Texans dismal performance on offense leads to 16-10 loss to Panthers
The Texans offense was awful on Sunday, and it led to a 16-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Here is how it all played out:
The positives: There were none. Well, OK, they did have a decent run game, putting up 136 yards and averaging 6.2 per carry. It was almost useless considering that Deshaun Watson played one of the worst games of his career, including a late fumble that ended all hope. The offensive line was bad, allowing six sacks. The receivers could not get open. Untimely penalties were everywhere. Simply put, this loss was on the offense.
The negatives: Trick plays can be game changers both ways. Having DeAndre Hopkins throw a pass wound up being a massive fail. Hopkins was picked, and it led to the Panthers first half touchdown. Was it a bad call? It was certainly a bad result. The Texans had some momentum going after Whitney Mercilus forced yet another fumble. On first and 10 from the 24, that might not have been the time to do it. The play was supposed to catch Carolina off guard, but it didn't. Meanwhile, the old problems of protecting Watson were back as he was sacked three times in the first half, six times in the game. Watson was off all game. He missed on two deep passes that could have been touchdowns. Since the first game against the Saints, where they scored 14 first half points (none in the first quarter), they scored six in the first half against Jacksonville, seven in the first half against LA, and 3 against the Panthers. When you prep all week, you have to think your offense will be ready to produce early. That has not been the case.
The positives: The Texans forced three Kyle Allen fumbles. The offense did not capitalize until J.J. Watt forced one that led to the Texans first touchdown.
The negatives: Christian McCaffrey is a tough matchup for anyone, and the Texans did their best to contain him. Still, he had a big day, as he has against almost everyone. The Texans always struggle covering running backs in the passing game, and McCaffrey is as good as it comes. He had 8 catches for 83 yards. They weren't perfect, but the defense played well enough to win the game, even though Watt missed a chance to get his offense the ball back late in the game when Kyle Allen ducked a sack and completed a pass that iced the game. It's not like the offense would have done anything anyway.
The bottom line
The Texans continue to play inconsistent football. When the offense is playing well, the defense struggles. When the defense plays well, the Texans offense plays poorly. It has been the exact opposite of "complimentary football."
Bill O'Brien's trick play is debatable. What isn't is he had yet another ill advised challenge in the fourth quarter on an amazing catch by McCaffrey. It was clearly a catch and challenging made little sense. Little decisions like that can lose football games.
It left the Texans no timeouts to stop the clock and the Panthers were able to run out most of the clock.
The Texans are that "almost" team; they "almost" made big plays several times on Sundays. But they came up short. The Panthers made plays to win the game - McCaffrey's juggling catch, Allen's great escape - and that was the difference.
The good news? At 2-2 they are still in the hunt in the AFC South. The bad? You just can't win football games consistently playing like this. Watson has to be much better for this team to have a chance. It was a shame to waste such a solid defensive performance, but that's what happened.