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.

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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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