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Texans come up empty against Dolphins

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HOUSTON — The Houston Texans didn’t mince words about their embarrassing performance during a 44-26 blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins.

“We got our butts beat,” Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. “It was a tough day for us.”

The most embarrassing moment for the defense was arguably in the first quarter when Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry cut back across the field for a spectacular 50-yard touchdown play.

Landry brushed past strong safety Andre Hal before eluding or running through several Texans’ tackle attempts, including linebackers Brian Cushing, John Simon and Akeem Dent before dashing into the end zone as cornerback Kevin Johnson fell to the ground.

“It broke,” Cushing said. “It just seemed like guys were open and making some plays and breaking some tackles, and just kind of snowballing us real fast and one thing led to another.”

It was another frustrating episode for the beleaguered Texans defense as they fell behind 41-0 and allowed 503 yards of total offense and four touchdowns of 50 yards or longer as quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 18 of 19 passes for 282 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 158.3 passer rating.

“You’ve got to wrap up,” outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said. “Everybody knows how to tackle, but you’ve got to finish the tackle.”

The Texans’ tackling and pursuit angles were substandard, to say the least. Whether it was Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews accelerating away from cornerback A.J. Bouye on a quick slant and Cushing and free safety Rahim Moore not reacting quickly enough to stop him on a 53-yard touchdown to open the scoring or running back Lamar Miller later running away from a diving Hal and Moore on an 85-yard touchdown run, the Texans had no answers for a prolific Miami offense led by Landry’s two touchdowns and Tannehill, a former Texas A&M standout.

“It was wild, it was wild,” said Tannehill, who completed 25 passes in a row going back to the Dolphins’ 38-10 win over the Tennessee Titans last week and didn’t throw an incompletion until midway through the fourth quarter. “I’ve never been a part of a game like that. I threw it to Jarvis on a medium throw to the outside and he somehow cuts back and makes 46 guys miss on his way to the end zone.”

It was such a bad defensive performance that Texans head coach Bill O’Brien suggested he may adopt a back-to-basics approach to teach tackling techniques. The Dolphins rushed for 248 yards on 35 carries, averaging 7.1 yards per run as Miller finished with 175 yards on just 14 carries.

“We have to go back and do more angles drills, more tackling drills and we’ve got to coach it better,” O’Brien said. “I would say that it was missed tackles and didn’t fit the run game very well. We’ve got to go back to figuring out how we can coach it better.”

The Texans allowed 21 first downs and gave up 8.5 yards per play.

“Everybody has to look at themselves in the mirror, but, me personally, this is very unacceptable,” said Moore, a former Denver Broncos starter who joined the Texans this offseason via a three-year, $12 million contract. “It’s crazy how you go from a great tough week of practice of great preparation we put out and to play this way. Tackling is an area we can always get better at. You can never relax.”

Texans veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork didn’t record a tackle as the Dolphins ran up the middle and to the outside with little to no interference.

“I think it’s bad football,” Wilfork said. “We have to figure out how to get better, plain and simple. We got beat, no rhyme or reason.”

For the season, the 2-5 Texans have given up 902 rushing yards and seven touchdown runs and 1,795 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have a cumulative 98.5 passer rating against the Texans.

“We clearly didn’t tackle well, especially early on,” said star defensive end J.J. Watt, who had seven tackles, three for losses, two sacks and four quarterback hits. “Disappointed, not a very good football performance. I would characterize it as not very good. We need to get it figured out. It (stinks). It’s awful.”

This marks the second time in the past four games the defense has allowed over 40 points, including a 48-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons where the Texans fell behind 42-0.

“It’s happening, but I just don’t feel like that’s our kind of team,” Cushing said. “Those are clearly the worst two losses since I’ve been here in seven years, but we just have to figure out a way to play faster.”

–The saga of chronically tardy Texans backup quarterback Ryan Mallett hasn’t reached its conclusion yet.

In the wake of Mallett missing the team charter flight Saturday and having to purchase a ticket to travel on a commercial flight in advance of Sunday’s blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Texans are still contemplating their options on how to handle Mallett.

The Texans are expected to fine Mallett, at the least. They could obviously cut him, but that would mean they wouldn’t have a knowledgeable backup behind starter Brian Hoyer. Trading Mallett is an unlikely scenario given his recent track record off the field and having completed 53.1 percent of his throws this year for 770 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions for a 63.6 passer rating.

“We’re dealing with Ryan Mallett internally, Rick Smith and I,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said of his discussions with the Texans’ general manager. “We’re talking about it. We’re talking about our options.”

Mallett acknowledged being late following a 44-26 defeat to the Dolphins. Mallett missed a practice during training camp, saying he overslept and had vowed to Smith it would never happen again. Team officials addressed Mallett’s behavior with him behind the scenes when he sulked on the sideline after being replaced by Hoyer during a loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

“I just got caught in traffic,” Mallett said. “Got to be on time. It’s not the leadership role that I need to exhibit. So, I have to be better.”

When asked why he’s repeatedly late to team activities, Mallett replied: “It only happened twice.”

–Texans owner Bob McNair paid a visit to the locker room Monday, one day after a disheartening loss where his team was thoroughly dominated.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien declined to elaborate on his conversations with McNair, who praised his leadership during a kickoff luncheon prior to the season following last year’s 9-7 campaign during his first season as a head coach.

“I’m not going to really get into the discussions that I have with Mr. McNair,” O’Brien said of the majority owner who spoke Monday with veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “Nobody is happy with where we’re at. He’s the owner. He’s the boss.

“He’s not happy and that’s the way it is. That’s life in the NFL, but I’m not going to get into the details of what he and I talk about.”

–Veteran cornerback Kareem Jackson remains out for this week’s game against the Tennessee Titans, the second consecutive game he’s out with a sprained ankle. Jackson will be out “for a while,” according to head coach Bill O’Brien.

Texans starting guard Brandon Brooks is slated to return to practice Wednesday from a toe injury that sidelined him Sunday. Brooks tested his injured toe in warmups and didn’t feel like he could go, but he is expected to play this week.

“Brooks felt like he had a significant injury to his foot and that he couldn’t go,” O’Brien said. “He should be able to go by Wednesday, so I think that he’ll be in the game this week.”

Rookie inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, another starter, is going to be evaluated again under the NFL concussion testing protocol to see if he can play against the Titans. McKinney missed the Miami game.

–Wide receiver Nate Washington was anxious to return Sunday after being sidelined for two games with a strained hamstring. Washington made his presence felt, albeit during a losing cause as he caught a game-high nine passes for 127 yards and scored his first two touchdowns since joining the Texans on a one-year, $1 million contract. He was targeted 16 times.

“We are taught and I was always taught this is a team sport,” Washington said. “So, what I did out there is totally irrelevant when we come out here with a loss, especially like a loss like we had. We just have to go back to the grind.”

–One of the reasons the Texans are 2-5 is their tendency to start slow. They’ve been outscored 52-23 in the first quarter, 83-16 in the second quarter and 135-39 in the first half cumulatively.

“I don’t know if that is something I can answer because I am not the one making those calls,” wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “All I can do is go out there and do my job.”

The Texans outscored the Dolphins 26-3 in the second half, but the game had already been decided. For the season, the Texans have outscored opponents 35-30 in the third quarter and 85-29 in the fourth quarter.

“It kind of just seems like it’s a snowball effect and it gets out of hand really quick,” Texans middle linebacker Brian Cushing said. “Obviously, we’ve got to start faster.”


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