The Texans came up substantially short yesterday as they failed to forward an accurate account of their talent. Another inherently slow start was compounded by a team that appeared to crumble post an egregious pass interference, non-call. The Texans seemed to fail in mentally recovering from the injustice and it was undoubtedly a factor in deciding the outcome. Although this was substantially outweighed by poor preparation, for a team coming off their bye week.
Fault could be equally passed around the office this morning, where questions will be asked and answers will need to be given, quickly as they prepare for Thursday. It was spectacular crash, resulting in a 41-7 roasting on road to a Baltimore team who will be many people’s favourites to win it all, come February.
Perhaps the only solitary modicum of positivity that could be drawn from this harrowingly inept performance, is the fact that there is zero time to reflect. The Texans have the visit of their AFC South rivals on Thursday Night Football, so self pity and wallowing just simply, isn’t an option. No one this week can do anything but look at the tape, consider the bad and how that pertains to the Colts. Indianapolis now lead the division after disposing of Jags in convincing fashion yesterday. There was limited, if not zero positives to be taken from this game, so a chance of reprisal can’t come quick enough for players and coaches with first place up for grabs Thursday.
PI in the sky – Officiating that hinders the League
This melee of confusion originated from the New Orleans NFC Championship game and with the benefit of hindsight the NFL’s competition committee, will have wished they hadn’t opened this door. This mess continues to be a talking point, week after week.
There could be an intriguing argument made that a multi-billion dollar entertainment company actually enjoys the bi-product of terrible officiating. As in reality, it its adds to the circus of media clamber, a rotating news cycle that evokes engagement and reaction across the globe. On the face of it, it may seems an ill-logical hypothesis but the more its considered, perhaps its the case. Why would you agree a new contract, just this season, for further seasons of part-time officials? Why would you pay them so poorly? As the best talent have taken up cushy numbers at television networks. So all things considered, perhaps this is by design rather than gross oversight. Whichever way, it’s a chronic situation which continues to detract from anyone’s enjoyment watching every team, every Sunday.
Yes, it was a clear pass interference on Hopkins. Humphrey clearly, pulls at his jersey, wraps his arms around him then pushes Nuke’s right arm away, inhibiting his forward movement and ability to catch the ball. Even if we push aside that fact the Ravens cornerback didn’t look back at the ball or make any attempt to play it. A typical indicator for ref’s when making such calls. The question has to be raised: How can qualified referee’s watch that play back, on an HD monitor, across multiple angles and not over turn it?
What will stick in the throats of football purists, never mind Texans fans, if there was a change in the rule to allow coaches to challenge why have the officiating crews dismissed all but a few challenges? It has to be assumed that this was a head office lead direction. But if the whole origin of the rule amendment was to correct errors in judgements, then why not use it? A failing was recognised or was seen to be recognised but the remedy offered is not utilised by the referees. This perhaps feeds into the designed anarchy train of thought and would seem more apparent, the longer its considered.
Often used as a possible correction to the current crisis, is the addition of a sky judge. The judge would form part of the game day officiating crewe, sit in the stand and be used as the video referee, which has been successful in rugby. It would make sense, and could be done with limited changes, bar hiring additional person per crewe to take up the role. Could this be done mid-season? Or could they refer back to the New York Office, which previously acted at the means of correction for the zebras?
The Texans should have had the ball on the 1-yard line with a chance to pound it in, with the score at 0-0. These games are decided by momentum swings and it clearly handed that to Baltimore when the Texans needed all the breaks they could get. It didn’t definitively seal a result as clearly as the call that benefited the Rams, in handing them a Superbowl ticket they just merely needed to stamp it. But certainly put a game early on a path that moved the Texans already limited chance of victory, further away from them.
Concerns of yesterday
Watson’s regression to (h)old habits
It was a genuine discussion that was held last week, would the media noise impact the way Deshaun came out and started this game. As his generation of player seem to be overly in-tune with the latest media rhetoric. It’s plausible that Watson would have felt this was his stage to correct the Jackson lead narrative. As being the apple of the media’s eye, is a status he’s never quite achieved.
The concerns were warranted as he was trying to go to out with the system to achieve highlight reel plays and regressed from his great improvements this season of taking what the defence presents. The attempted long ball on the 4&2 play that lead to the PI challenge in the end zone was just one example of that, as was the sack fumble on the teams first possession. Watson held on to the ball for over ten seconds and then coughed it up when he went to the ground.
Deshaun looked like he’d taken us back to last season, where his habits were hurting this team in a bad way. Two turnovers aside, as these will happen, holding the ball, not throwing it away, losing yards and taking unnecessary hits has been Watsons biggest flaws in his fledging career.
After multiple games of keeping their quarterback clean in the recent stretch of games, the continued holding the of the ball, removing any rhythm, abandoning the run after falling behind, not setting the protections, removing quick passes, lead to the Texans giving up seven sacks. Watson looked to avoid an injury scare on the Jaylen Ferguson sack in the third quarter , which was a constant worry all afternoon in that regard.
Hopefully, now Watson can take the challenge of a short week and get back to the improved fundamentals and game management that he had shown in much of this seasons games, prior to yesterday.
