Mandatory Credit: Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/Shutterstock (13419247l) Houston Texans coach Lovie Smith watches players warm up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, in Chicago Texans Bears Football, Chicago, United States – 25 Sep 2022
For the third straight game, Houston made critical late errors leading to defeat.
Texans head coach Lovie Smith rang some familiar bells in the aftermath of Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Bears in Chicago. It was another stinging loss in which the team played poorly down the stretch and allowed a winnable game to escape them.
“It’s hard winning football games when you can’t finish.”
That was the first sentence out of Smith’s mouth in his post-game press conference. He seemed exasperated. This has been the theme of post-game pressers for Smith for three weeks. The Texans could legitimately be 3-0. Instead, they are 0-2-1.
“Can’t let games come down to one play there.”
This was another frustration of the Texans head coach. It seems you can point to one play where the game changed. Against the Colts, it was the EJ Speed sack in the middle of the fourth quarter. In Denver, it was the 35-yard completion to Courtland Sutton on 3rd & 16 at the start of the fourth quarter. Sunday in Chicago, it was the Roquan Smith interception very late in the fourth quarter. Singular plays that defined the games.
“…when you’re that close, you’ve got to be able to finish. The opportunities that we’re talking — we’re not talking about outstanding great plays that we have to make.”
“Once you don’t tackle well and you give up some big plays, it’s going to be a tough day.”
The Texans were torched for 281 yards on the ground, the kind of number that an FCS team gives up to a power 5 school. The Texans’ run defense has been worse through three games this season (202.3 YPG) than it has been either of the last two seasons when they finished 31st in 2021 (142.2 YPG) and dead last in 2020 (160.3 YPG) in run defense.
“Is it a surprise we gave up that many (rushing) yards? Absolutely. That’s not how we’ve played. One thing for a couple of — the first wave of defense, but the big chunk plays, one over 50, where they had two plays that were almost 100 yards. You can’t do that. We’re not set up that way. We don’t play zero coverage. We should have a last line of defense, a safety in the middle of the field.
So a lot of things have to happen wrong for them to be able to get some of those plays.”
Three weeks of essentially the same press conference with a few varying details by game. A season that seemed to have some possible unexpected promise is currently covered with unexpected frustration.
The offense was going to be better under Pep Hamilton than Tim Kelly. Davis Mills would continue to progress forward off of his strong final five games in 2021. The offensive line was going to be much better. The defensive line was going to be better. The secondary was going to be better. The head coach was going to be much better going from the very nice but in way over his head David Culley to the proven experience of Lovie Smith. The defense overall would be better.
Every one of those items has been a point of frustration, and it is starting to let a season slip away.