Vikings 31, Texans 23

Texans' descent into Bill O'Brien hell continues in 31-23 loss to Vikings

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The Texans dropped yet another game, falling to 0-4 after losing to the Vikings 31-23. It was a 2020 version of the Texans greatest hits: Deshaun Watson was slightly above average, they couldn't run the ball when it counted, they couldn't stop the run, and they were dominated by the run late in the game. Five observations from the loss:

1) You can't win the turnover battle if you don't get any. The Texans failed to get a turnover for the fourth straight game. You simply can't win football games without winning the turnover battle on occasion. And the Texans were never close to getting a pick or a fumble. Turnovers can be random, but zero in four games? Pathetic.

2) The run defense still sucks. They were always going to struggle against Dalvin Cook, who had 130 yards on 27 carries. As a team the Vikings rushed for 162 yards. But it doesn't really matter who the Texans are playing; they simply can't stop the run, and they haven't been able to for two years. So expecting something different at this stage is silly. The Vikings ran the ball down the Texans' throats down the stretch, a common theme in this awful season.

3) Deshaun Watson is not special right now. His descent into mediocrity continues. He had a solid game - 20 of 33 for 300 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. But he wasn't great. And the Texans need him to be great to win games. Whether it is just a bad scheme or Watson is not playing well, he is simply not good enough right now. He missed a lot of easy passes, especially in the first half, and his brilliant plays late were not enough to make up for it.

4) Bill O'Brien is still a mess. He appeared to take play calling duties over again, and it simply did not work. O'Brien is just not skilled enough to be a GM, head coach and OC. He might not be skilled enough to be any of them. At this stage, Texans fan is stuck with him, so it really doesn't matter that he is awful, but week after week he gets exposed. His insistence on running the ball even when down late in the game is insane. His overall play calling was spotty and inconsistent, just like it has been his entire career in Houston.

5) They ran the ball better, but...It wasn't good enough. They had 96 yards on a 3.7 average, but most came late in the game when the Vikings had a lead and wanted to stop the pass. The Texans have to figure this out or they will not beat anyone.

The bottom line: The Texans deserve to be 0-4. They have been outplayed in all four games. It's hard to see this as much more than a five win team right now. O'Brien got what he wanted - full control - and this is the result.


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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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