Why a Wild-Card Win Could Be Long-Term Loss for Houston Texans

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Why a Wild-Card Win Could Be Long-Term Loss for Houston Texans
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Johnathan Joseph (left) and A.J. Green.

Ugly wins are still better than pretty losses, but the Houston Texans’ wild-card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals may be a long-term setback for the franchise. The Texans don’t have enough offensive weapons to get to the Super Bowl. They have not had the weapons to do so and the regime that presides over the operation appears to be safe.

 

 

Ownership and coaching staffs can overreact (by not reacting) to favorable single-game outcomes as well as taking possibly undue action because of disappointing ones. The Chicago Bears did so by firing Lovie Smith because he didn’t make the playoffs—despite the fact that his Bears did what they had to do in Week 17 by beating the Detroit Lions.

Chicago missed out on the postseason because of tiebreakers.

Conversely, Houston is less likely to make major moves in the offseason because it wasn’t bounced in the first round. The Texans backed into the playoffs, losing three of its last four games—which were all against postseason participants—by double-digit points.

It’s hard to say which element of the losses was more alarming: the 12.0 PPG that the Texans scored or the 31.0 PPG that they gave up. On Wild Card Saturday, the problem was the offense:

 

 

 

 

Houston’s defense is beat up, but putting blind faith in an NFL team’s ability to stay healthy in the long term is a fruitless ambition. The Texans D could return key defensive guys like Brian Cushing next season and lose someone else. The offense has to improve.

 

 

 

 

Big Mo, of course, is momentum. Houston’s play this week certainly did not set the Texans up to roll into the AFC semis.

Matt Schaub threw 38 passes for 262 yards and an interception. He completed 29 (76.3 percent) of them, but it’s hard to be impressed by that mark when you consider that he did not account for a touchdown—and he threw just 11 passes in the direction of a wide receiver.

Those are the guys whose job it is to catch the football.

Schaub has thrown exactly one touchdown pass—against the Indianapolis Colts at home in Week 15, a game which the Texans won—in Houston’s last five games. He’s thrown four picks in the same span.

 

 

With an offense that’s struggling as mightily as Houston’s, it would be shocking if the Texans could keep up with the New England Patriots in the divisional round. They’ll have a hard enough time stopping a team that has put up 37.8 points per game in its last nine contests. On top of that, the game will be on the road against a veteran-led squad coming off a bye week.

Saturday likely marked Houston’s final victory of the 2012 NFL year.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the current Texans regime is that it has failed to place a legitimate game-breaker opposite Andre Johnson at wide receiver. Johnson is 31 years old and coming off a career-high 1,598 yards in 2012. But, in a passing league, the Texans’ biggest threat at wideout scored just four touchdowns on 112 receptions.

His four TDs are the equivalent of that produced by all other wide receivers on his team.

Because Houston’s run-first, one-receiver style of offense got it (limping) into the postseason, the current regime has been rewarded with positive reinforcement. Playoff coaches tend to not get fired on a whim. The reality of the situation, however, is this: Houston just has not made a move to add a game-breaking offensive talent like the Atlanta Falconsdraft trade to get Julio Jones (or Tony Gonzalez).

If Houston is going to take the next step, it needs to do something uncharacteristic—but the management’s point of view may be one of the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it variety.

 

For more NFL analysis, follow Jamal on Twitter

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