TEXANS LOSE AGAIN

Texans-49ers: Garoppolo comes up big as 49ers drop Texans

DeAndre Hopkins was a bright spot. Houstontexans.com

Week 14 against the two-win San Francisco 49ers is the game the Houston Texans needed right now. They are struggling to win with an offense that turns the ball over too much and at the wrong time. The 49ers are a team that doesn't force a lot of turnovers; something the Texans need to limit if they want to win and get at least one more before the end of the season. But just because a team doesn't force a lot of turnovers doesn't mean that's the only way the Texans can lose this game. They were facing Jimmy Garoppolo in just his second game as the starter for San Francisco and he led them to a victory in his first game last week.

He did it again on Sunday, beating the Texans 26-16 at NRG.

Just because Jimmy G has hype and the Texans have been struggling didn't mean this game would somehow be exciting. The first half was anything but. The Texans defense, especially Jadeveon Clowney, were wrecking shop early against the 49ers. They forced a three and out to start the game and the pressure forced Garoppolo to throw an interception to Kareem Jackson on the next drive. Despite that effort, the Texans were only able to get a 55-yard field goal from Ka'imi Fairbairn to lead 3-0, a good start.

Most of the first half was punts, but the 49ers were slowly finding rhythm and with 6:36 left before the break they tied the game at 3 points. They forced another punt from the Texans and then took the lead after 6 plays in which the Texans defense couldn't contain fullback Kyle Juszczyk who caught 2 passes for 60 yards on the drive. The last play was a 2-yard touchdown run by Carlos Hyde and a 10-3 lead for the 49ers.

But a change at quarterback for the Texans caused by an injury to Tom Savage brought a different feel to the offense. With just over two minutes left before halftime T.J. Yates stepped in and led the Texans on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, his 10th of the season tying him for the league lead. But it wasn't a tie score because Fairbairn missed the extra point and the 49ers still led 10-9. The Texans defense didn't hold with under a minute to play and the 49ers kicked another field goal and a 13-9 halftime lead.

T.J. Yates wasn't done showing off. The Texans had the ball to start the second half and it took only six plays to move down the field for his second touchdown pass of the day to Hopkins and a 16-13 lead. Hopkins at this point was already at 10 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns, once again showing why his new contract was a good move by the Texans front office.

San Francisco wasn't done. They went down the field for another field goal and a tie game at 16 points. On their next drive the Texans were forced to punt. San Francisco took over and got a big 61 yard pass to Garrett Celek, then took the 23-16 lead when Garoppolo threw a touchdown to Celek. They had now scored points on five consecutive drives. 

The game wasn't over as the Texans defense stepped up and; after a second down sack by Brian Cushing forced a 3rd and long. A deep pass by Garoppolo was nearly intercepted and the Texans took over on their own 40  because of a short punt by Brad Pinion. They got nothing going after some overthrown balls and gave the ball right back in a close game. But a huge sack by LaTroy Lewis on third down gave the ball back to the Texans after just six plays. The only downside to that drive was that the 49ers took almost five minutes off the clock, leaving the Texans with only 6:31 left in the game.

In an uncharacteristic move, DeAndre Hopkins had the ball popped out of his hands and the 49ers recovered at the Houston 32 yard line. They now had good field position with a 7-point lead in the 4th quarter. They would get another field goal from Robbie Gould- his fourth of the day- and take a 10-point lead with just under 4 minutes left in the game. 

The Texans got the ball back with almost 4 minutes left but could not finish it off with a touchdown. The were in range for Fairbairn but he missed from 52 yards and the score stayed 26-16 49ers. San Francisco was able to run the clock out and walk away with the 26-16 victory.

This was a really tough loss for the Texans. The defense--especially Clowney--played really well. When Yates took over for Savage and led two scoring drives there was a feeling of hope. But it was all for naught as the Texans fell once again to a team that played just slightly better than them.

They are now 4-9 on the season with at least two more tough games in front of them. Maybe T.J. Yates’ performance today will be enough to show why he should be the starter,  but I doubt it. Savage will likely be there next week when the Texans face the Jaguars on the road. Anything they do from this point on will be for pride. That's just not enough in the NFL and fans will just have to hope that every injury returns next year and they have a shot at winning the big one.

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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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