Coaching, Play Calling, Blame Deflecting
O’Brien gave his common regurgitation of “need to watch the tap”, ” we need to do a better job of coaching” in his post defeat pre-conference that is all to familiar to fans, when looking for answers. This week 11 clash was perhaps infuriating for many, as the team just didn’t look like they’d ever get going on offence and without that impetus, this defence simply doesn’t have the talent to bail them out. But this isn’t new news to anyone inside the organisation. This was a known commodity going into this game and showing a distinct lack of ideas and adjustment in the game was alarming. After having a bye week to self-scout and then to come into this game, start slow and look under-prepared in a season defining game is borderline indefensible.
The lack of options in the passing game, O’Brien turning his back on the run game, too early and then going to empty sets, inviting pressure and the Texans had limited answers to that pressure. Matt Judon & co. were freely able to fill a highlight reel of Ravens bringing Watson to the floor and causing untimely incompletions all afternoon. This wasn’t anything surprising, that Ravens D.C. Martindale, calls a high proportion of blitzes and secondary pressures. But it appeared that way to the Texans. Watson didn’t play with the level of comfortability he has in previous weeks, looking lost at times and devoid of idea’s. The entire unit was unable to rally against what was being thrown at them. The supposed strength of this team looked strangled of all signs of life.
There have been many detractors of this coaching staff across the it’s now year-six reign and these questions will continue to arise and rightly so. This was yet another game of it’s era in Houston that will be filed under the: “Not Quite Good Enough – Squad Improvements Needed”. In many ways we’ve jumped on a carousel and expected to move forward with this team, exemplified by this result. This sorry Texans team were dismantled by a superior club in all aspects yesterday. A depressing reality that perhaps shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Coaching will be key to find a way and in the past they have shown us they can re-bound to win when the pressure is on. We will know by Thursday if these previous feats can be repeated, once more.
Toothless Defence on all three levels
Whatever the Romeo Crennel defence plan was on Sunday, it wasn’t where it needed to be. The Ravens are playing at an optimum level, executing well and playing to their strengths. That will be the case until someone cracks the formula to limit their system. They were always going to put up points yesterday, it was the fashion in how they did was disappointing. At the outset Jackson was held to 1-7 throwing and only a handful of yards but with the Texans offence stalling drives the defence were forced to return to the field quickly and often.
The pass rush was meek at best, and if continued to fade as the game went on, a Brennan Scarlett sack the only achievement on the day. Missed tackles, missed assignments and poor overall team defence from a unit that has lost or given away its best rushers, was only heading to once place. A clean pocket lead to a quarterback, who’s biggest weakness is making difficult throws, look rather accomplished through the air.
The absence of any plays for Whitney and DJ Reader, leaves the Texans incredibly short of reinforcements when these guys aren’t central to plays. The lack of game-defining talent is one thing, but the Texans just dwindled over the course of the game and the Baltimore offence ran right over then, giving up their first 100-yard rusher, in Gus Edwards, on the season and a total 263 yards on the ground.
The secondary continued to look out of sorts and the Texans has zero answer for the myriad of running concepts on show and then looked caught out when Jackson went to the air, completing a stretch of passes that effectively ended the game in the third quarter.
Longer Term Ramifications
Performances like that on Sunday are ones that shake the entire franchise to its foundations. This one would have been felt right through to ownership due to the manner which the Texans fell. They appeared like a team looking for a high draft pick, rather than one of genuine aspirations for success.
Coach/GM/Grand-Leader OB should be sweating it out in his office this week as he’s placed a lot of the teams future on this and next season. If this is the return that he’s providing to ownership and fans alike, it’s difficult to defend his position.
Cal McNair was reported to have told him AFC Championship was the barometer or it would lead to consequences. The validity of that report will be tested in the coming months. However, its clear that this team under OB his teams are prone to turning in performances like this. The K.C. play-off 30-0 drubbing, the painful memories of Atlanta and Miami away in 2015 still linger, in recent memory. This is not forgetting the terrible showings in last years wild card round.
Often OB has disregarded those around him, players and coaches alike, when the blame-game initiates after a terrible loss. It will be interesting to see who is the latest sacrifice, if there are any. Perhaps the best right guard in football, Brandon Brooks was ailienatetd in previous aftermaths. Health and maturity were issues with Brooks but he’s found a way to be an elite talent post leaving this team and a one point was supposedly a source of our problems, according to the man who holds all the power in his hands.
Turning the Page?
The Texans have no choice to get ready for the Colts game this coming Thursday. The need to win this week cannot be understated, anything but a victory would be unthinkable for the team. A win and then a season saving performance against England needs to be the focus with the luxury of having three extra days to prepare. However, after yesterdays debacle it’s difficult to have faith in the O’Brien dream that he’s sold the McNair’s for 6 years as the results are eerily similar, they just have taken of various guises of failure.
The year in which the Raven’s won the 2012 Superbowl, the last time any team did so without being a top two seed in their conference, the Texans did blow them out in a week 7, 43-17 win. History does have an un-earthly ability to repeat itself. Could it do so in reverse? After watching yesterday, it would require a grand optimist to believe that it may even be plausible. But this league changes in hurry and now the Texans have three home games in a row and a double header with the Titans, separated by a Saturday trip to Tampa, to make amends.
It will start onThursday night, in front of the home crowd for the first time since October 6th. A road to redemption is possible but would seem unlikely as we currently sit through 10 games of this 2019 season.