ALL THE BLAME CAN'T FALL ON O'BRIEN, WATSON HAS TO STEP UP

How a win in Pittsburgh could drastically shift a popular Texans debate

Franchise quarterbacks win games like this. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Let's be honest, the schedule makers in the NFL didn't do the Texans any favors to begin the 2020 season. They've faced the toughest schedule in football through two weeks opening up on the road in Kansas City against the defending Super Bowl champs and then against a Ravens team that went 14-2 last year with the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson.

Mix in a global pandemic that eliminated OTAs, most padded practices, and all preseason games and it's understandable why the Houston offense has only averaged 18 points per game. However, It doesn't get any easier on Sunday though for Houston as they will travel to Pittsburgh for a matchup against the 2-0 Steelers. Nobody will feel bad for the Texans though. The time for excuses is over and the Texans need to get a win.

"We've got a long way to go. We've got to get going here this week," head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said. " We've got to score more points than the other team. We've got to get going, so it's not where we want it to be quite obviously but we're working hard to get it better."

Despite what O'Brien might think, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that the Texans need to 'score more points than the other team.' O'Brien certainly deserves a large amount of blame for the offensive struggles. He's an offensive-minded coach that has never had a top 10 offense in first six seasons as the teams head coach, and he traded away the best wide receiver in football in DeAndre Hopkins but I don't need to remind Texans fans of that.

"Nobody wants to be in this position," O'Brien said about the 0-2 start. "We just have to improve and try to basically let's just everybody, coaches, players alike, try to do the next right thing. Get the call. Execute the call. Make sure we're on top of everything, substitutions, and all that. Eliminate turnovers and line of scrimmage penalties…Same thing offensively, we've got to be more consistent. We've got to stay on the field. We have to work hard to get better."

O'Brien obviously bears a lot of responsibility, but he isn't alone. Deshaun Watson has to start playing better too. Watson was paid a four-year, $156 million extension that averages $39 million annually so even after losing his best weapon in DeAndre Hopkins, the expectation is that Watson even with a shaky offensive line can raise the level of play of everyone around him. Including the new guys at wide receiver brought in to help replace the production of Hopkins.

That's what a franchise QB does. Period.

"We just keep continuing to build chemistry," Watson said. "We didn't have an offseason. It's a whole new receiving core except for (Kenny) Stills and (Will) Fuller (V), but bringing those guys along and just getting on the same page. What are those guys good at? What am I good at throwing with those guys? Just trying to continue to build that chemistry and that trust within each other. That's coming along well. Sometimes it takes time and we've just got to not get discouraged and just keep pushing forward until it actually takes off like we want it to."

Unfortunately for Watson and the Texans, time is not on their side anymore. If Watson doesn't start playing like a franchise quarterback, the Texans very easily could start 0-3. Through two games, Watson has thrown just two touchdowns and has two interceptions. Watson also has a pedestrian QBR of 55.1 which ranks 20th among quarterbacks. Beating the Steelers who boast arguably the NFL's best defense and have a healthy future hall of fame QB in Ben Roethlisberger isn't an easy task but this is why you pay Watson all that cash. You are supposed to have a chance in any game with #4 under center.

"We're just worried about doing what we need to do out there on Sundays and playing our best football," Watson said. "We'll see what the outcome comes. That's all we can do is just put our head down and grind. Just work and try to do what we do and see what the outcome comes like. Of course, we don't want to be 0-3, but that's not the main thing that's on our minds right now."

He's right. You don't want to be 0-3.

It's on Watson to make sure that doesn't happen.


Jake Asman is a national host on SportsMap Radio. You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM - 10 AM Central.

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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