Texans vs. Rams: Takeaways from Houston's 38-13 Loss Against St. Louis
The importance of Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams couldn't be overstated, and with so much on the line, the Houston Texans showed why they are perhaps the biggest concern out of any team in the NFL right now.
It was another week of everything going wrong for Gary Kubiak and, in the end, an impressive win for the Rams. Matt Schaub got hurt, T.J. Yates did nothing better, and for a defense that ranks so highly in the league, Sam Bradford had no problem carving up the field.
The Texans slipped to 2-4 after another embarrassing loss, one that could decide the future heading into a tough affair against the unbeaten Chiefs next week.
Here's some takeaways from another lopsided affair.
Gary Kubiak Has to Be a Better Play-Caller
Nothing else worked except for the running game. And when the Texans did have their chances, Gary Kubiak called the same old plays that have gotten the offense into trouble all season long.
The biggest example from Sunday's loss wasn't from Matt Schaub, though—it was from T.J. Yates. After the Rams gifted Houston a second chance in the red zone, it took Yates four attempts to try to get the ball into the end zone, with the last one resulting in a 98-yard pick-six.
Kubiak hadn't targeted the tight ends at all during the game, but when the Texans did have a chance to score, he decided to call up the same old route we've seen from Garrett Graham a hundred times. With Yates never taking his eyes off the target, it was an easy read for the Rams defense.
Things looked good early for the Texans play-calling, with a few short slant routes finding Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins open on crossing patterns. After that, though, it all fell apart.
The Defense Wasn't Much Better, Either
St. Louis did a nice job of testing the Texans defense early and often, and if it wasn't an early deep pass Kareem Jackson's way, it was the commitment to the run game that set up so many scoring opportunities.
Running back Zac Stacy was the most impressive standout for the Rams offensively, as he ran straight through the Texans inside linebackers by keeping his pad level low. By game's end, Stacy was averaging five-yards per carry, and the Texans once impressive run defense looked soft.
In the air, the Rams also found some space, mainly thanks to how clean Sam Bradford looked. The success of the running game set up some short underneath routes for Jeff Fisher's offense, and when Bradford found himself in the red zone, he made the Texans pay.
Houston's defense has now allowed 13 touchdowns in the red zone on 16 possessions, which ranked 30th in the NFL going into Sunday. Tight end Jared Cook had been quiet for the Rams since Week 1, but against Wade Phillips' D, he was their leading receiver.
The Texans lost this game for a variety of bad reasons, but the biggest was turnovers.
It's a drum that now gets beat every week, because the Texans are doing a poor job of covering the ball—as well as holding onto it.
Unfortunately this goes far beyond quarterback play, as two of the Texans' youngest stars committed mistakes on Sunday. DeAndre Hopkins' fumble in the first half ended what looked to be a promising scoring drive, as cornerback Trumaine Johnson stripped the ball and ran it back deep into Rams territory.
The second folly of the day came from Keyshawn Martin on a kick return following another Rams touchdown, as the ball was knocked free, and—yep, you guessed it—returned for another easy score.
Six weeks into the season, these kind of mistakes are amateur, especially for players that were said to have an unbelievable set of hands when they were drafted.
Penalties have cost the Texans some serious real estate all season, and as soon as the game started on Sunday, the same problem occurred.
After Kareem Jackson was called for pass interference on a Rams third-down attempt, the Texans continued to see yellow for most of the game. It wasn't just on the defense, though, as the offense continued to stall following holding calls.
On more than one occasion, Schaub's life was made a lot harder when guys like Duane Brown committed holding calls after big runs from Arian Foster. It's easy to get on Schaub for his decision making, but when the rest of the offense can't hold their nerve, there's more than just one problem.
After the first quarter, the Texans had allowed 60 penalty yards to the Rams and finished the game with seven penalties for 95 yards.
A Quiet One from J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing
Sam Bradford's day couldn't have been any easier if he tried. He was hardly hit, and with guys like J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing covered fairly well, the offense is always going to have its way.
Credit is due here for St. Louis' blocking, especially on the ground game. Zac Stacy was his own best friend when setting up blocks, and Bradford saw some good protection from his tight ends, too.
Unfortunately for Watt and Cushing, they were never able to lay a sack on the Rams young quarterback—and the same can be said for the rest of the defense. Bradford was pretty comfortable in the pocket all game long and was never forced to scramble away.
But even when Bradford decided to leave his comfort zone, he still managed to find Cory Harkey on a bootleg pass for the score in the first quarter.
T.J. Yates Probably Isn't the Answer, Either
When Chris Long fell on Matt Schaub's ankle late in the third quarter, there was a small cheer from the crowd at Reliant Stadium as it was finally time for a change in quarterback.
With T.J. Yates in and a chance at scoring a touchdown, things looked okay—up until he threw a pick-six and looked as lost as Schaub does.
Things didn't get much better for the Texans backup, as he went on to throw another interception in the red zone on Houston's next possession. Yates has probably never looked this bad in his entire three-year career, but his reads were way off and it looked like he was struggling with Kubiak's play calls.
The answer may not be T.J. Yates after all now, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Schaub receive another start if he's healthy after the bye. With no suitable replacement who really stands out among the pack, it looks like the Texans quarterback issue could linger on right into next season.
Third Downs and Touchdowns
It was another lousy day on third down for the Texans, and it isn't any wonder that they only scored only one touchdown.
The Texans converted only five of their 15 third-down attempts, and even though penalties cost them a few times, it was also the vision of Matt Schaub and the good play by what was supposed to be a struggling Rams secondary that set Houston astray.
Offensively, nothing is working aside from the running game, and the longer the team struggles on third down, the fewer touchdowns we'll see. Andre Johnson still remains scoreless after six weeks, and it was obvious that both Schaub and Kubiak were missing Owen Daniels.
The Texans might have done themselves a favour by abandoning the "target tight ends first" game plan. Still, Daniels helped out on those third-down situations, and Garrett Graham was hardly targeted at all in this one.
Positive: Arian Foster
There was a lot more of Arian Foster and a lot less of Ben Tate against the Rams, and it shows on the stat sheet.
Foster finished with 141 yards on Sunday and received some big blocks from the offensive lineman when it counted. The Rams defense was left guessing on the edge for most of the game, and if it weren't for Foster, the Texans probably wouldn't have had any scoring chances at all.
This may just be a case of the Rams defense ranking 28th in the league, and the fact that Foster finally didn't have to share as much of the ball with Tate.
But early on in the game, the Texans ran the ball four times and passed only twice, a theme that is likely to reoccur with the passing game struggling so much. If there's one positive to take away from another loss, it's Foster's performance.