FLATLINED: Five observations from the Houston Texans awful 31-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Jan 1, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) fumbles the ball on a play during the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

FLATLINED: Five observations from the Houston Texans awful 31-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here are the five things that stood out the most in the Houston Texans’ embarrassing 31-3 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17:

The good play by Davis Mills was a mirage: Mills was right back to his early-season self on Sunday. Misfiring passes, misreading the defense, and looking generally incompetent. He even had a first-half thrumble (thrown fumble) that resulted in a scoop and score for the Jaguars to make the game 21-0. This was a putrid effort by Mills, who couldn’t generate any consistent offense. His agent should ask for a trade since he won’t be the Texan’s quarterback next season, but he probably won’t have to, as the team should have him on the block as soon as the season ends. The good play from Mills starting from the Cowboys game and ending with the good fourth quarter against the Titans, was merely a hallucination. Mills finished 22-for-40, 202 yards, and a lost fumble. He walked off the field at the end of the game to boos from the dozens of people still in attendance.

The Texans didn’t even put up a fight in this game: The run defense was a joke as Travis Etienne Jr. rushed for over 100 yards on nine carries. They failed to get any pressure on Trevor Lawrence. The offense was putrid. The Jaguars pulled Trevor Lawrence with over five minutes remaining in the third quarter up 28-3, as the Texans had under 100 yards passing at the time. This was a pathetic performance by Houston following three weeks of improved play. It’s almost like they were content to get their second win last week and then end the season. They really played like a team trying to protect their top overall pick status, on both sides of the ball. This was their worst game in over a month. It ended their nine-game winning streak against Jacksonville and gave them a winless season at home (0-7-1), a franchise first.

The running game without Dameon Pierce does not exist: It was a point of emphasis by the Texans in the offseason to have a better running game and a better group of running backs. They succeeded in drafting Dameon Pierce, who is a fierce runner who can be a bell cow back. They have absolutely nothing behind him. Davis Mills leading the team with 33 yards rushing tells you everything you need to know. Rex Burkhead is a third-down, pass-catching back at this point in his career. Dare Ogunbowale has not impressed. Royce Freeman looks like something other than an NFL roster-worthy player. This group needs serious improvement for next season, and every running back not named Dameon Pierce should be seeking employment elsewhere next season.

The two-quarterback shtick should have ended after the Kansas City game: It was quickly apparent that the Jeff Driskel packages were ineffective without Dameon Pierce. They have continued to be less and less effective with each passing week. Driskel is not a good passer, and the Texans are far too predictable in their play-calling when he enters the game. Whether that is an indictment on the coaches, the player, or both is debatable, but we all know the answer is all of the above. It was a nice wrinkle in Dallas when the Cowboys didn’t know it was coming, and Pierce could make defensive players pay for their hesitation. Without Pierce, there is no hesitation by the defense because they know no one else can beat them in the run game by the Texans. Running these packages is giving away downs. Driskel was 3-for-4 passing for 9 yards. He also had two carries for 7 yards. Yeesh.

Houston’s continued anemic offense and questionable play-calling scream out the team must fire Lovie Smith and his whole staff: Pour bleach on the whole thing and kill all the germs. This staff has failed in spectacular fashion. Remember before the season when Lovie Smith and Pep Hamilton were going to be giant upgrades over David Culley and Tim Kelly? The regression of Mills alone from last season to this season is the biggest of all red flags that this coaching staff cannot be trusted to develop whomever the Texans take with the top overall pick. The thought process of “you can’t fire another coach after one season” can get thrown right in the trash with this season. The only thing worse than making a bad decision is making a worse decision to try to justify the bad one. Keeping Lovie and company for one more year to make their future top overall pick have two coaches and two systems in their first two years is the worst possible decision. There is plenty of evidence of how having the wrong head coach can screw up your potential star quarterback in their first season (see Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence last season). The whole staff needs to go, no excuses.

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