Texans vs. 49ers: Takeaways from Houston's 34-3 Loss Against San Francisco
What else could go wrong for the Houston Texans?
But really? Three interceptions?
Yep, it was that bad.
There was little doubt last week that sooner or later head coach Gary Kubiak might have to consider pulling the plug on Schaub and replacing him with T.J. Yates. Now after an embarrassing performance from an offense that is capable of much more, this is probably going to be the most interesting week in Texans history.
From the past two losses, there's been a lot of good to talk about in the aftermath of defeat. This time around, though, it's a whole lot of negatives—and we're not even halfway through what could be a long season.
It Was over When...
The first drive of the game showed some early promise, with the usual mix of run and pass. Then Matt Schaub happened, and Tramaine Brock scored the first of the 49ers' points on an easy pick-six.
All game long Schaub looked frazzled and struggled with the 49ers man coverage. Like always, he targeted Andre Johnson, but unfortunately two of his three interceptions came when targeting the Texans' most trusted receiver.
Psychologically, Schaub seems off, and just like Tony Romo, when the pressure mounts, mental mistakes happen. It wasn't just interceptions either—midway through the third quarter Schaub missed a wide-open Johnson as the pass sailed high, and Gary Kubiak's play-calling probably didn't help either.
Kubiak chose to stick with Schaub despite some speculation heading into halftime that he might be benched. It was a bold move considering how much criticism the coaching staff is likely to hear, but with four straight games of throwing a pick-six, giving Yates some time late in the fourth quarter says a lot ahead of next week.
The past month has seen the Texans struggle on third-down conversions, and Sunday night was no exception.
Converting just 37 percent on six of 16 attempts, the Texans had their chances to at least put some more field goals on the board in this one but failed to keep the chains moving. After converting three on the second drive of the game, things looked pretty good—but all of that came on perhaps the Texans' only impressive drive of the night.
It would be easy to blame a lot of this on Schaub, but the rest of the offense played a part in the failure. Johnson dropped a touchdown pass that he should have held on to in the third quarter, and fumbles from the likes of Ben Tate only made things harder.
Foster and Tate, Who?
Simply put, the running backs didn't see enough of the ball, and when they did, the 49ers defense met them hard as the offensive line once again struggled to maintain any of the blocks.
There were a few brief moments where Arian Foster showed his speed and vision and ripped off chunks of yards, but in the end, both Foster and Ben Tate had only 136 yards combined for zero touchdowns.
The other confusing part of Kubiak's game plan in this one was the lack of screen passes to the runners. Last week against Seattle, Schaub made good use of Foster on short passes to the right or left, and the underneath throws helped set the Seahawks man coverage off balance.
This week, though, all of that went out the window.
The worst part of all of this was the 49ers were missing two of their biggest defensive names: Nnamdi Asomugha and Patrick Willis. If Foster and Tate can't pile on a ton of yards with those two missing, it's a concern.
Most of us didn't know who the Texans were up until this week. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Kubiak knows who they are yet, either.
Early in the season, the Texans were happy to run a quick-tempo, no-huddle style offense against the San Diego Chargers. A few weeks later things slowed down, and the running backs became more involved, and again, we saw Schaub target tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham really early in the first quarter.
On Sunday, none of that appeared to be on the cards, as the Texans found no rhythm on offense and sputtered through short routes over the middle and a tendency to throw Johnson's way, way too often.
The 49ers Secondary Had Houston's Number
Johnson still remains scoreless on the season, and with 39 yards against San Francisco now to his name, it won't be changing any time soon.
By far two of the most impressive players of the game were the 49ers Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock, the guys responsible for locking down Houston's receivers and allowing them no room from the line of scrimmage.
In case you forgot, Brock was responsible for two of Schaub's interceptions on the night, and Brown was also the one battling with Johnson when Schaub lobbed a deep pass toward the pylon that Johnson should have reeled in for the score.
Credit has to go to San Francisco's secondary, because it made the night hard for Schaub. In the past when Johnson has failed, DeAndre Hopkins has stepped up—but even he only managed 23 yards.
It's Still Hard to Fault the Defense
The Texans' top-ranked defense still played like one on Sunday night. Sure, it struggle to keep teams away from scoring once in the red zone, but Colin Kaepernick threw for only 113 yards and a touchdown on a pretty quiet night.
At times there were a few struggles, like D.J. Swearinger's early concerns on Vernon Davis, or Brice McCain's holding call on Anquan Boldin that gave the 49ers an automatic first down. Aside from a few errors, however, the Texans defense is still a top unit not to be reckoned with.
If there's one small positive to take out of this game, it would again be J.J. Watt. On another rare occasion he failed to record a sack, but with three tackles and a few bruising hits on Kaepernick, he kept the pressure on the 49ers offense all night.
Whitney Mercilus in the Spy
Last week against the Seahawks, Whitney Mercilus found some big-time production when spying on quarterback Russell Wilson, earning himself a couple of sacks.
This time around against San Francisco, Mercilus slipped back into his usual role and still managed the same kind of impact. With two tackles and a sack to his name, Mercilus has become one of the biggest problems for opposing offensive lines to deal with, as his second and third effort to go after the quarterback is often hard to stop.
Unfortunately, Kaepernick stayed pretty quiet within the pocket on Sunday and never really ventured outside like Wilson did a week ago. With the Rams now on the schedule, the Texans could be wise to set Mercilus up as a spy on Sam Bradford.
Don't Be Surprised to See Matt Schaub Start Next Week
NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth stated toward the end of the game that he thinks Schaub will be Kubiak's starter next week against St. Louis, and it may be hard to disagree.
With Kubiak starting Schaub in the second half, it seems like the team is still behind him, and with a 2-3 Rams team now the main focus, giving Schaub one last chance to prove himself against a mediocre side may be his last chance.
Obviously, it has become a serious mental lapse for the Texans quarterback, and at 32 years old, time will tell if he is able to overcome these struggles. If another pick-six is thrown, though, Yates has to be given the chance.