INDIANAPOLIS — As the Texans have learned since his early November injury — and with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates trying to keep the ship afloat — no Deshaun Watson equals no victories.
Houston lost its sixth consecutive game and fell to Indianapolis 22-13 and earning the Cleveland Browns No. 4 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after claiming the amassing fewer than 250 total yards Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Yates, who mustered 128 yards passing in his first start against the Colts, mustered only 137 on 14 of 24 passes and threw a costly interception a week later despite completing passes to seven different receivers. Alfred Blue led a Texan running backs with 18 rushes for 39 yards and Houston’s only touchdown while Lamar Miller (8 rush, 39 yards) needed 10 fewer to gain nearly the same amount of yardage.
The Texans’ fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and owner of the franchise’s first playoff victory that season after spelling former quarterback Matt Schaub was delivering his finest performance of the season since taking over for Savage after a season-ending concussion. Yates had been out of the league this season until Watson tore his ACL seven games into the season.
Ka’imi Fairbairn hit both of his field goals — including one from 52 yards — in the first half.
Yates, however, was unable to beat back the Colts’ surge, as Brissett, who is 3-0 against the Texans, rallied his team from an eight-point deficit in the final two quarters. Brissett was only marginally more effective in the passing game, completing 15 of his 25 attempts for 114 yards and capping a 15-play, 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle.
The seemingly ageless Frank Gore, however, was not.
The five-time Pro Bowler gained 100 yards on 24 carries, finishing his 2017 season with 961 —the 10th season in his career he’s rushed for 900 or more yards. So was 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri, who added field goals of 54 and 22 yards during the win.
Marlon Mack, too, was effective after scoring the go-ahead touchdown that put the Colts ahead for good after the lead swung back and forth three different times in the matchup.
There was a glimmer of hope for a struggling Texan defense going not the offseason, though. Former Jadeveon Clowney, who finished the year with arguably his best season and was selected to start in the Pro Bowl, finished with seven tackles, 1/2 a sack and a quarterback hit during the loss. Clowney had career highs in sacks (9.5), tackles (59), tackles for loss (21), QB hits (21), and forced fumbles (2).
Houston (4-12) finished the season with the fourth worst record in the league under Bill O’Brien, but was forced to weather Hurricane Harvey and the losses of former two-time Defensive MVP J.J. Watt. defensive stalwart Whitney Mercilus, and Watson, an electric rookie sensation, to season-ending injuries.
While O’Brien is under contract until 2018 and is expected to be retained. Reports from Houston Chronicle reporter John McLain, however, hint toward the franchise may make a play for Buffalo’s Brian Gaine and move away from Rick Smith as general manager.
Gaine was fired by Smith after last season, but is highly respected by O’Brien and the Texans’ organization. McClain also reported Smith has taken a leave of absence because of personal issues.
“Effective immediately, I have chosen to take an extended leave of absence to focus my attention and intention on my wife’s complete recovery from her recent diagnosis of breast cancer,” Smith said in the statement moments after the game’s conclusion. “We are faithful and trust in God’s promise of healing and wholeness.”
Houston doesn’t own a first- or second-round draft pick after surrendering the former to Cleveland to acquire Watson during the draft and the latter to the Browns to take on quarterback Brock Osweiler’s contract during the offseason.
The Texans may address offensive line needs through free agency and pursue Tom Brady-protector and New England left tackle Nate Solder or upgrade its secondary and make high-contract but high-value move for Los Angeles cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The Rams’ corner has tallied 65 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble in 2017 under a franchise tag that’s expected to lead to free agency in the offseason.
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