Cardinals 27, Texans 24: Seven Painful Losses in a Row
As the losses continue to mount, it gets more and more difficult to predict how the Texans will lose. On Sunday, they seemed to play better on the whole, but mistakes on both sides of the ball cost them. It hasn't helped that injuries continue to be a problem as well. Not only has Arian Foster been lost for the year to a back injury, but Kareem Jackson missed most of the game after bruising his sternum, leaving Brandon Harris to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, his poor coverage on a late TD helped to seal the deal for the Cardinals in Arizona.
Gary Kubiak missed his first game as coach after his mini-stroke, but his team looked remarkably similar. The very first play of the game, QB Case Keenum was stripped of the football and the Arizona defense walked into the end zone for a TD. The team fought back, even taking the lead at one point, but despite a pair of turnovers caused (and recovered) by JJ Watt as well as a DJ Swearinger interception, the Texans left Glendale, Arizona, with another loss.
Keenum was roughed up by a very good Arizona defense and while he did not turn the ball over, he looked outmatched and confused at times on the field. The end result was, to quote a pop song, second verse, same as the first. Seven losses down, the Texans' season is over and many questions remain.
What went right: Turnovers
Remarkably, the Texans were plus-two in the turnover game in Arizona. Considering how bad they have been in that category this year, that was a sizable leap. Two of the turnovers were the result of spectacular play by Watt, who was ferocious on defense. Rookie Swearinger got in the act for his first INT of the season and only the sixth pick of the year by the Texans.
Runner-up: More on this later, but Andre Johnson demonstrated why he is truly one of the greats at his position with two unbelievable catches in the end zone.
What went wrong: Pass Protection
While he was only sacked three times, Keenum was under pressure all day and never was fully able to establish a rhythm on offense. The Cardinals have a very solid defense, but Keenum should never have been under fire to the degree he was. On the first play of the game, Ryan Harris was burned by his man creating the turnover and the first score of the game. It was a rough day for the offensive line as a whole.
Runner-up: Speaking of the line, the run game didn't fare much better. Ben Tate didn't even manage four yards per carry and the run game looked out of sync all afternoon.
What must improve: O-Line
Since 2011, the offensive line has not been right. Right tackle Eric Winston, who now plays for the Cardinals, was probably the biggest loss of that offseason and it continues to plague the Texans. That position must be addressed this offseason or the Texans will struggle to run or throw with consistency.
What should stay the same: Star Players
The role players may not exactly be the cream of the crop, but when it comes to stars, the Texans have two of the finest in the NFL in Watt and Johnson. It's a shame they aren't surrounded with players who compliment them enough to generate wins because these two are world-class.