Playing against a winless team is perfect for franchises in rebuilding phases. DeMeco Ryans and his team exceeded expectations this season, but they still have work to do. Sunday's 15-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers exposed flaws in Bobby Slowik's offense and disrupted the group's momentum.
C.J. Stroud took accountability for the loss in his post-game press conference. Will he lead the Houston Texans to a playoff berth?
Houston Texans' offense struggled to move the football
Ejiro Evero is a distinguished defensive coordinator. He's a student of the game and is relentless in his approach. A rough start to the new campaign discouraged fans in the Carolinas. Their team failed to protect the endzone. Evero's unit ranked 29th in defensive grading heading into Week 8. Tua Tagovailoa (3) and Joe Burrow (3) found the endzone multiple times against the Panthers' secondary. C.J. Stroud was on fire, coming off of a bye week. We expected him to duplicate their results.
Sunday afternoon was the first time Houston's quarterback fell short of expectations. He finished the game without a turnover but failed to find the endzone. Bobby Slowik's offense did not score until the second quarter. A well-balanced drive helped Houston reach the red zone. Andre Beck finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
A quick goal-line scamper was the Texans' last time in the endzone. Houston scored six points in the second half, but it was not enough to upstage the first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
C.J Stroud wants Houston Texans to open up the playbook
A loss in Week 8 does not shut the door on Houston's playoff aspirations. Nine games remain in the regular season. DeMeco Ryans' and his squad must make them count. The Jaguars, Buccaneers, Jets, and Browns are left on the schedule. These franchises have better defenses than the Panthers and are anxious to dust off opponents for a potential post-season berth.
Inconsistencies moving the football were not an issue for Slowik's offense in previous weeks. His tailbacks struggled to find rushing room at the line of scrimmage, but Stroud's efforts were enough to pull out a win. The lack of a rushing threat deterred the Texans on Sunday. Pierce led the offense in yards (46) and carries (12) but failed to produce points with his opportunities. The Texans' first-year offensive coordinator did his best to jump-start the ground attack. Devin Singletary and Andrew Beck were involved in the scheme. Their contributions resulted in Houston's only touchdown for the afternoon.
A one-dimensional offense did not stop Houston's rookie from accepting responsibility at the podium. He took the blame for the offense's struggles and challenged himself to do better. " You can point the finger everywhere, but me personally, I point the thumb" Stroud declared. The former first-round pick tied his season-high completion percentage (66.7) and protected the football. He also earned his lowest passing yard total (140) and second-lowest passing grade (57.4) of the season. Short passes helped Stroud find open receivers but did not equate to big plays.
We expect the Houston Texans to find the momentum that carried them and helped them defeat tough opponents earlier in the season. Victories against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars showed glimpses of promise. Eliminating DeMeco Ryans' team from playoff consideration is an overreaction. Bobby Slowik will open his playbook, and C.J. Stroud will lead his offense down the field. Explosive plays will lead to better results and hopefully a ticket to the postseason. "I feel like that's why we haven't been consistent" the rookie stated. "Too many taking the ball short and not having enough explosive plays." We can expect the Texans to spread the field in their upcoming matchups.
All statistics courtesy of pff.com.