The look on J.J. Watt’s face said it all. All he could do was muster a “Why, football gods? WHY?” smirk, as the Indianapolis Colts’ defense fell on a bad snap from Nick Martin to Deshaun Watson, deep in the shadows of the Colts’ goalpost, inside the opposing two yard line. It would have been an amazing, gritty win, if the Texans could have punched it in, but they didn’t. They lost, again, in confounding, heartbreaking fashion, 26-20 to the Indianapolis Colts, falling to 4-8 on the season.
So now, the season is mathematically over. Even if the Texans win out, the best they can do is 8-8, which will not be close to good enough in a pretty stacked AFC. In some ways, it’s appropriate that it was THIS game that closed the book on 2020, because with Bill O’Brien pulling the strings this past offseason, it turned out that the season was really over before it even started.
Whitney Mercilus. Nick Martin. Ka’imi Fairbairn. Eric Murray. David Johnson. Hell, even Randall Cobb, who didn’t play but was very easily replaced by Keke Coutee. These were all horrific Bill O’Brien contractual decisions that were on display in some shape, form, or fashion on Sunday. The malpractice that was the O’Brien Era torpedoed the entire season, and Sunday was a microcosm of that.
On that note, let’s get to winners and losers….
4. T.Y. Hilton
Hilton is a Texans killer, having racked up over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns in 16 career games against the Texans coming into Sunday. Yesterday, Hilton was slicing the Texans throughout the first half, with seven catches for 100 yards and the Colts’ first touchdown of the afternoon. The Texans bottled him up in the second half, only one catch for ten yards, but the damage was done. Hilton had his eighth 100 yard game of his career against the Texans. he has 26 against the other 30 teams in the league combined.
3. Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen, century mark!
Speaking of 100 yard games, the Texans actually had TWO receivers hit the century mark yesterday. Yes, that’s right, on a day where their wide receiving corps was decimated by suspension and attrition, Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen, of all people, eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Coutee had eight catches for 141 yards, and Hansen, who was on the practice squad on Friday, had five catches for 101 yards. The Coutee performance, especially, highlighted just how petty and self-destructive Bill O’Brien was as the head coach and GM of this team. O’Brien had Coutee in his personal doghouse for most of the last two seasons, despite flashes that the third year WR is really, REALLY talented in that timeframe. In fact, O’Brien’s lack of trust in Coutee led the former GM to signing Randall Cobb to a bloated $9 million per year deal as the slot receiver for this team. Good for Coutee, getting a small bit of redemption on Sunday.
2. Kendall Lamm
Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Browns are 9-3, Baker Mayfield is looking like a franchise quarterback, and their offense is enough of a heat check to where they are feeding former Texans’ swing tackle Kendall Lamm in the red zone!
The Browns should be an inspiration for the Texans this offseason, a talented team that was clearly poorly coached by Freddie Kitchens last season. Kevin Stefanski has come in, retooled some things offensively, provided a steadying influence, and VOILA — the Browns are a playoff team!
1. J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt said in his press conference this past week that he feels better now than he has all season, which is great news for 2021, assuming Watt is still here in 2021. For the third straight game, Watt was supremely impactful — four passes defended against the Patriots in Week 11, the pick six last week against the Lions, and yesterday he had a sack and four tackles for loss. Watt has been back to his old self the last month or so…..
JJ Watt. Good at football pic.twitter.com/hTieCJbJoN
— Nick Scurfield (@NickScurfield) December 6, 2020
4. Whitney Mercilus
If you go look at the box score for this game on ESPN.com, you would not know that Whitney Mercilus was active for this game, but he was. No, I swear, he played. Actually, he played a LOT. And he had ZERO impact. Literally, ZERO. No tackles, no sacks, no QB hits, no nothing. Punter Bryan Anger and more tackles than Whitney Mercilus. Hell, I HAD JUST AS MANY! So did you! AND YOU… AND YOU…. AND YOU! Whitney’s contract is the biggest contractual disaster in team history, worse than Brock Osweiler, worse than Ahman Green, it’s awful. Four years, $54 million. He is making $13.5 million per year, and 12 games into this season, he has 20 tackles. TWENTY. On top of that, he looks out of shape, and just flat out uninterested. I’m getting worked up with O’Brien anger just typing this paragraph.
3. Isaiah Coulter
The Texans started the season with a four man wide receiver depth chart of Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Kenny Stills. Then three of those four were deep sized for different reasons — suspension, injury, outright release, The Texans moved Keke Coutee up the depth chart, and called Stevie Mitchell and Chad Hansen up from the practice squad. I point all this out to highlight the fact that, for yet another week, fifth round rookie WR Isaiah Coulter was inactive. If you’re a wide receiver on this roster who isn’t getting on the field THIS season, even as a rookie, that’s not a great sign for this team’s ability to develop or evaluate (or both) young players.
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2. First drive… defense?
Much has been made this season about the Texans’ offense on their opening drives of games, and if we are being fully truthful, it’s been a three season problem with the offense. It persisted again on Sunday, as the Texans went three and out to open the game. However, there’s been a disturbing trend defensively for the Texans early in games, as well. (As if the Texans’ defense needed anymore disturbing trends.) Since Week 7, the Texans’ defense has given up points on the opposing team’s opening drive in EVERY game, and in five of those six games, the score has been a touchdown. This is not a team built to paddle upstream, and this is the worst kind of complementary football you could draw up.
1. RAC clock management
If you’re looking for a point where the honeymoon ended between Texan fans and interim head coach Romeo Crennel, a honeymoon fueled largely by the mere fact that Crennel is NOT named “Bill O’Brien,” look no further than the end of the first half of Sunday’s game, where Crennel burned the Texans’ second timeout of the half to ice the Colts’ kicker on a 42 yard field goal. Then, the timeout would have come in awfully handy as the Texans drove down deep in Colts’ territory, where Crennel decided with eight seconds to go in the half, to kick a field goal on third down. That left the score at 24-20. Deshaun Watson was visibly upset. The Texans wouldn’t score again the rest of the afternoon. Crennel, ironically, summed it up best in his postgame presser:
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