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The Houston Texans finally appeared on Sunday Night Football… and subsequently face-planted right into the Green Bay Packers who dominated them to the tune of a 42-24 win. It was an unexpected game not just because the Texans lost, but how they lost.
The Green Bay Packers dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Considering how well the Texans had played defensively this year and how much improvement their offensive line had shown, it was a surprise to see the struggling Packers, who had no running game to speak of coming in because of Cedric Benson’s injury and who lead the league in sacks allowed, control the game.
Green Bay’s line dominance didn’t manifest itself in Alex Green, James Starks, or John Kuhn running particularly well, but it did give Aaron Rodgers a lot of time to throw. And Rodgers picked apart the Packers for the best game of his career: 338 yards and 6 touchdowns.
All which was aided by a lot of bad Houston Texans mistakes. Early in the 3rd quarter, the Texans were down 21-10 and the Packers started with the ball. On the first drive of the half, Green Bay ran 12 plays inside the Texans 30 yard line because whenever Houston got a stop, a penalty would keep the Packers drive alive. Connor Barwin was called for “leaping” on Green Bay’s field goal that gave them a first down and Danieal Manning was called for unnecessary roughness when he punched a Packers player in the head several times because of the way his leg was pinned down.
If Houston holds Green Bay to a field goal, the game is maybe a different story because the Texans built some momentum at the end of the first half. But based on the play of both lines, that seems doubtful.
The Texans just couldn’t keep up offensively, which isn’t the fault of Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, or any of the receivers. Arian Foster had 13 carries for just 21 yards and a score in the first half and, while he got a 2nd touchdown, he finished with less than 30 yards on the ground. The Texans became a one-dimensional team and Schaub is perfectly capable of carrying the offense and working the ball down the field to his receivers, but he wasn’t getting the protection to pull that off. At one point in the 2nd half, the Packers were ready for a screen pass, but also had guys coming at him so he threw the ball at Foster’s feet in frustration.
You can’t really put this loss on the secondary despite Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb making some great catches. Aaron Rodgers was close to perfect in this game. There are only a handful of throws that were off enough to be incomplete and at least once, Rodgers missed a wide open receiver that would’ve made for an easy touchdown.
The Houston Texans had a lot of travel this week as they came from New York on a short week after beating the Jets, but I wouldn’t blame this loss on that. There was plenty of motivation for the Texans on this night with the opponent, the atmosphere and the television build-up, not to mention their previously perfect record.
Houston certainly can’t afford to wallow in sadness about their first loss of the season. They have the Baltimore Ravens coming to Reliant Stadium on Sunday and while the Ravens defense isn’t what it used to be, the offense has plenty of firepower as we saw against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. In two weeks, the Texans could fall from one of the best in the NFL to an illegitimate contender based on the teams they’ve lost to. Even for a 5-1 team with a two game lead in the division, there’s a lot on the line this coming weekend.