Jadeveon Clowney was in the spotlight. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com
The win streak is over but there is still plenty to play for in Houston. The Texans try to restart the streak and I have three headlines, two questions, and one bet for you on this Monday.
"Our first down offense was terrible"
Bill O'Brien isn't wrong about that.
"Our first down offense was terrible," he said Sunday. "I mean, it was awful. We lost yards on first down, I mean, probably between eight to 10 times today."
The Texans saw 34 first downs in this game. They lost yards on seven of those plays and had one pre-snap penalty on first down. They gained no yards on five of those plays. They gained between 1-3 yards five times as well. So, half the Texans first downs went for less than three yards and 12 went for no gain or negative yards. That, is indeed, terrible.
The Colts had one hell of a plan to stop the run on first down and executed it well. The Texans had some success late in the game with rushing the ball, but by then the clock is working against them to a large degree. Credit to the Colts, they made the Texans offensive line struggle in both facets of the game. It was a game film the Texans will want to burn, especially when they had so much success against Cleveland and even the success earlier in the year against Indianapolis.
This just isn't an offense explosive enough to handle playing behind the chains consistently.
Clowney's Bad Penalty, Good Game
People are going to be upset, rightfully so, about the penalty late by Jadeveon Clowney which allowed the Colts to run the clock out and secure their win. It wasn't likely the Texans would stop the Colts, Indianapolis seemed to have the answers on Sunday, but they didn't get the chance. It is a bad moment for a player who can't win in the court of public opinion with Texans fans.
Bill O'Brien wasn't pinning it all on Clowney.
"JD's a very aggressive player," he said. "He's made a lot of plays for us, we're not going to – we didn't lose the game because of that."
Clowney had a good game though. Make no mistake about it. He was the only player credited with multiple hurries (according to Pro Football Focus) and had many near sacks and tackles for a loss. He drew the running back's attention on Watt's sack and he destroyed an escape lane for Luck on Covington's sack. The way the Texans use Clowney will never earn him eye-popping numbers. He destroys rushing attacks and makes the job of other pass rushers easier.
He's always going to be highly criticized. He's a former No. 1 overall pick who was billed as a pass rushing monster and just doesn't light up the box scores with sacks. Until he puts those up, fans will zero in on the mistakes and what isn't there. It will be an interesting stretch for Clowney and the Texans with free agency looming for him.
Luck the Class of the Division, Again
The Texans very well may never have the best quarterback in the division. Ever. The Colts had Peyton Manning for years and then ended up with Andrew Luck. Despite the emergence of Deshaun Watson, he has a tall mountain to climb to claim the crown of best in the AFC South.
Luck, is again, a superstar at the quarterback position. He's healthy. He's going to finish with career highs, or close to it, in almost every signifigance passing category. I'm also not convinced their team is even that good. Their running back situation is average at best. T.Y. Hilton is the only premier wideout for them. Eric Ebron is a great player with Luck and the Colts. Their offensive line has been very solid this season. The defense hasn't done them a ton of favors but at-times, are good enough. With Luck already paid, and huge cap space this offseason, the Colts will be a tough out in the AFC going forward.
What the hell is going on with Aaron Colvin?
Aaron Colvin signed a four year $34 million deal this offseason with the Texans with $18 million guaranteed. On Sunday, back from injury, he played 10 snaps on special teams. If he is healthy enough to play special teams he is healthy enough to help on defense. The Texans invested in him, one of the bigger free agent contracts in recent memory, and it simply hasn't worked out. Before the injury, Colvin hadn't been good. It isn't like the Texans were perfect in the secondary against the Colts. Surely something Colvin brings to the table could have helped. It is a strange situation and should be worth monitoring. Colvin had plenty to prove getting out of the shadow of the cornerbacks in Jacksonville so I can't imagine he's taking the special teams relegation well.
What are the chances the Texans lose the three seed in the AFC?
Low, but it isn't impossible. The Steelers loss to the Raiders helps a ton in establishing a lead and keeping it. Pittsburgh and Baltimore both have seven wins. The Steelers have games with the Patriots and Saints left while the Ravens take on the Chargers as their lone playoff-bound opponent. Stranger things have happened but with the Jets and Jaguars as two of the remaining opponents for the Texans, it seems likely the Texans could lock up the three seed and avoid the drop to four. Catching the Patriots gets tougher as the Texans will need to play one weekend where they win and New England loses.
I bet Texans handle their business with authority Saturday against the Jets. The Jets are going to fire their head coach at the end of the season. They may fire their general manager as well. They are poorly coached and make far too many mistakes to hang around with a good team. Sam Darnold has been a nice rookie, but he's just that, a rookie. I am not saying I feel like I need the Texans to blow out the Jets to make a statement, but a sound win would go a long way. Something similar to the Cleveland win or event the Miami win would inspire a lot of people who were skeptical of the win streak.
With a new season on the horizon, the Astros have high hopes for 2024 after coming just one game shy of being in the World Series for three consecutive seasons.
If Houston wants to get back to the Fall Classic in 2024, they're going to have to rely on their pitching. Owner Jim Crane believes the club has 8 starting pitchers when Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. return mid-season.
Which allows several of the starters to move to the bullpen and provide even more depth. Add those guys to Bryan Abreu, Ryan Pressly, and Josh Hader and you have a recipe for success.
Check out the video above as ESPN Houston's Jeremy Branham goes through the entire staff and makes his case for the Astros having the best pitching staff in baseball.
You can listen to The Killer B's with Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank every weekday on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 from 3 pm - 6 pm!