Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
The Texans were outclassed and embarrassed on Monday night, how worried should fans be?
Nothing positive to come out of that game. That was a good ol' fashion butt kicking on Monday night. For the second time this season, the Texans were embarrassed in prime time against the creme of the NFL crop. One of the story lines going into the game on Monday was the fact that some players on the Texans including Andre Johnson were calling it the biggest game in franchise history, a comment that gives insight into the mental state of the two rosters and fan bases. It was a big game for the Patriots with a tiebreaker on the line for playoff seeding, but Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been in games of this magnitude every year for the last decade. Despite having the best record in the league, the Texans are still viewed as a team with something to prove and an underdog to the battle tested Patriots. This was a measuring stick game for the Texans, and they came up painfully short.
The Texans will be OK. They'll be favored in all of their remaining games and control their own fate in the race for home field advantage in the playoffs. With tiebreakers over Denver and Baltimore, they'd have to collapse to not at least get a bye with the second seed. The last time the Texans were embarrassed in prime time, they responded by beating by beating the Ravens 43-13 the following week; I expect them to beat the Colts and wrap up the division next week.
The offensive line and running game struggled, but in some ways it's hard to get upset over it. They came into this season playing backups on the right side of the line after a couple of cap casualties in the off-season and now are having to play the backups of the backups with Antoine Caldwell and Derek Newton missing games due to injury. The Texans ran for under four yards per carry on Monday, rank just 19th in the league in yards per carry for the season, and Arian Foster is almost a full yard under his average YPC number (4.7 to 3.9) compared to the 2010-2011 seasons. Unfortunately it seems that this has become their new reality. Until they improve the offensive line they just aren't capable of being as explosive as they have been in the running game. This problem has to be addressed in the off-season.
The bigger problem I had with the offensive performance on Monday was with Schaub's decision making. Too often Schaub, and this wasn't the first game in which he's had this problem, ignores wide open receivers on underneath routes in favor of forcing it into coverage. Specifically to Monday night's game, two examples come to mind that not only didn't pick up yards, but ended drives and took potential points off the board. The first play was on the first drive of the game when on 3rd and 2, Schaub lobbed it down field to a well covered Lestar Jean that was at best a 50/50 jump ball; Jean didn't catch the pass. On that play, Owen Daniels was open for what would have been an easy first down. The next example came on the very next drive for the Texans with them again moving the ball and on 2nd and 8, Schaub threw into double coverage down the middle the field and was picked off by McCourty. Not only was a risky throw like that unnecessary because it was only second down, but Arian Foster on a late release was wide open and would have picked up at least 15 yards and probably would have scored had Schaub thrown him the ball. The Texans offensive system and scheme works, Kubiak for the most part calls a good game, it's Schaub's responsibility to take what the defense gives him and make the correct passes. I understand Schaub wanting to make the big play, but he can't force what's not there. If he hits the underneath routes not only will he move the chains, but eventually the defense will start to key on the short passes and that will open up the longer routes for big plays in the passing game. I'm not sure what Schaub thought he saw when he made those passes, but Kubiak needs to coach that out of him.
No pressure, bad pass coverage, just an overall poor performance. Kareem Jackson took a step back last night in making a couple costly plays. He got turned around on play action and double moves, and perhaps worst of all whiffed on a dive for a fumbled ball on the Patriots first touchdown drive. On the other side, Johnathan Joseph doesn't look like he's at 100%. I appreciate his toughness and his desire to play, but it might be in the Texans best interest to rest him the remainder of the season, giving him a full month with the bye week to recover and be ready to go for the Texans first playoff game. Recovery time for ligament injuries like the hamstring problem Joseph has can't be sped up with an aggressive rehab, from everything I've ever read or been told, they just need time. The Texans are capable of beating the Colts and Vikings at home without Joseph; let him rest until he's at full strength.
The biggest problem going forward for the defense is the pass rush, as in they haven't had one. The Texans managed one sack in garbage time, but got almost no pressure on Brady on Monday. Watt was able to get to and hit Brady a couple times as he threw it, but nothing that affected their game plan or caused problems. If they're not able to get a pass rush outside of Watt, they're going to struggle against any team with a good quarterback that can spread them out. Teams they're likely to face in the playoffs.