March 22, 2018

The Rundown: Tick, Tick, Boom (Cardinals Edition)

The clock has struck midnight again on the Houston Texans and pushed a franchise long seven game losing streak and a record of 2 and 7. There are so many issues with this team and the Texans are sinking fast with this loss on Sunday. The implosion looks like it has happened and the Texans are their own worst enemies.

The story is the same. The Texans are finding ways to lose despite doing everything they can to get into position to win. Sunday was just another chapter in the team’s “How To Lose Football Games” book and, despite another valiant effort, the end result was the same.

The Rundown


Offense to Blame for Second Half Meltdown

Another collapse late and this time it was an offensive unit that was inept in the second half. The Texans offensive unit in the second half had 27 offensive snaps for 43 total yards (42 passing, 1 rushing yard) and set up the team for a total failure, once again. To make matters worse, Case Keenum was in run for his life mode with a swarming Cardinals defense where he went 6 for 16 for 42 yards and 1 touchdown in the second half. The Texans got away from the running game and depended on Keenum to push the offense, but that was all for not with some questionable play calling and pass protection.


Defense Kept the Texans Alive

The Texans defense was on the field for 41 plays, were moved around with ease and could not get off the field soon enough. The Texans defense made key turnovers (three) which resulted in 10 points for the offense. The defense is finally producing on defense and creating those turnovers, but the results at the end are still the same. The defense has some major holes and it starts with the defensive line (not named J.J. Watt) and the outside linebackers who are not getting the job done when it counts. They make the defense go and help the secondary in coverage, but there is some disconnects in what they need to do in the run game and when they need to step up the pass rush from the outside. It has been a bad combination all season, and with the injuries piling up the defense is searching for answers.


Two Plays Decided the Game 

The first play of the game when John Abraham beat Derek Newton around the corner to cause a fumble on Case Keenum that resulted in a touchdown on the first play of the game. The Texans started in a hole where Newton once again gave a corner to a rusher that resulted in a play on the quarterback.

The second play was because of an alignment issue by rookie Ryan Griffin which created a short corner to set up a blocked field goal.



Right tackle and special teams once again came back to haunt the Texans and this time it cost them the game.


Running Back Situation Hurting the Texans

Arian Foster out for the season, Ben Tate with four broken ribs, Dennis Johnson and Ray Graham with rookie experience and Deji Karim as the third running back has really hampered the Texans offense. Pass protection has been the biggest issue and the running backs (minus Tate) are struggling. There is no more domination from the Texans running game and it is directly tied to the health of the position group. Tate is doing what he is asked to do despite his injury, but they still have to be careful not to expose him too much to end his season with another hit on his ribs. As fast and as good looking Johnson can look with the football in his hands, his pass protection issues came to light against the Cardinals and he had no clue in certain situations what to do. Add in that Johnson is not the biggest player on the roster, he is a work in progress which does not match well with a struggling offensive line.


More Injuries

Kareem Jackson has a sternum issue where he says he has trouble breathing, which will require an MRI on Monday.

Elbert Mack left the game early with a hamstring injury.

Linebacker Joe Mays had an oblique injury that kept him out for short series in the second quarter.


Player Rundown

D.J. Swearinger had a coming out party with his first interception of his career, but more than anything he was all over the field making plays and being around the football. He did have some mental busts in coverage late in the game, but this was his most productive game since coming to the Texans. As rookie busts are expected, there will be good with the bad with his style of play. Playing time is the only thing that will help Swearinger, and he is becoming more comfortable in his role on the team.

Andre Johnson has to like the change at quarterback and him notching two more touchdowns to give him five in the last two games. He is racking up the stats and proving that if he gets a quarterback that can get him the football to work, Johnson is going to make things happen. He made two outstanding catches in the end zone that both required instant replay to confirm. He is still producing at a high level which is a good thing to see in such a downer of a season.

J.J. Watt causes two fumbles and recovers both of them. He is still one of the best defensive players in the league. The defense is depending on the effort of Watt to set the tone from the first snap, but teams are sending two and three blockers his direction to slow him down. He is a one man gang and he can only do so much from the inside of the defense.

Case Keenum is sort of a tricky one to describe, but the entire game it looked like he was not comfortable throwing the football. His comfort level was in question before the Cardinals brought the heat in the second half, and in the second half he struggled with reads. The rush made him throw off balance all day and was short hopping throws because of the lack of time. When Keenum did have time to work, he made some poor decisions trying to make big plays down the field instead of working underneath to open receivers. He is taking care of the ball and producing touchdowns through the air for the Texans, which is way more than former starter Matt Schaub has brought to the team this season. It is going to be a learning process for him moving forward and, despite his gaudy stats, his second half performances in three games have been below average.

Jeff Tarpinian and Josh Victorian made their mark on the field in their first game as Texans players. Tarpinian filled in for an injured Joe Mays and provided some stout run defense and was part of the pressure that caused the Swearinger interception. As for Victorian, he was making plays on special teams and did some spot work for the Texans defense. He had a special teams tackle and flashed on the field when he had the chance. These new players the Texans have brought in have made some difference in their short time with the team.

Brandon Harris, for as much criticism he has taken for not getting on the field, showed against the Cardinals why he deserves the chance to be on the field. He filled in at the nickel and boundary corner when both Kareem Jackson (sternum) and Johnathan Joseph went out for the game. He made tackles and had a key pass break up in the end zone to take away a touchdown that would have put the game out of reach. There has to be questions on when he will get the chance, especially with the poor play of Brice McCain this season who was beat once again for a touchdown that put the game out of reach. McCain has been a liability all season and Harris, when given the chance, has produced. Something has to give for Harris to make it back on the field.



You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.

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