The passing game was stifled and the running game has struggled

Offense sputtering on multiple levels for Texans

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3 Headlines, 2 Questions, and 1 Bet as the Falcons are next up for the 2-2 Texans.

"He cares deeply about trying to help us win"

Bill O'Brien offered little on his quarterback staying late and working after the loss to the Panthers. Watson had one of his more inconsistent games as a pro and as you will see below he took a lot of the blame.

Crash course in Carolina defense

You can hear Deshaun Watson's annoyance at the futility the offense exhibited. The quarterback and the rest of the offense clearly knew what the Panthers approach was and yet, couldn't beat it. Watson mentions the two throws he missed that would have certainly been the biggest plays of the day.

O'Brien said after the game they called bad plays. The Panthers had allowed over 21 points on average heading into Sunday's game.

The offensive line didn't help the situation, but the offense only really having two or so chances to really beat the Panthers defense deep isn't ideal. Kenny Stills, who left with a hamstring injury, could have helped.

No kicking woes...yet

Are you worried about kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn at this point?

"No. No. I don't worry about Ka'imi (Fairbairn)," O'Brien said. "He's got a good mindset. He's had a couple kicks that have, you know, sprayed to the right on him but he'll fix it."

Last week Fairbairn missed an extra point. This week his missed a field goal and nearly missed his second attempt. The Texans moved on from their punter after two weeks, but from O'Brien's comments Fairbairn is safe, for now.

The way the Texans play, close games rarely blowing people out, they can't afford to have misses in the kicking game. There are so many teams struggling at kicking in the NFL right now there isn't a lot they can do if Fairbairn falls off. They'd do better to work on him than make a rash decision and bring in a new face.

Is the rushing attack broken after hot start?

Don't get fooled by the box score. The Texans didn't run the ball well against the Panthers.

Carlos Hyde had five rushes of his 12 go for one yard or less. 25 of his 58 yards came on one play.

Duke Johnson had 40 of his 56 yards come on one run.

If you take out Deshaun Watson's rushing production, Keke Coutee's rush, and the two long runs by Johnson and Hyde the Texans had just 49 rushing yards on 16 carries. That's a 3 yards per carry average. That would be the 30th ranked yard per carry average in football.

The offensive line didn't help Sunday, Greg Mancz was awful in filling in for Zach Fulton. Houston has to rush the ball better for the offense to get back on track.

Trouble at home?

The Texans offense is significantly less impressive at home than it is on the road.

Road PPG: 27.5

Home PPG: 11.5

Road YPG: 395

Home YPG: 263.5

Now, the Panthers are the fourth best defense in yards per game but the Jaguars are 18th in the same statistic. The Chargers are 12th and the Saints are well into the bottom half. So it isn't the opponent.

It would be interesting to know how many teams have that drastic of a difference between their home and road splits.

I bet the Texans play a shootout with the Falcons next week

I have no idea how the Texans are going to slow down Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohammed Sanu. I also have no idea how the Falcons are going to slow down the Texans. Atlanta might relish a shootout as they've been playing from behind mostly this year. Sunday they made Marcus Mariota look like a star. We know that's not the case. Deshaun Watson is a star, and should get the offense back on track in a hurry against the Dirty Birds.

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship good, bad and ugly

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The NFL Conference Championship Weekend is their Final Four. You don't get the games played in the same place, but there is a buzz in both stadiums because each team knows theyarethisclose to a Super Bowl. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the real deal. We gawk at his arm strength and ability to make throws in spaces and from angles that'll challenge physics. But his athleticism and escapability are underrated. Prime example was his 27-yard touchdown run right before halftime. Not only did he evade the rush and scramble to the outside, but he tightroped along the sideline, cut back inside, then carried a couple defenders across the goalline. He led the Chiefs in rushing yards with 56.

-49ers running back Raheem Mostert has played on five different teams in his five year career. In his second stint with the 49ers, he's turned himself into an valuable piece of that offense. Although they use a stable of backs, it was Mostert who set a new team postseason rushing record with 196 yards and there was still almost 20 minutes of football left to play!

-We will have a great matchup of coaches in the Super Bowl. Head Coaches/Playcallers: Chiefs' Andy Reid vs 49er's Kyle Shanahan; defensive coordinators: Chiefs' Steve Spagnuolo vs 49er's Robert Saleh. The meeting of the minds with two weeks to prepare should give us a good game. Key word: should. Please guys, no blowouts.

The Bad

-Derrick Henry was dubbed "King Henry" after his recent rushing performances. He was unceremoniously removed from his throne by the Chiefs' defense. 69 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown with a long run of 13 backed up the tough talk from Chiefs' defensive end Frank Clark who said earlier in the week leading up to the game that Henry wasn't hard to tackle.

-Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked a little off. He missed a few key throws, including an interception that ended any hope they had of coming back because it led to the 49ers having a short field and going up by four scores instead of the Packers being down by two scores. It was a minute before halftime, but the way the 49ers were running the ball, that pick was a backbreaker.

-The NFL fined Chiefs' offensive lineman Eric Fisher $14,037 for an unsportsmanlike conduct for his double-fist beer touchdown celebration during last week's win over the Texans. I thought they turned the corner when they started allowing more touchdown celebrations. So let me get this straight: you can choreograph a dance routine with the whole team, but can't pretend to chug beer from a league sponsor? Talk about hypocrisy.

The Ugly

-With the score 28-17 Chiefs with 7:44 left in the game, 3rd&6 on the Chiefs' 40-yard line. Titans' corner Tramaine Brock Sr. fell down and was called for a holding penalty on Sammy Watkins as he was falling. The worst part of that play: Watkins broke open and Mahomes found him for a 60-yard touchdown. Later when they were down by 11 with 3:59 left, Brock was called for a 41-yard pass interference on 3rd&10 with the Chiefs on their own 19-yard line. Those plays sealed the deal for the Titans.

-49ers running back Tevin Coleman was carted off the field in the 2nd quarter with an injury to his right elbow. An arm injury must be pretty damn bad if you're carted off. Thoughts and prayers to the running back I thought the Texans should've signed. Major props to him wanting to come back to the sidelines to be with his teammates wearing a sling.

-The 49ers outrushed the Packers 185 to 51...IN THE FIRST HALF! They were up 27-0 and had "only" passed for 40 yards. That's all they needed since the Packers couldn't stop the run. Mind you, they ran the ball 22 times to get the 185 yards. Packers defense looked like wet brown grocery bags trying to hold two gallons of milk.

And then there were two. Through all the strife and struggle, we have our Super Bowl 54 will be a matchup of arguably the best on their respective sides of the ball: 49ers and their defense vs the Chiefs high octane offense. However, don't sleep on the 49ers' ability to score, or how well the Chiefs' defense has been playing as of late. Ultimately, I have the sads. We only have one meaningful football game left. Hopefully the 49ers and Chiefs give us something to talk about. I won't mind seeing a 24-21 or 31-27 game. As long as we don't get a multiple score blowout, I'm good. Props to the Titans and Packers for putting up a good fight. It just wasn't good enough. From 32 to two. And there will only be one.

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