Offense Can’t Get into a Rhythm as Chargers Shock the Texans At Home

On Sunday, playing against the San Diego Chargers, the Houston Texans had a chance to make a statement to the AFC that they were playoff contenders by continuing their home game winning streak. However, they failed to do so, with the Chargers Quarterback Phillip Rivers capitalizing on the four turnovers that were committed by the Texans offense. Defensively, even though the Texans allowed the Chargers to put up 21 points, this total was still 8 points below San Diego’s season average; and while they were able to come away with an interception, they not only committed multiple penalties, but also failed to get the quarterback on multiple occasions. This allowed the Chargers offense to sustain drives down field, and ultimately led to the Houston Texans defeat.

This, coupled with the fact the Texans offense could not sustain drives down field consistently, put the Texans in a very poor position for the 4th quarter; and despite their last minute heroics, they came up short. Today, we analyze each position; find out what they did right, what they need help with, and grade them based on their performance.

Offense

Running backs: Lamar Miller had a rough day. Not only was the passing sporadic throughout the game, he had to face a Charger defense that is ranked number 5 in the NFL when defending the run. To make matters worse, on his best run of the day (20 yards), he fumbled and the ball was recovered by the defense. He ended the day with 57 yards on 19 carries on the ground, and had 3 receptions for 18 yards, a total of 74 yards on 22 touches from scrimmage – this adds up to a dismal 3.4 yard average. Johnathan Grimes had 2 carries for 19 yards near the end of the 2nd half, and Akeem Hunt came in for the inactive Alfred Blue and had a 16 yard scamper, which helped spark a drive that led to the first points for the Texans in the game.  miller

Final Take: While the good news is that the Texans have continued their streak of rushing for over 100 yards per game (Osweiler chipped in 23 yards on 3 carries, and Akeem Hunt had another run for 3 yards) the overall outing was dismal at best. While Lamar Miller has had some strong outings this season, he has not been the kind of runner that the team can rely on for points; which is what the Houston Texans need him for. In the future, whether or not they can depend on Osweiler to throw the ball, it is imperative that Offensive Coordinator Greg Godsey finds a way to get the running game to be effective on a consistent basis.

Grade: C-

Receivers: This week, Deandre Hopkins had 70 yards receiving against one of the top corners in the NFL in Casey Hayward; this included a 19 yard circus catch to open the game, and another 19 yard catch that opened up the 3rd quarter. But, unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get open on a consistent basis, nor find a way to recapture his magic from his game the previous week (vs. the Raiders). Will Fuller had a little more luck against Craig Mager, hauling 4 passes for 60 yards; 33 of these came from a deep pass from Osweiler and put the Texans in the red zone to lead in the first score of the game. Tight ends C.J Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin gathered a total of 8 receptions and over 75 yards, providing a safety blanket for Osweiler to throw to. Braxton Miller was utilized, but did not offer the offense as much of a punch as the Texans had hoped for. The rookie had 1 rushing attempting that went for 1 yard, and a reception that went for 12 yards.

Final Take: While this group was able to put up some respectable numbers (239 yards through the air), no one was able to get in the end zone or get more than 5 receptions. They may have been able to get some separation at times, but QB play doomed this part of the offense. If Osweiler is unable to utilize his weapons, this sides’ passing game will remain stagnant.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line: This group produced a fairly disappointing performance on Sunday. While they gave Osweiler a strong pocket to pass (allowing only 1 sack) This unit also committed 3 of the six penalties in the game, one of which killed any attempt at mustering a 2 minute drive together near the end of the 2nd quarter. Another concern is that they were unable to open holes in the running game, which did not help the offense’s already poor outing.

Final Take: The offensive line has done well for most of the season, but their failures on Sunday need to be addressed. This group is the glue that gives the offense the best shot to succeed so late in the season.

Grade: C-

Defense

Defensive Line: Zero. That’s the number of sacks the defensive line got on Sunday. With no pressure being put on the Chargers QB, Phillip Rivers was able to play pitch and catch with his receivers down field without any issues. Even when the pass rush hurried Rivers, he was able to not only to elude every sack, but still complete several throws.

Final Take: While he faces a tall order, it’s up to Jadaveon Clowney to not only effectively rush the passer, but also get hits and sacks on the QB’s – this will help throw off the passing game. The loss of J.J Watt can not mean the loss of the defensive lines effectiveness.

