LANCE ZIERLEIN

Texans better check their arrogance: They don't own this town

Think J.J. Watt was dejected on Sunday? How about the fans? Bob Levey/Getty Images

After another sad performance in the books for our Houston Texans. Yeah, I said it. OUR Houston Texans. You don’t get to just walk away from this mess. It doesn’t work like that. Oh, you may have turned the game off on Sunday to pay attention to the Astros or and you may head out for an incredible BBQ experience at Southern Smoke because you know that it will absolutely kill the crap out of watching what the Texans are selling these days.

But you must always remember that “Houston is a football town.” Do you know how I know? Somebody on Twitter told me. Well that’s only partially true. The idea of Houston as a football town has been the prevailing notion for quite some time, but is it accurate?

Shut up about their “sell outs”.

When you ask people why they believe this is such a football town they will tell you to look at the “attendance” and the “sellouts.” Yes, let’s take both:
 

  1. The Texans have to sell out a grand total of eight games per year. Big deal. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country with a football sprawl that heads well beyond the Houston area to the North, West, and East. These “sellouts” are tickets sold and not actual people at the game.

  2. The Texans are insulated against mass amounts of people dropping their season tickets because of the initial PSL charges they imposed on many of the season ticket holders. My foul-mouthed radio partner, John Granato, is one of those people who can’t walk away for that very reason. He’s stuck.

  3. If you fancy yourself a football town, then wouldn’t it make sense to actually attend the home opener? This was the home-opener and the stadium was filled with blue and much of it was “deep steel blue” or whatever corny, outdated branding the Texans use to describe their team colors. NRG was loaded with Giants fans….who bought their tickets from Texans fans….who didn’t want to go.

Football Town or Baseball City?

Personally, I think the phrase “Houston is a football town” is nothing more than a phrase people toss around. Or better yet… it might be a football town, but it doesn’t feel like a Texans town right now. This town is definitely an Astros town. To the victor goes the spoils.

I had a very interesting interaction with a member of the Texans back in 2011 that seemed and seems representative of the arrogance that has permeated certain factions of that organization.

When the Texans are winning….and I mean really winning and not that middling, 9-7 crap where they get punished early in the playoffs, this town will be on fire for them. That happened in 2011 and 2012 and that is it. I’m not saying fans haven’t been excited about the Texans over the years, but that has faded and faded badly.

The Rockets are consistently competitive and were likely a hamstring injury to Chris Paul away from winning a title last season. The Astros knocked “World Series” off their bucket list last year and are primed for another big run in the postseason after putting up another ho-hum, 100-win season full of clutch play. The Texans? Same old Texans.

This is an Astros city right now. People are buzzing about them again all around the city in anticipation of what is to come. The Texans have almost no buzz right now. Things change. When I ask my kids their favorite Rockets or Astros memories, they can rip off a checklist of plays or games. When I asked them the same question about the Texans, they had nothing. Maybe the Texans will get it on track against the Colts, but most of Houston may be too busy getting ready for a championship team to notice.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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