Texans vs. Patriots: Houston's Biggest Winners and Losers from Divisional Round

Ben Layman@@houtexmajorinCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2013

Texans vs. Patriots: Houston's Biggest Winners and Losers from Divisional Round

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    For a second straight season, the Houston Texans failed to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs, losing on the road to the New England Patriots, 41-28.

    Beating Tom Brady at home in the playoffs is never an easy task, and that proved to be the case for the Texans Sunday in Foxborough.

    Houston couldn't keep pace with New England's high-powered offense. Too many punts and not enough touchdowns led to the Texans fighting from behind for most of the contest.

    The playoffs are for the big boys, and the Texans showed they still have a ways to go to compete with the elite teams like the Patriots in the postseason.

    Continue reading on to see the biggest winners and losers from today's tough loss to the Patriots.

Loser: Matt Schaub

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    A key Matt Schaub interception in the third quarter sunk Houston's chances of mounting a comeback in the second half.

    It's easy to blame the quarterback anytime a football team loses, but the turnover was back-breaking when the team seemed to still have a chance to come back and win. Down just two scores in the third quarter, Schaub was fooled when Rob Ninkovich dropped back into coverage and picked off the pass.

    This wasn't the only time in the game when Schaub struggled. The Texans' third-down offense was terrible from the opening drive of the game. The team finished 3-14 on third downs. Failing to extend drives against a team like the Patriots is a recipe for losing. Like for most of the last quarter of the season, the offense failed to score enough touchdowns.

    Converting on third downs and putting up touchdowns falls on the shoulders of the quarterback. Schaub wasn't good enough at either of these things when the team needed it most.

Winner: J.J. Watt

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    It should come as no surprise at this point: J.J. Watt flashes his greatness every game he plays in.

    It's a shame that Houston's defense failed (yet again) to give the All-Pro more help against the Patriots.

    Houston's MVP candidate demands blocking unlike no other lineman in the league. Whether it's double-teams, or chips from tight ends and running backs, Watt requires most of the attention from the offense. It's hard to believe other players on Houston's defense can't capitalize on this more.

    Watt did some of his best work Sunday against New England's power running game. Despite the defense's struggles against the Patriots' running game as a whole, Watt was stout.

    One of the best seasons for a defensive player ever (sadly) comes to an end with the loss today.

Loser: Houston's Guards

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    Wade Smith will head off to Hawaii as one of the AFC's Pro Bowl offensive guards, but you wouldn't have guessed that after seeing his play against the Patriots.

    New England's interior defensive linemen Vince Wilfork, Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love used their size and strength to move Houston's guards nearly at will at times in this game.

    Rookie right guard Brandon Brooks showed his youth with poor play in the running game too often. The third-round pick has shown potential early in his brief career, but it didn't translate to the field enough Sunday.

    Fellow rookie right guard Ben Jones has failed to hold off Brooks. The Texans' rotation at right guard hasn't provided the production the rushing offense needs to function at a high level.

    The Texans struggled to run the football against the Patriots consistently largely because of the play of their guards.

Winner: Arian Foster

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    It's hard to imagine where Houston's offense would be without Arian Foster.

    Even when the slightest bit of daylight was presented to Foster, he managed to turn it into significant gains. Houston's Pro Bowl running back continued to produce in the playoffs, despite suspect blocking.

    Foster's 153 total yards (90 rushing, 63 receiving) and two touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing) helped pace the offense. It's impressive to see how much of an impact he had considering Houston played from behind for most of the game.

    The Texans know they can count on their featured back to deliver in big games.

Loser: Wade Phillips

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    Tom Brady and New England's offense was too much for Houston's defense.

    The disturbing part was the fact that the Texans repeated mistakes made in the previous game against the Patriots in the regular season.

    The fast pace and quick snaps New England features on offense caught the Texans' defense off-guard again, and they paid for it in a big way.

    The biggest runs of the game for the Patriots were often due to the Texans failing to line up correctly before the snap. The failures extended into the red zone, where New England's running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley walked in for touchdowns untouched because Houston's defense wasn't ready.

    Repeating mistakes against the same opponent weeks later is unacceptable. It's hard not to assign blame to Wade Phillips given the player's struggles to run his scheme.

    Why are the players late to get into position? How can the team look so unprepared for New England's pace yet again? These are questions Houston's defensive coordinator will face for the rest of the offseason.

Winner: Andre Johnson

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    Houston's No. 1 receiver managed to turn in a few crucial catches throughout the contest.

    As the team's only major threat at wide receiver, Andre drew New England's top corner, Aqib Talib, for most of the day. Talib often had safety help, and Johnson still found ways to get open.

    Some might say age has caught up to him to an extent, but Johnson still has all the physical ability to dominate a game. He led Houston's receivers with 95 yards on eight catches and 11 targets.

    Johnson made an acrobatic grab on a two-point conversion late in the game. It's plays like this that make fans wonder why he isn't given more opportunities to catch fade throws in the red zone.

    With another playoff loss, the Texans are running out of chances to win a Super Bowl trophy for their longtime franchise player.

Loser: Texans Fans

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    After a season that seemed to have Super Bowl potential at times, Texans fans now face a long offseason with a sour taste in their mouth.

    At 11-1, Texans fans were on top of the world. Since then, the team has gone 2-4 and undoubtedly left fans with pressing questions heading into the offseason.

    How does the front office fix the offensive line? Are there any significant defensive personnel changes on the horizon? Can the team find a way to add explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball? How do they fix the special teams?

    There's dozens of questions facing the team heading into the offseason. Unfortunately for Texans fans, the offseason has arrived.

Winner: Shayne Graham

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    The highest point of the game for the Texans (sadly) was when Shayne Graham nailed a 55-yard field goal just before the end of the first half. It was the longest field goal ever kicked in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium.

    The score put Houston down just 17-13 heading into the half. It seemed like it would breathe new life into the team at the time. Before the game, the Texans would've likely taken being down just four points at the half.

    Graham ended the season on a high note for the Texans and should be looked at as the team's kicker going into next season.