Another year, another Houston Texans playoff embarrassment.
Reminiscent of their 30-0 2015 Wild Card round playoff loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Texans looked completely lost on both sides of the ball right from the outset Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium in a 21-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that was not nearly as close as the final score indicated.
On the Colts’ opening drive, they converted two third down plays (both times on passes to notorious Texans killer T.Y. Hilton), and a long pass to Hilton (three catches, 63 yards on the drive) set up short touchdown throw from Andrew Luck to Eric Ebron.
The Colts’ offense made it look easy again after a Texans three-and-out, and by the end of the first quarter, Indy had as many touchdowns (two) as Houston had first downs.
A few plays after the Colts got the ball back again on a Deshaun Watson interception, a tipped pass that was intercepted by Texans nose tackle Brandon Dunn resulted in a red zone stop, but only delayed the inevitable.
The Texans’ offense responded to the big turnover with a three-and-out drive flatter than Lubbock and Luck continued to carve the Texans defense like a Thanksgiving turkey to give the Colts a 21-0 lead on their ensuing drive.
The Colts racked up an astounding 276 yards in the first half and were 6-for-6 on third-down plays. Meanwhile, in catch-up mode, the Texans missed on two fourth-down attempts, both because of inaccurate throws by quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was uncharacteristically out of sync for much of Saturday’s game.
In common Texans fashion when it comes to their one-sided losses, the defense stiffened up and the offense found the end zone in the second half to make the game look better on paper, but make no mistake about it, this was a one-sided beatdown.
The Texans now drop to 1-3 in playoff games under head coach Bill O’Brien (with the one win coming two years ago over an Oakland Raiders team that was down to their third-string quarterback), and none of the losses have been close.
Typically, when a team looks so utterly unprepared for a game, like the Texans looked Saturday and have looked before in the postseason, some heat may be directed at the head coach, but don’t expect that now, as a four-year contract extension for O’Brien kicks in next season.
So, the focus should be how to make this team better, because with a young quarterback and dynamic players on both sides of the ball, the future could actually be bright for the Texans.
First, this franchise needs to stop treating the offensive line like an afterthought. Watson was sacked more this season than any quarterback since 2014. The front office should be pursuing the best free agents and use multiple draft picks to address the O-line.
Second, whether it be through free agency or the draft, this team needs a lockdown cornerback. Veteran Johnathan Joseph is getting long in the tooth for the position, and Kareem Jackson is better suited for the safety position. Out of the Colts’ 276 first-half yards, 191 were through the air, and in Week 16’s loss at Philadelphia, Eagles backup QB Nick Foles came close to 500 passing yards.
Third, the Texans need to look for some insurance at wide receiver. When healthy, receivers Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee have proven to be an intriguing deep threat-slot combination, but both also have time and again proven to be injury risks. With some of the receivers the Texans were forced to have in the lineup, it’s amazing that star wideout DeAndre Hopkins had as good a season as he did.
Finally, consider adding a dynamic, independent-minded offensive coordinator to the coaching staff. O’Brien taking on both the head coach and OC roles might be too much for him to handle, and new perspective could be beneficial for a head coach who will be entering his sixth season with the team in 2019.