ANOTHER LOSS

Savage implodes again as Texas fall to Ravens 23-16

Tom Savage had another rough night. Houstontexans.com

Believe it or not, the Texans entered Monday's game against the Ravens still in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot. A Monday night road game against the Baltimore Ravens could have been just what the doctor ordered. The Texans entered the game with a 4-6 record, and the momentum of getting their first win with Tom Savage under center last week.

Yeah, that did not work out so well. In the end, they couldn't beat an up and down Ravens team, losing 23-16, and their season has gotten away from them. Three Tom Savage turnovers did them in.

The Texans tried to win with a great defensive effort up front, The idea was to force the Ravens, a team that ranked last in the NFL in passing offense, to become one dimensional and play right into the hands of the Texans team that is ranked sixth in run defense. Jadeveon Clowney was determined to make that his mission from the first snap of the game to the end. It only took until the third play for him to make a statement. His quarterback hit caused Joe Flacco's pass to flutter and take them off the field.

On the Texans first drive it appeared Savage was a different player. He led the offense on a nine play, 90-yard touchdown drive to give them a 7-0 lead. He went 5 of 6 for 53 yards with big plays to Deandre Hopkins and Bruce Ellington. After a 19-yard pass interference call against the Ravens, Lamar Miller scored his third rushing touchdown of the season from four yards out. It would be the only touchdown of the night for the Texans.

The Texans defense continued to dominate up front, ending the next Ravens drive with back to back tackles for loss by Brennan Scarlett and Clowney for negative eight yards. The chance was there for the Texans, but Savage's up and down play came back to the fore as the next drive was ended by consecutive batted passes. Then the specials teams began to hurt the Texans.

After the defense held their ground again, returner Chris Thompson muffed the punt and it bounced backward seven yards to the Houston 15-yard line. Treston Decoud was there to jump on it but now they started their next drive with 85 yards to go for a score. They didn't get much going and put the game back into the capable hands of the defense.

But the special teams unit let them down again. After just three plays the Ravens brought out their punting unit--but this time with a different play called. Punter Sam Koch perfectly executed the fake punt for a 22-yard completion to Chris Moore and the Ravens were in business. Two plays later Javorius Allen kept his legs churning and with an extra push tied the game at seven points with a nine-yard touchdown run.

And like Savage is apt to do, his next drive ended after only four plays when he threw his third interception of the season. Tony Jefferson snagged a third down pass thrown into double coverage at the Baltimore 41-yard line and returned it into Texans territory. The Ravens would add seven more points after five plays--one of which was a fourth and one conversion by running back Alex Collins that went for 29 yards. One play after that conversion he was in for Baltimore's second rushing touchdown of the game and the 14-7 lead.

The Texans answered back before the half with a field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn, but points were left on the field as Savage missed a wide-open Hopkins on first and goal from the four-yard line. This was the first of the Texans 11 first and goal drives from inside the five-yard line this season that did not end in a touchdown.

The veteran Ravens team took only 1:41 off the clock before the half to run 11 plays and add a field goal to reclaim a seven-point lead, 17-10.

After halftime Tom Savage began to look like the player he has been at his worst this year. After finishing the first half 13 of 20 passing, he was only 4 of 9 in the third quarter; often looking wildly inaccurate. They managed to get another field goal on a 13-play drive but were once again aided by Baltimore penalties.

Defenses for both teams held strong but looked to show signs of fatigue as a battle of field goals played out. The score was 17-13 in favor of the Ravens but a later drive would also end in three points as they reclaimed the 10-point lead.

Not to be outdone, Savage became the good quarterback again and began making great throws--including a 39 yarder to Hopkins. They stalled inside the red zone but another field goal would return it to a four-point lead in favor of Baltimore.

The Texans were in desperate need of something to break their way offensively but would not get it. In fact, Savage would add to their woes by getting stripped by the 15-year veteran Terrell Suggs, who now had two sacks and a tackle for loss in this game. The Ravens would turn that fumble into another field goal and a seven-point lead.

With Houston needing a touchdown to tie and only 2:26 left on the clock, Savage gave up his third turnover of the game. He left a pass hanging in the air for linebacker Anthony Levine to intercept. They were left with no timeouts and the Ravens having the ball on the short side of the field. A Joe Flacco run after the two-minute warning would seal the win for Baltimore and ruin any playoff dreams the Texans may have been holding on to.

Hopkins and Clowney continue to be the brightest stars on this team. Their efforts are overshadowed by the play of Savage. Hopkins finished Monday's game with seven receptions for 125 yards. Clowney had only one sack, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits; but his constant pressure required multiple defenders and he was a disruptive force all night. Fairbairn continues to kick field goals at a regular pace going three for three on the night and 12 of 14 on the season.

