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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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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