Now at 2-9, the Houston Texans are just about out of excuses for this mess of a season.
In the past 11 weeks, it's been Matt Schaub, Randy Bullock, Gary Kubiak and again, Matt Schaub, that have copped the blame for this laugh of a losing streak.
Back to square one, and it's time to blame the running game once again.
Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was as bad as it gets. And despite how unforgivable the coaching was, there's still a lot left to be said about the guys on the field, some of whom are putting forth embarrassing efforts on a weekly basis.
Fortunately, Ben Tate isn't one of those guys. If you're going to salvage something out of this fizzle, it should be how well Tate has played this year—especially given the circumstances of Arian Foster's on again, off again injury crisis.
But this week, Tate did play a big role in Houston's loss.
A single yard on the ground doesn't cut it for a running back who should draw some big-time value if he's placed on the market soon. With Case Keenum having his worst game so far, Tate needed to show some leadership.
The problem on Sunday was simple: The offensive line sucked, and Tate wasn't afforded much of an opportunity to do anything with the ball. On all seven rushing attempts he was stuffed by guys like Paul Posluszny.
After the game, Tate summed up the entire team's performance with one word.
What really is embarrassing, though, is how awful Houston's offensive line has been.
In the past few weeks, guys like Duane Brown have been dominated, and if it wasn't Posluszny doing the heavy moving, it's been Lamarr Houston or Karlos Dansby.
The "push" that most coaches talk about at initial contact seems to be very weak from offensive line coach John Benton's squad. So much so that Keenum couldn't even buy enough time to seek out anyone against the Jaguars.
For the most part, the Texans have always had line troubles, just not this bad. And even when times were tough, Arian Foster still was able to use his vision and cut the ball through a few holes and take it upfield.
Given, Tate doesn't possess those same abilities, but he does have a ton of power behind him, which should have shined through since the Jaguars rank close to the bottom of the league in tackling.
Instead, the Texans resorted to the same old plan they've always had—if the running game isn't working, turn the running back into a receiver. Even that didn't work against Jacksonville; Tate finished with just 26 yards in the air.
Out of the four years Tate has now been with the Texans, this was his worst performance against the Jaguars. The same can be said for a lot of guys, including Andre Johnson, but with an entire section of the offense completely collapsing, losing the running game already cost the Texans any chance at a victory before all four quarters were even over.
Perhaps the best part of Sunday's loss from a running standpoint was the slight emergence of Dennis Johnson, who at least showed some signs of progression. After a few weeks of handoffs here and there, Johnson wound up with a handy 74 yards and a likely spot in the running back rotation with Tate showing signs of struggle.
With only a few more weeks to go and another matchup against Jacksonville coming up, Houston needs to find its running game again if it wants to snap this sad losing streak. Tate's minor injuries may have played a part in his efforts this week, but once again it's the same story—more is required from one of the biggest stars on the team.
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