McClain: Davis Mills is a much different QB when Texans play at home

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(SportsRadio 610) - If Davis Mills could play every game at NRG Stadium, he would be a Pro Bowl quarterback.

In seven starts at home, Mills has completed 169 of 241 (65.9 percent) for 1,915 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s thrown one interception and has a 111.3 rating.

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In seven games on the road, Mills is 142 of 228 (61.9 percent) for 1,259 yards and four touchdowns. He’s thrown 10 interceptions and has a 64.7 rating.

Mills’ eighth start at NRG Stadium is Sunday against the Chargers, a team that knows better than anyone how productive Mills can be home.

In December of last season, the Texans shocked the Chargers 41-29. Mills was 21 of 27 for 254 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He averaged 10.8 yards per attempt and compiled a rating of 130.6, second-best of his career.

In one home game this season – the 20-20 tie with the Colts – Mills threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. His rating was 98.9.

The Texans are desperate to earn their first victory, and they can’t do it without Mills playing his best game of the season. They need for him to play the way he played at NRG Stadium as a rookie.

Coach Lovie Smith was asked this week about how Mills plays at home compared to the road. He wasn’t buying into it.

“Not too much into that,” he said. “He’s played one home game (this season), and we as a team didn’t get the job done. There’s some good things he did (but) I think it’s a small body of work to start writing things in ink (rather than pencil) right now.

“I’m anxious to see his second game at home and feeding off the energy from his home crowd. He made improvements this past week, and I expect him to take another jump this week.”

It was difficult to see improvements Mills made at Chicago, so they must have been subtle. He threw two interceptions, one in the end zone and another on the last series. Both balls were tipped.

Mills knows how much more effective he’s been at home compared to the road.

In the last two road losses at Denver and Chicago that left the Texans with an 0-2-1 record, Mills was 39 of 70 (55.7 percent) for 422 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

At this early stage of his career, it’s obvious Mills – not to mention his offensive teammates – are more relaxed and confident at NRG Stadium than they are playing on the road.

“The biggest thing is you’re more comfortable at home,” Mills said. “You’ve played here before. (You) don’t have to deal with the crowd noise on offense, and that’s a big thing at the away games -- just being able to communicate pre-snap and handle everything. You’re not surprised as much.”

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s game plan doesn’t change based on whether the Texans are at home or the road. He game plans for the opponent.

“I don’t think the philosophy changes,” Mills said. “Obviously, we still have to protect the football. I didn’t know that stat (four touchdowns, 10 interceptions) was so lopsided, home and away.

“My job stays the same, just execute at a high level, regardless.”

Hamilton, who’s in his first season as offensive coordinator and play caller after coaching quarterbacks last year, believes the difference in Mills’ home-and-road performance is indicative of how many starts he’s made: 14.

“You can’t teach experience,” Hamilton said. “He’s still learning on the job. We recognize there’s a reason he’s our starting quarterback. We feel like he can do the job. We’ll all get better at being more consistent at doing our jobs.

“The more he plays -- the more all our young guys play -- they’ll have a reference point for how to handle different situations even better the next time they have to function in that space. He’s working at it just like all our guys, and we’ve got to find a way to beat the Chargers.”

Mills isn’t oblivious to fans and media already being ready to dump him in favor of using a high draft choice on a franchise quarterback like Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Alabama’s Bryce Young. He insists he doesn’t pay attention to it because he’s got more problems to worry about – playing better and trying to help the Texans get their first victory.

“There’s pressures in being the starting quarterback,” Mills said. “I’m not looking that far ahead of it. I’m taking this one practice at a time, one week at a time. I’m putting my best foot forward for my teammates and trying to win games.”

Mills’ best foot must be better against the Chargers, or the Texans will be doomed to a third consecutive defeat.

John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com. He also can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com.

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