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Red Zone Play: They Are Who We Thought They Were

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Welcome to the battle red roller coaster, where the Houston Texans will take us to the highest highs (beating the New England Patriots soundly on Sunday Night Football) to the lowest lows (losing to a rookie QB-led non-contender with a halftime score differential higher than either teams’ average total game points).

Anyone who’s been a football fan for any amount of time has seen the famous Dennis Green post-game meltdown when his Arizona Cardinals got pantsed by the inferior Chicago Bears roughly a decade ago.

Well, not only is Denver a non-contender starting a rookie quarterback, but the Texans are a team many of us have been claiming “play down to the level of their opponent” for most of the Bill O’Brien era. Sure, the Texans have some injury issues, some bad luck, and as many officiating concerns as the other 31 NFL teams, but there’s simply no valid excuse for getting beaten by the Broncos this badly, especially at home.

How exactly can a team come out, decisively beat the reigning Super Bowl champions one week and get utterly destroyed by a team that won’t even sniff a playoff game (unless they buy tickets) the next?

Bill O’Brien:

I feel like we — you know, I feel like we have a ton of consistent people on the coaching staff and on the team, but we don’t play consistently. We have more wins and losses this year, but I think that’s a fair criticism of this team. That’s a reflection of the head coach. We’ve got to get the team to play more consistently.

Until the Texans figure this out, the roller coaster will keep on rollin’.

Meanwhile, much is being made of the Texans’ win-loss pattern this season. All year long, Houston has lost one game after winning two in a row. While many seem to think this is a predictor of future success, the same team that got smoked like a cheap brisket last weekend could get destroyed more convincingly (if that’s even possible) this weekend when Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans host Houston for a game with major divisional crown implications. The Titans are coming off a lopsided win of their own, thrashing the Oakland Raiders last weekend 42-21 in a game that was tied 21 all at the half. Here’s what Houston will be up against:

Titans Online:

Ryan Tannehill is now 6-1 since taking over as the team’s starting quarterback, and he’s posted a passer rating of 100-plus in six of those contests and 130-plus in four of those games. Tannehill’s 391-yard game, with a 140.4 rating and three touchdown passes, on Sunday in Oakland was a dandy. The veteran QB continued to spread the ball around, finding 10 different targets on the day. How hot is No.17? Well, Tannehill joined Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (three games in 2011) as the only players to complete at least 75 percent of their passes with a passer rating of 130 or higher (minimum 10 attempts) in three consecutive games in a single season in NFL history. He also joined Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (five games in 2015) as the only players with four consecutive games with at least two passing touchdowns and a passer rating of 125 or higher in NFL history.

Derrick Henry has 599 yards and seven touchdowns in the last four contests, and he’s averaged 8.2, 8.4, 5.7 and 5.7 yards per carry in those contests.

A.J. Brown is a physical specimen who is hard to corral with the football in his hands. Exhibit A came on Brown’s 91-yard touchdown catch, when he caught the ball near midfield and then brushed off a would-be tackler with ease. But Brown really showed his grit on the 16-yard touchdown grab, when he bounced off three would-be tacklers like he was in a pinball machine on the way to the end zone. Brown finished with five catches for 153 yards and the two scores. He became the first rookie in the “Titans era” with three 100-yard receiving games.

Titans offense: The team reached 30 points for the fourth consecutive game, accomplishing the feat for the first time since 2003. In the past four games, the Titans have scored a whopping 150 points.

If Bill O’Brien wants to keep his team in the game on Sunday, they’re going to have to overcome several trends, with inconsistency week to week being the first and sleepwalking through the first quarter being the second.

Sara Barshop:

Through Week 14, Houston has scored 30 first-quarter points, which is the second fewest in the NFL, ahead of only the Washington Redskins (23), according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Texans have been outscored 65-30 in first quarters.

If the Denver Broncos, who lack much offensive firepower, can drop 31 points on Houston in the gridiron equivalent of an eye blink, Vrabel’s squad is probably drooling over the chance they’ll have against O’Brien’s slow starting, A-gap on first down offense and Romeo Crennel’s seven-yard-cushion defensive scheme.

Of course, the Texans bounced back after getting demolished by the Baltimore Ravens , winning crucial games against the Colts and Patriots. They should bounce back again this week. Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Carlos Hyde and the rest of the offense will need to fire early and often to make that happen. At the end of the day, if Watson and the gang can keep Houston in it throughout the first half, they should be able to wrap this one up and continue the win two/lose one pattern.

This is just life as a Houston Texans fan in 2019 – win some, lose some, and ride the roller coaster high and low. If Houston can get the cars to click and climb the tracks, great things might just be on the horizon. On the other hand, one more unexpected descent and this year may just be in the history books.

What do you think needs to be done to fix the inconsistency and for Houston to stop letting teams off the hook?

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Author:

Mike Bullock

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