First, the good news: the Texans appeared to escape Foxborough without further injuries — except to their pride — and they’re still in the driver’s seat for homefield advantage throughout the postseason. The bad news, though, in the wake of again being completely embarrassed in prime time, this time a 42-14 evisceration courtesy of the Patriots, is, well, everything else.
The Texans could have played the perfect game against the Patriots and lost. Instead, they made every mistake imaginable, from QB Matt Schaub uncharacteristically forcing throws and missing wide-open checkdowns, to S Glover Quin and ILB Tim Dobbins acting like they’ve never defended a play-action pass, to Danieal Manning literally failing to cover Aaron Hernandez — in the red zone, no less.
There were drops aplenty. The Texans failed to recover not one but two New England fumbles in the red zone. Heck, even the great J.J. Watt looked ordinary next to the extraordinary efforts of Vince Wilfork, who dominated the Texans’ offensive line and rendered head coach Gary Kubiak’s game plan useless.
Kubiak wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, coach to get completely outschemed by Bill Belichick, but it would have been nice to see him make some adjustments on the fly and at least keep fighting. Instead, he helped Wilfork’s dominant performance by stubbornly running in that direction when it wasn't working. His first third-down play call of the game on Houston’s first offensive series was a downfield pass for third WR Lester Jean, no better than Schaub’s fifth-most trusted pass catcher. The Texans were penalized seven times for 70 yards, including a number of backbreakers that gave Tom Brady new life on third down. The best third-down defense in the NFL heading into Monday allowed the Pats to convert 50 percent of their tries. Perhaps the worst, though, was Kubiak throwing in the towel early in the second half.
It was an absolute pasting, to be sure, eerily similar to the complete and utter deconstructing by the Packers in Week Six. The Texans went on a six-game winning streak following that eye sore, including turning the tables on the previously undefeated Ravens the very next week. Can they again rebound on a short week, with the hungry Colts coming into Reliant, not satisfied with a wild-card berth but instead looking to steal a division out from under the Texans’ nose?
I expect to see the best the Texans have to offer against the Colts.
There was one line of thinking that said maybe the Texans would be better off losing this one to the Patriots, with the two teams potentially on a collision course to meet in the AFC championship game. It is almost impossible to beat Belichick and Brady twice in one year, after all. Not sure this type of roasting applies to that line of thinking, however.
Houston obviously has big problems, starting with another high-caliber QB coming their way Sunday. Andrew Luck has been far too giving on the road this season, but the Texans’ pass defense has been lit up more in the past month than Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas time.
And what happened to the offense, most visible on the back of a milk carton for the past six quarters, against a pair of mediocre defenses in the Titans and Pats, respectively?
As bad as it was Monday night, the sun rose this morning with the Texans at 11-2, still well positioned to clinch a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the postseason. It’s all still in front of them. But guess who else will likely be in front of them come playoff time?
Brady or Peyton Manning.
One loss, no matter how glaring, doesn’t undo all the good the Texans have done this season. But failing to learn from their mistakes will. I guess that’s more good news — they have an awful lot they can learn from after this one — and I think this team is too proud and too talented not to do just that.
The Patriots are still the class of the AFC, but the Texans are far better than we saw Monday night.