Vandermeer's View: Sunday struggle

Close games, win or lose, bring extra scrutiny to each play. In a game of inches, you look at all the little things that contributed to the result. And the Texans have a lot to review and correct before they take the field against Atlanta next Sunday.

In Houston's 16-10 defeat to Carolina, there were moments when the Texans almost got their offense revved up with a huge play. Two deep balls didn't connect, for instance. There was an uncalled facemask that would have certainly helped. There were turnovers and missed chances on third down, too.

Defensively, the numbers look good overall. As the afternoon progressed, this became a zero-margin-of-error game.

Christian McCaffrey made life tough. He touched the ball a combined 37 times for 179 total yards and a touchdown. His juggling third down conversion catch with over 11 minutes remaining enabled the Panthers to burn four more minutes off the clock with a 13-10 lead.

The Texans would get the ball at their 10-yard line with just over seven minutes to go, but they fumbled and wouldn't see it again until there were 28 seconds left in the game. They would have had more time but Kyle Allen, who's completed nearly 72 percent of his passes this season in relief of Cam Newton, made a Deshaun Watson type of play, escaping a would-be J.J. Watt sack to find a receiver for a first down at the Houston 12-yard line.

All four games have come down the wire and the Texans have a 2-2 record. They know that if they're going to have the kind of season they seek they'll have to execute better on offense at home. If you told me before the game that the Texans would rush for 136 yards and get three takeaways, I would think it'd be a happy drive home for the fans. Instead, the Texans were 4-11 on third downs and turned it over twice themselves, in key situations.

Atlanta is next and they won't be happy either. The Falcons beat Philly at home this year but are on a two game AFC South losing streak, taking defeats at Indy and at home to the suddenly-resurgent Titans. A tie for first in the division is hardly making the Texans feel better about losing to Carolina but they know they have three-quarters of the season in front of them and a world of opportunity.

Houston Texans take on the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium for the fourth game of the 2019 NFL season.

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