Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 10/15/12
The national spotlight has not been kind to the Houston Texans of late, playing a close game last week on Monday Night Football, and now suffering their first defeat of the 2012 campaign to the Green Bay Packers 42-24 on Sunday Night Football. The Texans were bound to lose eventually, it’s just unfortunate their first loss came in embarrassing fashion on national television. And while many Texans fans woke up this morning threatening to jump off the bandwagon, all should keep in mind that sometimes teams just have one of those games where nothing seems to go right. The Texans had theirs last night.

The Packers looked more like the team that won a Super Bowl two seasons ago and came into this season having won 21 of their last 23 games than the 2-3 record they sported before the game. QB Aaron Rodgers was spectacular, picking the Texans apart to the tune of 338 yards passing, 6 TDs and 0 INTs, reminding everybody why he is the reigning league MVP. The Packers took it to the Texans in the same manner the Texans have been taking it to opponents all season long. The Pack jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and played frontrunner, taking advantage of a banged up Texans D while sufficiently limiting the Texans offense. 

Texans fans should take some solace in knowing that the NFL is a passing league that typically favors the offense and when a unit like the Packers gets going, nobody can stop them. The Texans unfortunately ran into a freight train of a team that, coming off several tough losses and inefficient offensive play, got back on track at the expense of the Texans. 

With that being said, the Texans did themselves no favors by coming out flat and constantly committed detrimental penalties in crucial situations. The generally mistake-free Texans committed seven penalties last night for 69 yards, including a stretch of three drive saving penalties for the Packers inside the Texans 20 yard line. The tone was set early when WR DeVier Posey lined up offsides on a Packers punt, resulting in a Packer first down and a 41-yard touchdown pass to WR Jordy Nelson on the next play to make the game 7-0. The mistakes made in the penalty department directly led to at least 10 Packer points, and the argument could be made the penalties led to more.

But the game wasn’t solely decided on timely penalties. The benefit of laying a egg against one of the NFL’s elite teams early in the season is the Texans has several weaknesses exposed by the Packers. The reason this is a good thing is because the Texans still have ten regular season games to figure it out. As teams like last season’s Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will tell you, it’s not how you’re playing in September and October, rather it’s about how your playing in December and January. The Texans have been given an opportunity to identify lacking areas and work toward improving as the season progresses.

The first area in which the Packers exposed the Texans is on the defensive side of the ball. Anybody watching the Texans through their first five games had to have noticed the pass rush was possibly a bit suspect past DE J.J. Watt. Last night magnified the fact that aside from Watt on a few occasions, the Texans put almost zero pressure on Rodgers. The Texans play a lot of man to man in the secondary behind the pass rush, and when the rush isn’t even getting in the quarterback’s face, the receivers are able to run wide open and play pitch and catch with the QB. The secondary was exposed for it’s inability to play lock down man cover, especially CB Johnathan Joseph, whom the team relies on to shut down the opponents’ top WR threat each week. 

Now, there are very few teams with the pass catching weapons the Packers have, but the secondary was clearly exposed. The bigger concern is, however, the lack of a pass rush. Considering Rodgers came into the game as the second most sacked QB in the NFL, the Texans should have dominated the Packers O-line, but came up small. The biggest disappointment in this group is OLB Connor Barwin, who has yet to record a sack this season after 11.5 sacks in 2011. The Texans need to figure out a way to get several of their pass rushers back on track to compensate for the absence of ILB Brian Cushing.

Offensively, the story for eight months has been the offensive line, who are clearly still not on the same page. It takes time to build a rapport with each other and develop continuity, but through six games most probably expected this group would be further along. Last night, the Packers got frequent pressure on QB Matt Schaub by employing simple blitzes and stunts and are taught in O-lineman 101. This speaks directly to the lack of communication up front. Also, the Packers’ defenders, a group not considered to be one of the better units in the league, looked superior athletically to the Texans. The O-line appeared to have their feet stuck in mud while the Packers defenders ran by them, both in the run and pass games. 

Lastly, the Packers simply took the Texans out of their game early. They dictated the pace of the contest from the onset and forced the Texans to play from behind for essentially the first time all season. The Packers took advantage of that Texans’ O-line and held RB Arian Foster to just 1.7 yard per carry while putting up enough points early that the Texans were forced to throw more than they would normally like. In addition, shutting down the run resulted in a lot of 2nd and 3rd and longs for the Texans, obvious passing situations that the Packers D benefited from. 

In the end, the Texans did not play their best game against one of the NFL’s elite teams. Questions all week will swirl regarding whether the Texans are truly one of the league’s best at 5-1, or have simply beaten lesser teams to pad their record. As stated above, it’s better to play a poor game now than later in the season. Some will view this loss as a telling sign of things to come, but the more optimistic fans will view this as a reality check and an opportunity for the Texans to improve. There is still a lot of season left and thankfully with the current weakness of the AFC South and AFC in general, the Texans still appear to be in the drivers seat despite last night’s loss. 

Check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.
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