On a morning after the Texans lost to the worst team in football, it’s hard to find any positives. In two weeks, they have gone from a team with a legitimate shot at the top seed in the AFC to a third or fourth seed. They have had stupid penalties, an anemic offense and a feature a defense that suddenly can’t get off the field on third down.
Their rookie fifth-round quarterback looks like a rookie fifth-round quarterback. Their coach once again has no answers.
Realistically, the best this team can hope for is one playoff win. That probably became the case when Matt Schaub went down for the season. Winning the AFC is pretty much impossible.
That’s a shame, because this is a good, young football team that will only get better in the years to come. They will learn from this experience and be better down the road.
But this season isn’t over. And there are some things that have to be fixed immediately for the Texans to actually pull out a playoff win:
1) Burn the AFC South t-shirts and hats. Those are great for the fans, but any player, coach or anyone associated with the team should set theirs afire immediately. It was great to see the city react to it, but the team has to realize that was just a tiny step in a bigger picture. They have acted like the season was over since that magical day in Cincinnati. In truth, it was just beginning.
2) Wheel Wade Phillips back out there. The defense has not been terrible in the two losses, but they haven’t been the same, either. They have spent a lot of time on the field, but a lot of that is their own fault. They allowed the Colts to convert 7 of 17 third downs, many of them longer than 10 yards. While that’s not as awful as last week’s effort against Carolina, we’re talking about Dan Freaking Orlovsky and the Colts. That comes down to defensive playcalling. Phillips was missed.
3) Not so fast on the quarterback. This one is a little touchy, because T.J. Yates was terrific late in the win over Cincy. He has been less than stellar since. His numbers on the surface last night look OK — 13 of 16 for 132 yards, no touchdowns and no picks. But he lost a fumble on a sack and also missed numerous open receivers on his second reads. Once again, he locked in on his first receiver. Those are plays Matt Schaub makes in his sleep. There is a good chance the season finale against Tennessee will be meaningless. Time to see if the interception machine Jake Delhomme or Jeff “AARP” Garcia can do better. Yates has looked like a lot of young quarterbacks — early succes, but once teams have film, they don’t nearly as good. The great ones sustain that early success. The rest are just guys. There’s no guarantee the veterans will be any better. But if they can make a few more plays, then the game never comes down to that last drive. It’s time to take a look. It’s unlikely the Texans will do that, because Gary Kubiak is pretty stubborn when he thinks a guy can play. It’s time to stowe that and make it a competition. The defense has been effective because they haven’t had to be on the field much. In the post-Schaub era, they have worn down late because the offense isn’t keeping the ball as much. They go hand in hand, and Kubiak has to fix the offensive woes immediately, even if it means a new QB. Scoring a lousy 16 points against the worst team in football and getting your only TD thanks to a short field set up by the defense is simply not going to cut it.
4) Stop with the penalties. This has been a real problem of late. (And by the way, can we stop with the “best offensive line in football” talk? Eric Winston could be wearing a straight jacket and still get called for holding)? To be fair, there were some awful calls against the Texans. I rarely like to pin things on that, but in truth, they got hosed on several calls the last two weeks. Some, however, were pretty obvious, and that has to stop. They also have to protect the ball better. Arian Foster fumbled yet again, but the Texans managed to recover it.
5) Get Andre Johnson back. Even as a decoy, Johnson would add something. They simply have to have him healthy to be competitive in the playoffs.
The good news? All five of these things can happen. If they do, the Texans could still actually win a playoff game. And if their quality of play can improve, they might even win two, and this whole two-game losing streak will be a distant memory.
The intensity level goes way up in the playoffs. It remains to be seen if the Texans can dial it up like that, but if they can, there is still reason to hope.
Not much, but at least there’s something.