Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 12/20/11
If the Texans lose in the playoffs, we now know what it will look like. Sunday showed us that. Quarterback T.J. Yates' performance Sunday was disappointing, but inevitable, and as far as we know he might do it again this week. He might do it in the playoffs. He might not, of course, but odds are Yates has not gotten all the rookie beaten out of him in three starts. Odds are, Yates is not going to pull a 2001 Tom Brady in the playoffs. Odds are he'll play OK most of the time and make a rookie mistake or two. Odds are, whoever the Texans face in the playoffs will be starting a quarterback better than Yates. This means the pressure, now, is all on the defense. Which is new. Yates will be the Texans' starting quarterback for the rest of the year, as he should be. And only the most delusional fan will expect him to be anything more than good enough to win if the defense plays well. That was what made Sunday's game so alarming. Yates did what he inevitably would, which is to say he played like a rookie quarterback. But the rest of the team did all the things it could not afford to do. If you didn't sit down to think about it, you might not have even noticed, but the Texans are a "run it, punt it and play defense" team now. They are a "grind all day and make two big plays" team now. It has taken just four weeks to complete the inversion of the Texans' identity, but it is full and complete. The Texans are either going to win by controlling the ball and playing smothering defense, or they are not going to win. It has happened so quickly and with such violence, you wonder if the Texans themselves fully realize it. A month ago, they were still an offensive juggernaut. The defense was playing great, but it still had that suspicious newness to it. Was this really going to last? Was this going to stand up to a good offense? Could the Texans really be counted on to get the big stops in a playoff game? The offense, on the other hand, had been vetted by years of excellence. If all else failed, and it came down to a shootout, you'd still feel OK about the Texans' chances, with that great running game and the play-action and Andre Johnson going deep and those tight ends over the middle and Arian Foster on a screen. These weren't the same, old Texans, who would inevitably blow it on defense. But they weren't really the new Texans, either. They were more like the old Texans with a new-and-improved defense, and they were wonderful. They could do anything. Well, these are the new Texans, now, and there are some things they can't do. So until next season, when Matt Schaub is back, everybody had better get used to it. There was a moment -- it lasted about a week -- when you could in all earnestness think maybe this wasn't the case. When Yates led that game-winning touchdown drive in Cincinnati and his mom wept in her husband's arms and the Texans made the playoffs and the city finally shoveled some dirt on the Oilers, it was easy to feel like nothing had changed. It was tempting to believe nothing had changed, nothing would change, and nothing needed to. And then Sunday came, and Foster fumbled, and Steve Smith beat Johnathan Joseph deep and suddenly the defense couldn't get a stop in the second half. These were all things Houston might have overcome earlier this year, when it was scoring 34 on the Colts, 33 on the Saints, 41 on the Titans, 33 on the Browns, 37 on the Buccaneers. But that's over. The Texans haven't scored more than 20 points in a game without Schaub at quarterback. Yates has completed 57 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions in three-and-a-half games. It hasn't helped that Johnson has been out most of that time, but Johnson was out most of the time Schaub was in there, too. He is a great player, but he also is a 30-year-old wide receiver with two hamstring injuries. Any contributions from Johnson the rest of this season have to be considered bonuses. The Texans are not that team they were a month ago. It isn't their fault, and it isn't Yates' fault. It's just the way it is. They have to adapt, and quickly. We'd all better get used to these new Texans. At least until next year.
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