NEW ENGLAND — After starting off 2-0, the Houston Texans’ regular-season winning streak came to a screeching halt and are no longer undefeated following an abysmal performance to the New England Patriots, where they were shutout 27-0.
Oh, and the Patriots had their third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett starting, too.
Committing three turnovers that culminated into 14 points for New England, the Texans’ offense was utterly ineffective—especially the play-calling on third down—and their leaky defense was emphatically exposed. Missed tackles were the Texans’ achilles heel all night long.
“We didn’t play well and they played very well,” J.J. Watt said.
Watt’s summarization is exact, yet, it’s not that New England played better, it’s that they executed better and protected the football—something Houston failed to accomplish in any way.
In fact, on offense, Houston failed to manage crossing midfield until there was under two minutes left in the third quarter, which describes the sheer mundaneness they deployed onto the field Thursday night.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler, who hasn’t exactly put on a clinic since taking the reins, was invisible.
Throwing 24 of 41 for 196 yards and one interception—which brings his total to four on the season and second most in the league—Osweiler’s recurring issue is slinging the pigskin into tight coverage. While his receivers weren’t doing him any favors either by dropping wide-open balls, Osweiler must limit the turnovers and minimize the risky pass placements.
“I tried forcing a football where the football probably shouldn’t have gone and that was something that we talked about throughout the week,” Osweiler said in regards to his pick. “That’s a throw I need to learn from. And when a team’s playing zone like they are, I need to check the ball down and take the sure completion.”
The lone bright spot—if there really was any—was Lamar Miller, who rushed 21 times for 80 yards and essentially responsible for any drive momentum. DeAndre Hopkins hauled down four catches for 54 yards, which wound up being tops on the night for Texans’ receivers. Will Fuller failed to crack three-straight 100-yard outings and finished with a measly three catches for 31 yards.
Obviously the offense didn’t muster anything, given the goose egg, but the turnovers on special teams ultimately proved to be the deciding factor. Charles James fumbled the ball on a kickoff return in the first quarter which led to a 27-yard scamper from Brissett, and Tyler Ervin also coughed up the ball on a separate kickoff return that resulted in a LeGarrette Blount touchdown.
Other than Miller on offense, linebacker Bernardrick McKinney shined by racking up a total of 16 tackles, five solo tackles and one sack. McKinney’s 16 combined tackles were a new game career high and he now has one more sack than he did all of last season. He currently leads the entire league with 29 total tackles.
Head coach Bill O’Brien knows the offense and turnovers on special teams hurt them, but the whole group needs to conjure up a better effort if they want to rank among the league’s top squads.
“Can’t do that,” O’Brien said. “Can’t turn the ball over on special teams. Can’t turn the ball over on offense. Didn’t do anything on offense and it just was not a good night; starting with the coaching, playing, nothing was good. But it’s early in the season, we turn a page here and regroup. But we just can’t do those things if we’re going to try to be a good team.”
The two words that O’Brien kept reiterating was “regroup” and “execute.” Heading into a lengthy off period where they’ll go toe-to-toe against their divisional opponent, the Tennessee Titans, back in Houston for Week 4, the Texans will have the opportunity to work on both.
“You’re not going to win any games if you don’t score any points,” he said.
They’ll have to work on that, too.