Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13582011z) Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) scores his second touchdown of the game against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game, in Houston Titans Texans Football, Houston, United States - 30 Oct 2022

Is this the worst Texans run defense ever?

For the second time this season, the Houston Texans lost to a one-dimensional football team.

This Week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans was even worse than the loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 3.

Bears QB Justin Fields, in his second season, was 8 for 17 for 106 yards and two interceptions. He did, at least, hit two passes of over 20 yards. The Texans lost that game 23-20 after yet another fourth-quarter offensive implosion, where their final three drives lasted a total of 12 plays for 30 total yards, two punts, and a game-sealing interception. Defensively, despite the Bears’ inability to throw the football and the fact the Bears lost starting running back David Montgomery in the first quarter to injury, Chicago ran for 281 yards and 7.0 YPC. Did Georgia just play Samford?

Everyone knew entering the game the Bears couldn’t pass the football. It didn’t matter. Knowing the Bears would run 65% of the time, the Texans still couldn’t stop Chicago’s ground game. They knew what was coming and were powerless to stop it.

Fast forward to Week 8, and it was even worse. Facing a Tennessee team with rookie QB Malik Willis making his first career start, the Titans ran the ball for 314 yards and averaged 7.0 YPC. Those are the kind of numbers Alabama puts up against Savannah State. Those are not numbers we see in the NFL. Except we are seeing them against the Texans.

In his postgame press conference, Titans RB Derrick Henry was asked a very leading question. While he answered it with grace and humility, it underscores an ultimate tragic flaw in the Texans’ defense.

Q: What’s it like when the entire stadium knows you’re going to run the ball, and you’re still able to do it?

A: “I think that’s our identity and culture. Coach preaches physicality, effort, and finish details, fundamentals, and we all take pride in that. How we want to play in our culture and mindset, mentality in the run game, and what we want to do. Having attention to detail each and every play and having the will to go out there and do it and execute.”

Now, before the season, we heard Lovie Smith talk about how the Texans want to be a physical team, how all the other teams in the division are physical running teams, and they know what it takes to compete in the AFC South. If that is the case, why do the Texans get trampled and steamrolled on the ground every week?

Week 1 vs. Colts: Jonathan Taylor ran for 161 yards. Colts ran for 177 as a team and 4.7 YPC.

Week 2 vs. Broncos: Javonte Williams ran for 75 yards. Broncos ran for 149 yards and 4.8 YPC.

Week 3 vs. Bears: Khalil Herbert ran for 157 yards. Bears ran for 281 yards and 7.0 YPC.

Week 4 vs. Chargers: Austin Ekeler ran for 60 yards. Chargers ran for 81 yards and 3.0 YPC.

Week 5 vs. Jaguars: Travis Etienne ran for 71 yards. Jaguars ran for 136 yards and 5.2 YPC.

Week 7 vs. Raiders: Josh Jacobs ran for 143 yards. Raiders ran for 164 yards and 6.1 YPC.

Week 8 vs. Titans: Derrick Henry ran for 219 yards. Titans ran for 314 yards and 7.0 YPC.

Two things stand out here. First, the Chargers game was an outlier. Second, they are getting worse instead of better.

If the division was so physical, and the Texans knew they had to be physical to win in division, how do we explain that they are not a physical football team?

This was Texans head coach Lovie Smith’s opening remarks from his post-game presser:

“When you get dominated on both sides of the football, I’m talking about, upfront, it’s going to be a tough day. It was bad football today we played, and you end up with a game like that. You look at the score, and you say, ‘Hey, you had a chance to win.’ Never really were in it. Early on, of course, the interception was big, where we had a little momentum to be able to get something going then. Good play on the punt return to get the ball out. Good play by Steve Nelson to intercept the ball. But besides that, just not a whole lot to talk about. Defensively we haven’t been able to really stop the run all year, and today that definitely showed up. And on the other side of the football too. We say we want to run the football, and it’s hard to get anything going when you can’t run it.”

The first question he was asked was about the defense, and what do they do to fix it after that game:

“Just like we’ve been doing after other days where we haven’t played as well. Short week, so it’s not like you can do an awful lot. Going to heal up. Hopefully get a few guys back. We’re a little shorthanded now and try to do a better job. We knew who we were playing. One of the best backs in the game. That physical brand of football, we weren’t ready to play that today.”

Read that highlighted portion again.

How are they not ready to play that style of football against a division opponent you know will run 75% of the time? (Statistically, the Titans ran the ball on 78% of their plays, but who’s counting?)

It is yet another game the Texans’ run defense got trampled, and the head coach has no answer.

The Texans are allowing a league-high 186 YPG on the ground. How bad is that?

It’s 44 YPG worse than 2021 and 26 YPG worse than 2020.

ESPN’s website only goes back to 2004, and the highest rushing YPG allowed was the 2006 Colts, who allowed 173 YPG on the ground. That’s 13 YPG less than the current Texans.

How did we even get here?

Wasn’t this team supposed to be so much better than last year? Better QB play, better run game, better O-Line, better D-Line, better secondary, and better coaching?

How did a team led by David Culley and Tim Kelly get worse? Culley was far and away the worst head coach in the league last season. He was in way over his head. A respected, long-time coach like Lovie Smith would be a massive upgrade. Kelly was universally derided as an awful and unimaginative OC. Pep Hamilton was a huge upgrade, or so we thought.

At the end of the season, there has to be either improvement or accountability. When teams are this bad, people pay with their jobs, that’s how the NFL works.

I like Lovie Smith. I respect Lovie Smith. The Texans right now are not likable or respectable.

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