That was bad from the word go, wasn't it? The Texans came out flat, gave Carolina too many chances and then couldn't keep the ball when they had a chance for a comeback.
Think about this. If Arian Foster hadn't fumbled on the game's second play and if T.J. Yates didn't throw that terrible interception, the Texans are just behind 14-13 in the fourth quarter. I mean, that's a gross oversimplification, but the Panthers' 14 points off those two turnovers went a long way towards clinching this game for them.
Rookie quarterbacks often look bad, but the biggest thing that takes them out is consistency. Yates looked great down the stretch against a tough Bengals defense last week, but couldn't get things going this time against Carolina. Of course, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera had a week to look at how Yates was successful and scheme against him.
In fact, I think that was the thing that was most troubling about the loss. Yates has been good at times and Carolina's defense has been bad. But, Rivera was a very good defensive coordinator in the past and can come up with a decent scheme. The problem is having the players to execute it. Against Yates, they didn't need the players, just the scheme, as his inexperience did him in more than anything. He hadn't seen this scheme and that caused him to throw some bad picks.
At the same time, Yates had a few killer drops by normally dependable receivers. He also had some killer underthrows, so the road goes both ways.
It was a bad game. The running game wasn't there. The passing game relied too often on four-yard passes on third-and-8. The defense gave up big plays.
Pretty disappointing all around, but that's to be expected. Teams have bumps in the road. The question then becomes whether this is a trend or an exception.
Look no further than the Packers' loss to Kansas City. Was that a sign that the Pack are done and we should turn to the Saints as the Super Bowl contender du jour? No, of course not. Green Bay has been better than anyone else this season and just had a misstep. it's happens every season. A loss doesn't mean the team is bad. They were just bad on that particular Sunday.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Yes, the Texans were probably due a loss. But, the way they lost may make fans more uneasy than the way the Packers lost. The Texans did not look like the team who beat Pittsburgh with stifling defense and a great running game. They looked very ordinary.
Wade Phillips will fix some of the problems defensively. As good as Reggie Herring may be, it's clear Phillips has been a huge influence on this team with his timing and play calling. At the same time, the Texans need a huge effort from the running game to take the pressure off Yates and have not gotten in in consecutive weeks. That's a problem and will continue to be a problem the rest of the season.
We'll know more about this team Thursday in how they play a fired-up Colts team. As with this one, a win itself won't be enough to erase the taste of this game. The Texans will need to fix the problems that have been on display for the past two weeks. If they can do that, I'll feel a whole lot better heading into the playoffs.