If someone told you that Deshaun Watson was going to throw five touchdown passes while not turning the ball over, you’d probably feel fairly confident that it would result in a Texans’ victory over the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
You’d also identify yourself as someone who does not follow Houston sports.
Yes, the good guys managed to come up short on Sunday night despite an impressive (although maddeningly inconsistent) performance from their rookie quarterback. Unfortunately for Houston, Watson’s second consecutive five touchdown effort wasn’t even the story of the night, as both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus were lost to season-ending injuries on the game’s first drive.
Watson did his part to try to bring the Texans back — throwing three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter alone — but it was too little, too late. His slow start, coupled with a terrible effort from the suddenly-short handed defense, allowed the Chiefs to jump out to a 16-0 lead that they would never relinquish. Houston would only close to within one score for a very brief moment in the fourth quarter, then again on the game’s final play: a two-point conversion from Watson following his fifth touchdown pass as time expired.
Watson’s five touchdowns and zero turnovers were a boon for fantasy football owners, but his 51.6% completion percentage — largely a product of a dreadful 2-7 start on Houston’s first three drives — will need to be improved upon.
Remember: there are no moral victories here at Deep Steel Blues, so the question must be asked: who screwed the pooch? For your consideration:
As legendary head coach Jerry Glanville once said, “This is the NFL, which stands for Not For Long” if you’re a defensive coordinator whose unit can’t get a stop on 3rd down.
(It could be argued that “legendary” may be overstating Glanville’s effectiveness as a coach and that the “Not For Long” line was actually in reference to poor officiating, but let’s stay on topic here, people.)
Kansas City successfully converted eight of its first 11 third downs (9/16 overall) en route to a 23-7 halftime lead. Considering the Texans had been one of the better 3rd down defenses in the league prior to Sunday night’s contest, the argument could be made that the loss of Watt and Mercilus early in the game contributed to the uncharacteristic inefficiency.
Which brings us to our second nominee:
The Football Gods
Seriously, what have Houston football fans done to deserve this? Heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss (I could go on) for the Oilers in the playoffs followed by fifteen years of quarterback ineptitude. Now we finally have a competent signal caller in charge of an explosive offense…and you see fit to take away our two best pass rushers?
Whatever sacrifice is required at the altar of the football gods (I’m looking at you, Toro), it shall be carried out, and that right early. Because I can’t take much more of this.
Joseph looked completely lost in coverage on a number of occasions, including a 38-yard completion to Tyreke Hill that allowed the Chiefs to convert on a 3rd & 16 from their own 40 yard line. That drive resulted in a field goal that pushed Kansas City’s lead to 26-13.
After Houston closed the gap to 26-20, Joseph was beaten for another big play: an 18-yard reception by Ross Travis, who made the play despite a holding call against Joseph. That drive concluded with a touchdown that saw the Chiefs extend the lead to 32-13.
That play may have been the dagger, if not for…
Remember the good old days when the Texans’ special teams was a team strength?
Houston currently ranks dead last in opponents’ punt return average and 27th in kickoff coverage. So it should have come as no surprise when Kansas City speedster Tyreke Hill scored on an 82-yard punt return in the 4th quarter that finally put the game out of reach.
Just how bad is Houston’s special teams unit? Consider this: the Texans have finished 24th or worse in either opponents’ punt return average or kickoff return average every season since 2012. The punt return coverage has been in the NFL’s bottom four on three occasions during that time (not including this year) and both units finished 25th or worse in 2013, 2014, and 2016.
I hereby decree that Houston’s coverage teams shall be referred to on this blog as “the unit(s)” until they have demonstrated that the term “special” does, in fact, belong.
So let it be written, so let it be done.