Inside View

The good, bad and ugly from the Texans 23-16 loss to the Ravens

The Texans defense deserved a better fate.

The Houston Texans came into Monday Night Football still in the AFC playoff hunt after beating the Arizona Cardinals last week. However, they came up short losing 23-16 in a game that was devoid of stellar quarterback play.

The Good

-Brennan Scarlett had himself a solid game with 4 solo tackles and 2 tackles for loss. One thing I observed was how he uses proper leverage to set the edge. He squats low and keeps his hands inside the offensive lineman’s pads. One of his tackles for loss came in the flat on a swing pass to the running back. He dropped in coverage, read the play, and made the tackle before Alex Collins could get upfield.

-DeAndre Hopkins had 7 catches on 10 targets for 125 yards. He continues to dominate opposing defenses. Perhaps most impressive, is the fact that Hopkins isn’t blessed with the height or blazing speed or quickness. He does it by running good routes and out-fighting defensive backs.

-Jadeveon Clowney is going to cost the team a ton of money to resign. Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel lines him up all over the place and Clowney continues to produce with 2 solo tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss while lining up at middle linebacker, both defensive end/outside linebacker spots, as well as defensive tackle. He’s proving himself to be the second most important player on the roster.

The Bad

-Early in the 2nd quarter, Ravens punter Sam Koch threw one of the best passes of the game on a fake punt. A few plays later, they tied the game at 7.

-Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will never be mistaken for Steve Young, Randall Cunningham or Mike Vick. But he sealed the game after catching the Texans napping by faking a handoff that appeared to be going off tackle to the right side, while keeping it and rushing for 25 yards. Getting that first down after the two minute warning with the Texans fresh out of timeouts allowed them to run the clock out and seal the deal.

-Texans rookie returner Chris Thompson muffed a punt that was recovered by fellow rookie Treston Decoud. This was another special teams brain fart that could’ve been disastrous. Last week, Bruce Ellington almost had field position flipped. Special teams need to be evaluated more closely this offseason. It’s a phase of the game most coaches don’t pay enough attention to, but is constantly a deciding factor.

The Ugly

-Tom Savage turned the ball over three times. Two interceptions and a fumble lost cost the team a chance to win. Specifically his last interception. Anthony Levine Sr. dropped back in coverage on C.J. Fiedorowicz and was underneath Fiedorowicz. Savage threw the pass straight to him and Levine Sr. got an easy game-clinching pick.

-The run game was atrocious. Sure the Ravens have a good run defense. But averaging 2.6 yards per carry on 25 carries between Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue isn’t going to get you very far. Miller got one third of his 51 yards on a single play. D’Onta Foreman may not have been a starter or huge contributor, but on days like this one can’t help but wonder what he would’ve done.

The Texans took what was a winnable game on the road to help keep them in playoff contention, and turned it into a loss that will serve to boost the Cleveland Browns’ chances of not sucking as much. The sweet scent of last week’s win over the Cardinals was quickly replaced by the dumpster juice stench of yet another loss. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not “the media has a job to do” guy when I complain about Savage not staying and answering questions at the post game presser. It’s all about facing the music and being man enough to own your screw ups. Too many people nowadays skirt responsibility and/or point fingers when things don’t go their way. Last week, after a great performance during a win, he gladly stepped up to the podium. Win or lose, you should honor that commitment. This team has managed to have a roller coaster of a season on and off the field. The fact that they haven’t completely collapsed is a testament to head coach Bill O’Brien’s ability to keep them somewhat focused. For that alone, I feel like he deserves to come back next year and get an extension.

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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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