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Vandermeer's View: Upset bid falls in 4th


For a while, everything was possible. After a shaky start, the Texans found their way back into their playoff game with the Patriots, trailing 14-13 in the second quarter. Even though the Patriots built a double digit lead by the end of the third quarter, The Texans made it an eight point game in the fourth before New England pulled away.

If you had told me beforehand that Tom Brady would be picked off twice in his own end of the field and the Texans would recover a fumble on a kickoff return I would say there was a great chance to win. And there was. But the Texans made too many of their own errors to sufficiently force the issue.

There were a lot of bright spots. The defense made life tough for Brady. There was plenty of pressure, a couple of sacks and enough third down incompletions to keep Houston in it.
When you consider that two New England touchdowns came off a kick return for a touchdown and on point-blank field position, after a pick, for another, this was anyone's game.

But the offense couldn't sustain enough drives. Third down passing was key and the Texans were forced to bring in Shane Lechler or Nick Novak too often. Novak was three for three, by the way, and was perfect in the two games of the post season. That's the good news. But Bill O'Brien knows the Texans must be better in the red zone. They were one for three in the loss.

Brock Osweiler held things together relatively well until the third quarter when the turnover bug started to bite. The most damaging was Ryan Logan's interception that led to the Patriots' goal-to-go possession in the 4th quarter.

The bottom line is that this was an 18 point loss that never fully got away from Houston until the ill-fated fourth quarter.

There are a lot of young players who will learn from this. Prior to the season, I wrote how the tight ends, backs and receivers combined, were the youngest group in the history of the team. They will grow from this experience.

Look at the defensive youth. Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, A.J. Bouye, D.J. Reader, Corey Moore and Andre Hal, to name a few, all had promising campaigns. There is a lot to build on next year as J.J. Watt rejoins the bunch.

Vince Wilfork will make his decision soon. And there are some free agents to think about, including Bouye. But the foundation is there for another run with a terrific defense.

Brock Osweiler took the reigns of the offense after Tom Savage's concussion and won a playoff game. The follow-up performance will be evaluated by O'Brien who has the off season to decide how to handle the most important position on the team. There is a lot of data to sift through.

This was a season in which the Texans certainly took a step forward. They could have won ten games if they played their starters more at Tennessee. They won a post season game and got to the divisional round for the first time in four years. They went 5-1 in the division and swept Indy for the first time ever.

They will need to find a way to play this round, and preferably the next, at home next time. The struggles on the road and the three game losing streak, late in the season, cost them a chance at accomplishing more of their goals.

There is a lot of analysis to digest. The off season is underway. The 2017 journey begins with many questions but a lot of hope.

The Texans and Patriots faced each other in the Divisional Playoff at Gillette Stadium.

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