The Houston Texans fell 34-31 to the New England Patriots in a surprisingly close game. The Patriots move to 9-3 and continue forward as the AFC favorites, while the Texans fall to 2-10 in a franchise record-setting free fall with their 10th straight loss.
The entire time I was watching the first half all I could think was, “Who are these guys and what have they done with the Texans?” I mean the running game was stellar. The Patriots couldn’t stop Ben Tate who scored the same number of rushing touchdowns in a single half as the Texans have all year (2), we were moving the ball very well, our defense was finally living up to it’s No.-1-in-the-NFL title with three-and-outs and an interception by Johnathan Joseph, and we went into the half with the lead.
But I’d heard this story before. I explicitly remember thinking at the half that this feeling would be short lived. The Texans have lead in 4 of their last 5 games, and if this season’s taught me anything it’s that this team has an uncanny ability to fool fans into thinking we have the upper hand. This game was no different. The Texans didn’t disappoint.
As usual, the team returned to form in the second half. The offense was flat and the defense went back to being paper champs while giving up huge plays. The Patriots made second half adjustments utilizing the uncoverable Rob Gronkowski to shred our defense and we… well, didn’t. Are any of us really all that surprised? This wasn’t exactly the bye week we thought it would be for the Patriots, but with the way the Texans have been playing we were lucky to have been in the game for as long as we were. However, I’m not one to be satisfied with mediocrity placated by feelings of apathy, but we’ll get to that later.
Despite the fact that the offensive line played just about as well as it has all year, we established a solid running game and the Patriots very rarely blitzed, Case Keenum completed just 15 of 30 passes for 272 yards with no touch downs; solidifying – in my mind – that his time here as the starter is done. Perhaps not for this season, but for future seasons. He’s 0-6 as a starter for this team and has done little to no improving of certain aspects of his game since his start against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was making dangerous throws into double and triple coverage (only to be bailed out by the likes of Andre Johnson), he leads the league in holding-on-to-the-ball-too-long (avg. 3+ seconds between the snap and his throw), and only successfully read the few blitzes that did occur once.
The problem I have is that people are beginning to make excuses for him. The most compelling argument I’ve heard in favor of Keenum is that it’s too soon to write him off. I would agree with that if he were improving week to week. Even in small strides. It’s just not happening. Sure, you could argue it’s the coaching and I could buy that. But with the likelihood of our coaching staff changing dramatically next year, Keenum’s stock here will plummet. He’s a good kid, and he’s got talent. But at this point he’s nothing more than a decent back-up quarterback. I’m sure I’ll get some death threats for this one, but he’s done nothing to prove that he can win any more than Matt Schaub can. Rather only that they both share the ability to not win games with different styles of play. But, I digress. With the Texans closing in on the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, they’ll be looking to take a Quarterback as there will be several noteworthy players to choose from.
To add insult to the injury of losing yet another seemingly winnable game, you have players like Antonio Smith going off at the mouth and saying things like, “I’m very suspicious… Either teams are spying on us or scouting us,” when discussing with reporters the brand new defensive tactics they implemented just for this game being easily sniffed out by the Patriots. Yes, Antonio. The New England Patriots were so concerned with how to defeat a struggling 2-9 team, that they risked SpyGate 2.0 in order to avoid going a catastrophic 8-4 with three weeks left to play. NAILED IT. As if we weren’t the laughing stock of the league already… sigh.
Sadly, a lot of fans I know were just glad we weren’t embarrassed. And I get that sentiment, but like I said this is just something I’ll never accept. I’m never going to take pleasure in the fact that we didn’t take the shellacking we were expected to take; never going to revel in mediocrity. On the other hand, I know it just can’t be helped sometimes. We’re so beaten down as a fan base that we’ll cling to any hint of positivity. But as for me, I’ll just wait patiently for next season – more importantly the off season.
However, there’s one thing we can all take some small measure of joy in: if we lose to Jacksonville this Thursday, we’ll practically (but not exactly mathematically) have clinched the no. 1 overall draft pick for 2014. Which means we can root for the Texans to beat the Broncos week 16 guilt-free! I don’t want to get your hopes up, but maybe… just maybe… we’ll get one last 2013 free slushie.