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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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