NRG Stadium on Saturday displayed what the Houston Texans have been avoiding all season heading into the Wild Card weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs. Stats did not matter after the Texans walked off the field for the last time of the 2015 season.
The Texans went into the game having to prove they were not a product of a weak AFC South division which saw them handle their rivals late in the season. The hot-handed Chiefs came into Houston riding a 10-game winning streak and won their first playoff game since 1994.
The day was marred with controversy before warmups took place.
Let’s rewind back to when inactives were turned in and the list included Jadeveon Clowney. Reports came flooding through the social media world of him being unhappy with the decision for him to take this one in from the sideline. Clowney felt he was able to go but the team did not think he was ready for game time.
“I don’t think he was close,” said O’Brien of Clowney. “We talked about that towards the end of the week. I felt terrible for him. I mean, he wasn’t able to push off the foot and run basically. Really do the things that he was going to have to do in this game, so that was why we decided to try to give him another week if we were to – obviously, it didn’t happen that way.”
There were reports that Clowney left the stadium but those reports were inaccurate as he stayed at the stadium to handle family business. For the record Clowney was seen pretty quickly after the alleged storming out of the stadium.
Clowney cannot escape the injury bug and, at this point, there was a difference of opinion on the status of the player.
In the first 11 seconds of the game, the Texans were smacked in the mouth, watching a 106-yard kickoff return come back for a touchdown by Knile Davis. The Texans special teams unit has been vulnerable on returns over the past month with the team shuffling personnel. It finally caught up to them.
Then the turnover barrage started courtesy of Brian Hoyer deepening the Texans hole, just like he did in week one of the season against the same team. It is clear the two concussions that Hoyer suffered this season clearly affected how he stood in the pocket. He showed it in the final game of the season and against the Chiefs, feeling and ducking pressure that was not there. Not being comfortable in the pocket led to overthrown passes, well wide of his receivers.
Despite Hoyer’s debacle and the even with the two turnovers, the Texans were still in the game.
Only down 10-0.
With 4:52 left in the first half, the Texans were moving down the field on a drive totaling 6 plays for 78 yards to that point. Alfred Blue had ripped off a 49-yard run and Jonathan Grimes put the offense inside the 5-yard line with a 8-yard run, making people miss.
This was rolled out on 1st-and-goal from the two yard line.
The jumbo package included J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and Kendall Lamm coming in to replace Hoyer, the running back, and DeAndre Hopkins. Watt is no threat to throw the football to C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, Jay Prosch, Vince Wilfork or Lamm. It was pretty clear what direction this play is headed.
“It was a jumbo package and we felt like it was going to work and it didn’t work. That’s on me,” said O’Brien.
Watt talked about the play, “Yeah we have had that play in there for weeks now and just never had the opportunity to run it. We ran it today and they did a great job stopping it.“
Either way, the play, the timing, the situation, and even the result was poorly done by the Texans in every conceivable aspect. The offense pulled their best red zone threat in Hopkins for this set at such a crucial part of the game. Watt was dealing with a broken hand and injured groin but the Texans felt him commanding the offense was their best option in the red zone at first and goal. There is no throwing away downs in the playoffs and the Texans did just that.
Then in a matter of 9 seconds Hoyer threw his next pass into the arms of Chiefs defender to take away the Texans only real threat of scoring.
Add in two more interceptions from Hoyer, the boos started raining down on the Texans.
Further adding to the fiasco, Watt ended up aggravating his groin and was pulled out of the game, so the Texans operating with only one real pass rusher in Mercilus. No Clowney or Watt put the Texans defense dead in the water. Especially with them spending so much time on the field trying to keep the Chiefs from scoring.
Even with Watt being knocked out of the game, the defense was the least of the concern during the game. They showed what it takes to win games but by the end of it, they were broken down by the lack of help from the offensive side of the ball.
Body language went south for the Texans, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Dropped passes, hanging heads, and the lack of fire the team showed with the continuous mistakes by Hoyer on the field.
O’Brien made it clear he had no intentions of replacing Hoyer with backup Brandon Weeden. Third string QB B.J. Daniels was not active so the Texans were unable to take pressure off of Hoyer, even for a short amount of time with creative play-calling. The game ended with Hoyer on the field, going down with the ship and being O’Brien’s chosen quarterback after his waffling at the start of the season.
As this game ended, issues that haunted the Texans coming into the season were exactly the things that made them appear inept on Saturday: quarterback question marks, a tight end group which was not good enough, and who was going to help take pressure off of Hopkins? All these issues were made glaringly apparent by the Chiefs in the playoffs, for all the world to see.
The Texans were outmatched on Saturday starting at the quarterback position. As great the Texans have used all of these quarterbacks over the past two seasons and as much as the team has been able to get them to seemingly outperform their abilities, these quarterback decisions came back to haunt the Texans.
Bottom line is that Saturday was a mess and the Texans won a bad AFC South division to get into the playoffs. The Texans will be picking 21st with a Washington Redskins win or 22nd with a Green Bay Packers win.
The season does not change what the Texans need to do: find a quarterback who can be more than a stop gap for this organization.