NFL Wire News

Ugly defeat irks Texans


The Sports Xchange

HOUSTON — Following an embarrassing performance during a 44-26 blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Houston Texans didn’t mince words.

“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 arguably occurred in the first quarter when Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry cut back across the field for a spectacular 50-yard touchdown catch.

Landry brushed past strong safety Andre Hal before eluding or running through the tackle attempts of several Texans, 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 it just kind of snowballed on us real fast, and one thing led to another.”

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

“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 the previous week and didn’t throw an incompletion until midway through the fourth quarter. “I’ve never been a part of 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 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. Miller finished with 175 yards on just 14 carries, an average of 12.5 yards.

“We have to go back and do more angles drills, more tackling drills, and we’ve got to coach it better,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to go back to figure 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 in the offseason via a three-year, $12 million contract. “It’s crazy how you go from a great, tough week of practice … 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 passing 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 allowed over 40 points, including a 48-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons during which 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 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 his stats: 53.1 percent completion rate this year for 770 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a 63.6 passer rating.

“We’re dealing with Ryan Mallett internally, Rick Smith and I,” Texans 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 Saturday, when he missed meetings and the team’s flight to Miami. Mallett missed a practice during training camp, saying he overslept, and he 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 of the latest incident. “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 is 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 in which his team was thoroughly dominated.

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

“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 will miss due to a sprained ankle.

Jackson will be out for a while, according to O’Brien.

–Texans starting offensive 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.

–Rookie inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, another starter, will 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 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 slowly. They have been outscored 52-23 in the first quarter, 83-16 in the second quarter and 135-39 in the first half cumulatively.

The Texans outscored the Dolphins 26-3 in the second half, but the game was already 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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