Texans looking to end skid in finale against Colts
HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans have lost five games in a row for the first time since 2013, and as they prepare for their regular-season finale at Indianapolis they’re trying not to dwell on how disappointing this season has been or look too far ahead.
Coach Bill O’Brien and his team are simply focused on trying to improve and end their skid this week.
“Neither one of us are going to the playoffs, but this is kind of like our playoff game — playoff game right here,” O’Brien said. “Let’s see how we can finish the season and ... see if that puts us ending on a good note heading into the offseason.”
The Texans (4-11) failed to make the playoffs this season after winning the AFC South the past two seasons, and it’s the first time in O’Brien’s tenure that they’ll finish with a losing record after going 9-7 in each of his first three years in Houston.
Though there’s little left to play for in this dreadful season marked by injuries to stars Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt, O’Brien hopes his team will play for pride on Sunday and for the opportunity not to finish last in their division for the first time since going 2-14 in 2013. Houston is in third place in the division, one game ahead of the Colts (3-12).
“In the division, you don’t want to end up in last place,” O’Brien said. “It’s very important to go out there and try to win this game and not be in last place, no doubt about it.”
To do that the Texans will have to figure out a way to get their passing game going. Houston has struggled in that area since Watson was injured in early November, but things have gotten even worse in the two games since third-stringer T.J. Yates has taken over for Tom Savage.
The Texans have managed just 13 points combined in the two games Yates has started. And their passing game, which was among the league’s best with Watson at the helm, has averaged just 105.5 yards a game in the past two weeks.
However, O’Brien was quick to point out that Yates isn’t the only problem in Houston’s passing woes.
“There’s a lot that goes into playing that position and it’s not just him,” O’Brien said. “It’s protection. It’s route-running. It’s his execution, his reads of the coverage, his ability to go from one side to the next as far as making the proper read within his progression. So, we’ll work on all those things and he’ll ... work very, very hard to improve and we’ll get it better this week.”
One encouraging sign from Monday’s loss to the Steelers was the improvement of the running game. The Texans finished with 176 yards rushing for their first 100-yard rushing game since running for 134 in their win over the Cardinals on Nov. 19.
That effort was led by backup Alfred Blue, who had 16 carries for a season-high 108 yards. It was the first time this season Houston has had a 100-yard rusher as Lamar Miller has struggled in his second season with the Texans after running for 1,073 yards last season.
The Texans will likely have to sign another quarterback this week to back up Yates after Taylor Heinicke sustained a concussion on Monday when he briefly took over when Yates was being evaluated for a concussion.
O’Brien said he wasn’t sure of Heinicke’s status for this week on Monday and that they were discussing options if he can’t play.
Though this season is very different from O’Brien’s first three with the Texans, he insists that he and his staff are approaching the last game the same way they have faced every week since he arrived here and they’re determined to turn things around on Sunday.
“The thing that’s key for our players and our coaches to understand is that we have to prepare and be ready to go on Sunday because that’s what our responsibility is as professional coaches and professional players, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “These guys are going to prepare hard, they’re going to practice hard and we’ll go up there and try to find a way to win.”