their defense is solid, very solid in fact, but if they can't put up points they will be in trouble.

Jacoby Brissett coming back is a must for them to stay in the hunt in the AFC. If he gets banged up at all, or isn't 100 percent, the Colts are not a danger to make the playoffs.

Do you think the Rams regret paying Jared Goff?

Jared Goff has the worst contract in the NFL. I am sure of it. The Rams rushed to pay a guy Sean McVay propped up after they rushed to pay their running back. The only guy they've paid on schedule and had it make sense was Aaron Donald and they played hard ball with him.

Goff has regressed and so has the whole Rams offense. They scored zero offensive points coming out of a bye. I get the Steelers have had some success on defense but that's a joke for what should be a top offense. Goff is a huge problem right now and so is Gurley. They might be saving Gurley for later in the year but those games might be meaningless.

Goff had shown very little that was extremely unique. Sure, he made some big throws and had a lot of success but there were a lot of plays most quarterbacks can make. If you are going to make a player the highest paid in the league at his position, make sure he does something other players can't do.

That's where Deshaun Watson comes in. He is special, regularly makes plays only he can make, or maybe one or other guy. Watson will likely head to the table this offseason to talk about beating Goff's deal. He will be worth it, or close to it, unlike Goff.

Do you think the Texans regret not paying Jadeveon Clowney?

I believe the answer is no.

Do they perhaps regret not paying him for one year and getting one last season out of him?

Sure. Easy to say now. He was a monster on Monday against the 49ers. The entire league was watching, including Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins who tweeted about the performance. It was a typical dominant Clowney performance. And, the first of the season from Clowney. He has been pedestrian for the Seahawks at times. Sure, stretches of impressive play appeared. Clowney's best games before tonight were against the Bengals, Cardinals, and Falcons.

Plenty of shots were taken at the Texans for dumping Clowney for a third round pick. He certainly seemed to have a bit more value than just a third round pick. Obviously if Clowney had been on board with the Miami idea the Dolphins wouldn't have ended up with so many draft picks.

2019 should have been the last season for Clowney in a Texans uniform. The defense could have used him, especially with the Watt injury. He could have built his value more in Houston than in Seattle.

Don't forget, the Texans did Clowney a favor. In his own words, Clowney said he was planning to report until the Texans told him he was going to be traded. Houston could have not said anything to Clowney, let him report, and then traded him wherever they wanted. Regardless of Clowney's wishes.

I bet the Bills have a collapse in them

The Bills have six wins already. They still have contests with the Broncos, Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots. All these games are very possible losses for Buffalo. Not to mention, the Dolphins are no slouches right now and the Jets at the end of the year could be rolling.

If Buffalo falls apart, it won't shock me. If they hang tough and annoy more than a few teams, it won't surprise me either. The Bills making the playoffs would make them ripe for the picking for whatever team ends up hosting them.

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