RIGHTING WRONGS

How a tough schedule and mistakes have cost the Texans

How a tough schedule and mistakes have cost the Texans
The Texans have another tough opponent on Sunday. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
What the next few games will say about the Texans moving forward

When Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers step foot inside NRG Stadium on Sunday, it will mark the end to a brutal seven-week stretch for the Houston Texans.

After they opened the season against the Super Bowl champions, the Texans went down a trajectory where they faced four MVP quarterbacks — three of which with Super Bowl titles — and three teams currently leading their respective divisions in six of their first seven games.

The outcome led Houston to a 1-5 record on the season, with the likelihood of adding an extra game in the loss column following Sunday's contest. The Texans have not been the typical sub .500 team despite what the record might show. According to cornerback Bradley Roby, it has been simple mistakes that have prevented the team from adding a few more wins on the season.

"Every time I look at it, it's what we're doing," Roby said. "It's us messing up, or making an M.A., or not being aligned right. It's little things. It's not like we're just going out and getting killed. It's little things we're not doing or adjusting to that's causing losses."

Roby said during his press conference on Thursday that it only takes four or five plays to decide the outcome of an NFL game. But in Houston's case, perhaps just one or two. The Texans have come a play or two away from recording a victory over several of their opponents this season.

In the game against the Titans, the general belief is that Romeo Crennel's failed two-point conversion is what led the Texans to their fifth loss in six tries.

Although Crennel's decision had a significant impact on the final results, Derrick Henry's 94-yard touchdown drive was more demoralizing to the Texans — who were ahead by two entering the fourth quarter. With less than 10 seconds left in regulation, Ryan Tannehill connected with A.J. Brown on a seven-yard touchdown pass to send the game into overtime.

Had they got one of the two stops, the Texans would have come out of Nissan Stadium victorious against their AFC South counterparts.

Three weeks prior in the loss to the Steelers, had the Texans prevented James Conner from finding his way into the end zone late in the fourth quarter, Houston would have recorded their first win of the season inside Heinz Field Stadium in Pittsburgh.

"If we have an opportunity to go out there and win the game and end it right there, then I would do that 100 percent of the time," Tim Kelly said when looking back on the failed two-point conversion against the Titans. "I knew our guys would go out there and execute. Two inches more to the left and I think we're having a different conversation today."

Against Rogers, it is going to be critical for Houston to limit the number of mistakes in an attempt to pull off an upset. In his 15th season, the two-time league MVP winner has aged like fine wine (2011 & 2014). With a QBR of 86.1, Rogers has recorded 1,374 yards with a 13-2 touchdown to interception ratio thus far this season.

"It's my first time going against him, so it's going to be dope just to see him in live-action," Deshaun Watson said. "He's definitely a guy I love to watch, I've been watching since I was young. It's definitely going to be fun to compete with him. We're going to have to score a lot of points because that's what he's going to do. We've got to continue pushing forward. It's going to be fun."

A victory against one of the league's top teams would not only improve their appalling record to 2-5, but it gives the Texans a reason to be optimistic coming out of the bye week with a favorable schedule.

Starting against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 9, the Texans' remaining schedule is nowhere near as challenging as their first seven games. They will only face one former league MVP in Cam Newton come Week 11 against the Patriots, and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Nick Foles during their Week 14 match against the Bears. As of now, only four of Houston's next nine opponents possess a winning record coming out of the bye.

Can an easier schedule lead to a path where Houston becomes the fourth team in league history to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start? It's possible. But it has to start with the Texans minimizing their on-field mistakes. It's a change that has to begin Sunday against a future Hall of Famer on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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