Final Grade: D-

clowney Linebackers: Benardrick Mckinney appeared to be the only player in the front seven that actually wanted to play football on Sunday. The 2nd year pro from Mississippi State made plays from sideline to sideline, registering 12 tackles and his 4th sack of the season – supported by Brian Cushing’s 7 tackles, and Max Bullough’s (filling in for John Simon) single tackle.

Final Take: The primary goal of this group was to contain Charger running back Melvin Gordon, and while he was contained for the majority of the 1st and 2nd half, he only ended up with 70 rushing yards and a 4.1 yard average. Seeing as the defense normally gives up over a 100 yards a game on average, this should be considered a win.

Grade: C+

Defensive Backs: A Quentin Demps interception in the 3rd quarter was the only highlight for the secondary in Sunday’s game against the Chargers, but other than that, the entire defensive backfield was at the mercy of Rivers’ precession passing. The Chargers QB completed 22 of his 30 passes, and scored three TD’s against a defense that seemed so lost they left a receiver wide open for a 52 yard touchdown. While it didn’t help that, at times, the Texans defense was being put in bad positions (due to the Texans offense continually turning the ball over), both Kareem Jackson and A.J Boyue committed penalties which allowed the Chargers to sustain drives down the field.

Final Take: This unit should be disappointed. Ranked 5th in the league, there was a high expectation that Rivers would have his hands full – instead, he didn’t have an incomplete pass until the last minute of the 2nd quarter. While the defensive backfield was not aided by an aggressive pass rush, they allowed a 73% completion ratio, 3 touchdowns, and committed multiple penalties, which helped the Charger offense. This is unacceptable if the teams plans to make a strong playoff run.

Final Grade: D+

Special Teams: The punt and kicking game was extremely strong for the Chargers, causing three touchbacks on kickoffs and a fair catch on every punt. Shane Lechler had a 53 yard long punt that he pinned inside the 20. Nick Novak came on the field and made 2 field goals, one from 45 yards out. He also made an onside kick that allowed the Texans to recover the ball and have chance to score again.

Final Take: While there was not in a lot in the way of a return game, both specialists did a very nice job trying to help their team out in any way they could. Novak is awarded extra credit for having the 4th successfully recovered onside kick by any team this season.

Final Grade: A

Coaching: Offensively, there was not a lot of imagination, leading to a couple of desperate throws and a failed 4th down attempt. Defensively, if the pass rush could have been dialed up more, maybe it would have helped the defensive backfield.

Final Take: While the staff had a strong game plan in the first half, their inability to adjust appropriately to the Chargers reactive plays on offense and defense forced them into a position where they couldn’t win the game. The staff does however get a few extra credit points for orchestrating an interesting last ditch two minute drill.

Grade: C-

coaching-staff

What’s Next?

Offensively, the running game needs to get motivated. It’s crucial that Lamar Miller finds his groove, and soon. When you’re spending $6 million a year on a running back who can’t average at least 4 yards a carry in a game, then there’s a problem. While he’s shown flashes of his abilities, his lack of consistency putting the offense in a bad spot. Making holes for him is also key. While the offensive line is doing a superb job protecting Brock Osweiler, they will need more aggression coming up in the run game to be successful. As far as the passing game is concerned, it will go as far as Osweiler takes it (which we’ll talk about later this week).

Defensively, a lack of a pass rush hurt this team greatly, and it put them in a position where Phillip Rivers had a clean pocket to throw in. The linebackers did a relatively good job stopping the run today, but it will be important in the future for them to capitalize on their success in order to be successful in the playoffs. The defensive backfield will need a short memory – all of players are there to keep their success going, but as for this past Sunday’s game, they’re going to have to chalk it up as a bad day and move forward.

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Joshua Forrest has over a decade of experience playing football and has a strong passion and understanding for the game. Some of Joshua's accomplishments include playing Semi-pro football for the Saint Louis Spirit, being named team captain and NSAA Scholar Athlete for the Waldorf University Warriors for the 2015-16 season, and winning the Victorian State Championship with the Croydon rangers in Australia. Joshua's articles will primarily focus the Houston Texans (in-season, free agency, team stories, and draft needs), and potential draft prospects from colleges and universities both big and small.

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