The Texans will need to get things fixed quickly as they go on the road for a divisional game against the Tennessee Titans. They won in blowout fashion in week 4, but it seems the shoe may now be on the other foot.

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So where do we stand now with the matter of Deshaun Watson? Composite image by Jack Brame.

After 16 months of insisting that he wouldn’t settle out of court with an ever-increasing number of women accusing him of sexual misconduct – “all I want is my good name back” - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson suddenly and surprisingly decided to pay off the women to drop their civil lawsuits against him on Tuesday.

Well 20 of the 24 women, anyway.

“We are working through the paperwork related to the settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential,” said Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing Watson’s accusers.

Analysts say by settling most of the cases Watson, while not admitting guilt, Watson took a positive, major step toward getting his football career back on track. He sat out the entire 2021 season when he was a member of the Houston Texans.

And perhaps that’s the most stunning aspect of the entire Deshaun Watson scandal. That settling 20 of 24 lawsuits claiming sexual misconduct is a major step toward, if not redemption, at least getting his life moving forward.

What about the four cases alleging serious and disgusting sexual misbehavior pending in the legal system? Imagine if we didn’t know that at one time there were 24 similar allegations against him – and news broke that four different women accused Watson of unwanted, aggressive sexual acts. We’d be horrified. If the four women were telling the truth, we’d be talking about a sexual predator on the loose.

But now that Watson has settled with 20 of his 24 accusers, we’re practically considering the remaining cases as “only four.”

Do you hear yourself talking? Only 4? The only good thing about 4 … is 24.

So where do we stand now with the matter of Deshaun Watson?

It’s possible that the remaining four holdout accusers will agree to accept a settlement to avoid rolling the dice in a trial that won’t reach court until next year. Now that the First National Bank of Deshaun Watson is open for business, hard negotiations to wipe the remaining four cases off the docket can begin.

While the 20 settlements already reached are confidential, that’s not stopping fans and analysts from guessing how much Watson paid the women. And let’s not forget Buzbee, who we can assume will get a big chunk of change for his work. Considering that previous reports show that Watson offered $100,000 to the women last year, that is a reasonable starting point for the bidding now.

I spoke with one attorney with knowledge of the Watson case. He believes the women will be paid between $100,000 and $200,000 depending on the level of their accusations.

If I were sitting in the audience at the Price is Right, I’d be shouting “higher!” My guess: up to $500,000 each, paid in installments. Let’s crunch the numbers, 20 times half a million equals $10 million. Watson is scheduled to earn $230 million, fully guaranteed, over the next five years from the Browns. He can afford it. It’s an accuser’s market.

If the other four don’t settle, the cases eventually will go to court, and the women could lose. It’s in the financial interest of both sides to settle. So let’s throw another $2 million on the fire.

The NFL already says that Tuesday’s announced settlement with 20 of the accusers won’t affect any punishment, if any, the league hands down for Watson. Most in the media are guessing a six-game suspension on the low end, up to another year on the sidelines for Watson on the high end.

Again, I’m screaming “higher!” Technically higher. The last thing the NFL wants is to announce a punishment and later more women come forward with accusations of sexual misbehavior. Or Watson continues to solicit non-NFL affiliated masseuses on Instagram and acts inappropriately. While experts think Buzbee may be “out of the Deshaun Watson business,” there’s nothing to stop other lawyers to hop aboard the Watson money train. It’s a headache the NFL doesn’t need, especially in light of other punishments the league has handed down that now seem light.

My guess is that the NFL will suspend Watson indefinitely with an agreement to review the matter in one year. If there are no more serious and credible accusations, no additional lawsuits, no other concerns, then Watson will be OK’d to play the 2024 season.

No matter how this plays out in the future, there is plenty of wreckage left behind. Watson is now a broken brand. It’s estimated that he once had upwards of $10 million in product endorsements. It’s difficult to imagine that any company would want to be in the Deshaun Watson business now.

The Cleveland Browns, while relieved that Watson is on the road to playing for them at some point in the future, look like a cutthroat team willing to trade its soul for victories. When announcing their acquisition of Watson, team officials said they did extensive and thorough investigation into Watson’s character and legal issues. Not too many are buying that.

The Texans, while not accused of being pimps or accomplices for Watson, do appear to be enablers or they looked the other way during Watson’s masseuse spree.

Local media in Cleveland and Houston won’t be nominated for any Pulitzers for their investigation into the Watson case. It took the New York Times to lower the boom on Watson, that he solicited 66 women, not all of them licensed masseuses in Texas, over 17 months – not the 45 women over five years as Watson admitted to – to work on him, some of the massages in a hotel room paid for by the Texans.

Is the whole sordid case coming to an end? Let’s see if the NFL decides to punish Watson. Let’s see if more women come forward with accusations against Watson. Let’s see if the four remaining women accept a settlement.

As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over till it’s over. And it ain’t over yet.

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