Through bleary eyes and a weak spirit, the observations trudge on with not much fun and frivolity, to be honest. The Texans took another one on the chin on the road 27-9 to the defending World Champion Denver Broncos. Here are some observations... and yes, these are unique to this game, although some of the same things are repeated in this space in the team's other two losses this season.
1. I want to start with something positive: cornerback A.J. Bouye. The fourth-year undrafted player is turning into a star in front of our eyes. He's so far above and beyond where he was in 2015, and he's turned into one of the team's top three defenders on the team. It was clear early on that the Broncos wanted to challenge him and he responded. That strategy ended up taking a detour on Gary Kubiak and the Broncos offense once Bouye made one play after the other in the first half. He led the team with 11 tackles, which isn't always a great mark for a defensive back. That said, he was the only Texans defender to rack up a pass breakup (he had two) and one of only three defenders to rack up a stat outside of a tackle on Monday night.
2. However, the story of the night was the Texans inability to throw the ball effectively at any point in the game, pure and simple. That defense is far from the easiest defense to throw the ball against, but there were a few opportunities available throughout the game. It just didn't happen. Unfortunately, again.
3. Throw in another strong rushing performance by the opponent and it's clear which side of the 27-9 ledger the Texans fell on.
4. The run defense got shredded for the second consecutive week. Frank Gore went over 100 yards on Sunday night. C.J. Anderson went over 100 yards last night. It's a consistency thing, really, because there are moments when the run fits were perfect and the pursuit was on point. Then, it goes into ruts where opposing backs pick up chunks of yards, missed tackles, out of position defenders, guys going under blocks, making wrong reads. Just ugh, not good.
5. My heart goes out to Derek Newton. He was in a ton of pain on the Sports Authority Field turf and it was hard to watch. Really hard to watch. He was wheeled out right in front of me as I left the locker room and it was tough to see him like that. He's one of the toughest dudes in this building. His presence will be missed. Sorely.
6. Neither side came up with a legitimate sack on the night. I would have lost all my money in Vegas betting that there would be at least one sack. Now, I say legitimate because the Broncos actually "received" a sack on the fumble by Brock Osweiler. They got a team sack for that one. But, that was it. There were eight quarterback hits, but the fact that there were no sacks was a complete shocker on both sides.
7. That fumble was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in football. I was watching the routes develop down the field and had my eyes on Stephen Anderson in the slot. He wasn't open by a ton and I actually thought that had the ball been thrown to him, it wouldn't have been complete or, worse yet, it could've been picked off. So, when the ball fell short by a few yards, I knew the ball must've been tipped. No way that ball doesn't at least get to Anderson. Earlier in the year, Vince Wilfork tipped a pass into a better spiral than it was when it left Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer's hand. Then, I see the replay on the big board and my heart sank. It was clear the ball was out of his hand before he planned to release the rock, but what was amazing was that the ball came out of his hand as a nearly perfect spiral. That's what probably threw everyone off a bit. Even Chris Harris Jr. who picked up the ball didn't argue at all that it was a fumble. But, kudos to Carl Cheffers' crew. That unit had it dead to rights from jump and replay confirmed it.
8. Devontae Booker is the absolute truth and C.J. Anderson is a chip-on-the-shoulder creating baller. Those two are going to find their way behind an offensive line that needed a boost. The Broncos did a ton of holding in the first quarter, but stopped grabbing and clutching, and started moving feet to get in position to make blocks. Then, that offensive line opened running lanes all over the place.
9. For as much that didn't go right, the Texans were driving down five in the third quarter with a chance to cut the lead to two with another Nick Novak field goal or take the outright lead with a touchdown. Give credit to Broncos safety Darian Stewart, who put his shoulder pad right on the ball that Alfred Blue was carrying to create the first, and most decisive, turnover of the night. Game changer. But, I've said before, there are 125 plays in a four-quarter game and they all matter. The Broncos just happened to make this one, and many others, at the perfect moment.
10. Two turnovers. That changed the game. Now, the Broncos went 72 yards after Blue's fumble for a touchdown, so you couldn't say afterwards that the defense had to defend a short field like in the New England game. That said, the defense's performance in the first and third quarter should've put them in a better position to win the game. It didn't.
11. On that note, the Texans have forced one turnover in three games (Robert Nelson's interception just prior to the half vs. the Colts) and have given up four in those three games. On the season, the Texans are minus six in turnover margin, 28th in the league. As a reference point, the Texans were plus 12 in 2014 on 34 takeaways.
12. Two plays prior to Blue's fumble, though, there was a play that not many will talk about. But, it was 2nd-and-8 and Osweiler went back to throw the ball. He had Ryan Griffin up the Texans sideline directly in front of me. The Broncos had blown the coverage as there wasn't a blue shirt anywhere near him. If Griffin could've gotten a catchable ball in his hands, he's off for 15 yards, at a minimum. Sadly, he didn't even have a chance to get his hands on it.
13. Osweiler did pull third down out of the fire with a tremendous scramble on the next play, preceding the Blue fumble. However, Griffin would've taken that one down the sideline into the red zone easily.
14. That scramble by Osweiler, though, had the sideline charged up. The Texans seemed to have all the momentum at that point. They kicked a field goal to cut it to five on a nine-play drive to start the half after one three-and-out and then forced another one. Then, Osweiler ran through the tackle of Chris Harris Jr, who talked a lot this week, and dove for the final 36 inches he needed on the eight-yard scramble. As such, it looked like they had a chance of not only taking the lead but completely turning the game around. After the fumble, that chance dissipated quickly.
15. Blue had one of his most impressive games, though, up until that fumble. He's a different looking running back in 2016 than either of his first two campaigns; that's for sure. He led the Texans with 63 yards on 5.7 yards per carry. The Texans, overall, averaged 5.6 yards per carry, which many thought this offense couldn't do early in the season.
16. Lamar Miller got off to such a promising start, but on the 25-yard run on third down early in the first quarter, he took a late hit by Broncos safety Will Parks. The Broncos were in dime and Osweiler seemed to check to a run. A huge hole opened on the left side as Duane Brown just led a Broncos defender well up the field and Miller was off to the races. Parks was the last line of defense. When the two collided, Miller immediately started flexing his right hand as if he was trying to get feeling back in it or something. He was in and out of the game from that point forward, unfortunately.
17. A few weeks ago, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas complained that they didn't have a role in this offense, or so it seemed. That was not the case on Monday night. They were targeted 18 times and had ten catches for 126 yards and Thomas' touchdown catch. Then again, the Broncos balanced offensive attack had numerous options for the most part during this one.
I really don't have the stomach for much more, to be honest, and I'm sure you don't either. See ya next week, everyone.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 2/24/2021)