In likely the ugliest loss in the history of the franchise, Houston sank to a new low in the post-Matt-Schaub-injury 2011 season.
This was a game that Houston only had to show up to in order to win. Yet, they found a way to lose.
For the first time this season, I felt like Frank Bush was on the Texans sideline. Missed tackles, blown assignments and giving up key third downs to Dan Orlovsky was something I fully would have expected to see in 2010—but not tonight.
I feel like harsh reality sunk in for the Texans and their fans tonight. We learned a lot about the ball club going forward as we slump into the playoffs. Let's go over a handful of those things now.
I don't want to sit here and tell you that T.J. Yates is going to show no improvement the rest of the way—but I'm also not going to tell you everything is going to be okay as we head towards the playoffs.
Since taking over as the Texans quarterback four weeks ago, the Texans have averaged 16 points per game. How many did they score tonight? You guessed it.
Even thought he didn't throw an interception tonight, Yates did turn the ball over once. I'm not going to beat him up so much since that was a terrific play by Robert Mathis, but the fact remains that Yates seems to have no ability to feel pressure from one side.
But the biggest thing about him the past two weeks is that he isn't taking shots downfield anymore. If it isn't a run, it's a check-down or a hot read to the tight end. I can't remember one long throw downfield all night tonight—which isn't encouraging going forward.
Is Yates to blame or is this coach Kubiak going conservative with the kid? Let's analyze that in the next slide.
It seems like ever since the fourth quarter of the Bengals game, Gary Kubiak has lost all trust in his rookie quarterback. Again. we don't know if he is calling for this type of conservative game play and check-downs, or if Yates is just scared, but the play downfield has all but disappeared.
Many are saying the lack of Andre Johnson on the field is the reason, but I'm having a hard time believing that. To completely take any pass greater than 10-12 yards out of Yates' hands is certainly a call from the sidelines or booth, when Yates was consistently taking risks down the field in his first few starts.
Ever since that long pass attempt to open the Cincinnati game that Jacoby Jones dropped, the Texans offense has been one of the most conservative I have seen in the league. Scoring 16 points a game and seemingly going 3-and-out, the majority of a context is gassing the Texans defense and allowing them to give away the game as they did tonight.
I scoffed at the people who thought the defense would put on the same performance this week against Indy as they did against Cam and the Panthers last Sunday. And, to their credit, the Texans were better tonight than they were then. But they were also playing against a quarterback with about 0.0000048674 percent the talent as Cam Newton. So, in my opinion, it balances out.
For the first time since 2010, I felt like Frank Bush was on the sidelines calling this defense. To let Cam Newton do this to you is understandable. But to let Dan Orlovsky do it to you is inexcusable. This is a team that lost their first 13 games, after all—and in embarrassing fashion. Yet the Texans missed tackles, blew assignments and the pass rush disappeared after the very first defensive play of the game.
I don't know if this team has lost their mojo on the defensive side of the ball without Wade Phillips or if it is just a crazy coincidence—but they haven't looked like the same team the past two weeks on that side of the ball, and that's a hard fact to argue against. No player would be greeted so warmly by his teammates as the one coach Phillips will get when he puts on the headset and is on the Texans sideline next week against the Titans for the finale.
I'm sure that every fan in the NFL feels like their team gets short-changed by the officials every week. I've always been pretty level-headed about it, but this year seems to be the worst for the Texans. Not only do bad calls go against them, but they seem to come at the most inopportune time.
On the final drive of the game, the Colts got several gifts from the zebras, and that basically resulted in them holding their hand and walking them into the end zone for the final score. However, the Texans' poor play all night put them in that position, so I can't blame the officials completely.
What I can do, however, is talk about how the refs stole a career game from rookie J.J. Watt. It seemed like every time Watt made a huge play to tip the game in the Texans favor, he was met with a penalty flag negating or penalizing the team. Some you could argue, but most of them were absolutely so one-sided that you had to wonder if Peyton Manning had somehow found his way back into the game. Twice on quarterback hits, Watt was hit with roughing-the-passer calls that had huge implications on the game.
I'm not sure if tonight was because Watt is a rookie or if David Stern decided, for basketball reasons, that he didn't want the Colts to have the first pick in the draft. But I think we will hear a lot of apologies from the league this week about the officiating...not that it changes anything.
I'm not sure if saying this team peaked too early is entirely fair or not, but that is certainly what it seems.
The whole "next man up" thing was fun while it was working, but it appears that injuries have finally caught up with this team. The offense is but a shadow of its former self, and teams are beginning to find ways to move the ball against the Houston defense. Not a good combination going forward, for sure.
Gary Kubiak is back to calling the game completely conservative in late-game situations, like the Texans' final drive in the fourth quarter, and settling for field goals when he should be making calls to punch the ball in the end zone. The defense is back to playing sloppy and missing tackles behind the line of scrimmage, as well as letting guys like Dan Orlovsky have career days.
Whatever it was that made this feel like a team of destiny seems to be missing the past two weeks. Nothing is bouncing their way, and the coaching is starting to feel a lot like 2010. Not a good feeling to have as the team heads towards their first playoff game in team history.
Can it be fixed? I'm not sure. But my guy is telling me that this is all the unfortunate events that have happened on the injury front this season finally catching up with them. Not everyone can be the 2010 Packers. Even with all their players who hit IR last season, they never lost their three best players and two quarterbacks.
Time to face reality.