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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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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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