(SportsRadio 610) - The Texans have missed chances to win in back-to-back games to start their season, first with a tie at home against the Indianapolis Colts, then a 16-9 loss on the road against the Denver Broncos.
Here are the Texans' grades from Sunday's game in Denver.
For the second consecutive game, the Texans led early in the fourth quarter but couldn’t pull out a victory. They were 10-point underdogs. The defense allowed one touchdown. The offense didn’t score a touchdown and had to settle for three field goals.
Davis Mills didn’t play well. He was off target on too many or his passes. He completed only 50 percent of his throws. In fairness to him, he should have had one touchdown pass, but Brandin Cooks couldn’t catch the ball in the end zone. He’s not in sync with his receivers.
Lovie Smith promised that rookie Dameon Pierce would get more carries against the Broncos, and he lived up to his promise. He ran 15 times for 69 yards (4.6 average), and his longest run was 12 yards. Rex Burkhead didn’t carry one time.
Brandin Cooks should have caught a touchdown pass, but he let it slip through his hands in the end zone. He finished with four catches for 54 yards. Nico Collins had four for 58. Overall, the wideouts combined for 10 catches and 126 yards.
Unlike against the Colts, there were no touchdown passes for O.J. Howard. He had one reception for 7 yards. Howard, Pharaoh Brown and Brevin Jordan combined for six catches and 34 yards. That 6.3-yard average per catch isn’t going to cut it.
Rookie left guard Kenyon Green started his first game and helped the running game. Center Scott Quessenberry started his first game with the Texans. The run blocking improved over the Indianapolis game. At times, the pass protection was good, but when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, there were crucial breakdowns.
After missing the first game, Rasheem Green made his debut with the Texans and contributed 1.5 sacks. At times, the linemen were effective against the Denver running game, but the Broncos pounded them in the second half, finishing with 149 yards and averaging 4.8 a carry. They helped keep the Broncos out of the end zone except for one touchdown.
Christian Kirksey made a tremendous play on an interception, the Texans’ only takeaway. He was beaten for the only Denver touchdown. The linebackers started well against the run and got after Russell Wilson, helping keep him confused and off target. Kevin Pierre-Louis left the game with an injury and could be out a while.
Rookie Derek Stingley Jr., got taken to school by veteran receiver Courtland Sutton. Stingley made a few good plays, but Sutton wore him out most of the game. Sutton finished with seven catches for 122 yards. The defensive backs made a lot of good plays against Russell Wilson, and they didn’t allow a touchdown pass.
Ka’imi Fairbairn provided all the Texans’ scoring with field goals of 40, 44 and 24 yards. He had three touchbacks on kickoffs. Cam Johnston had a gross punting average of 53.6 yards and a net of 41.8. He put two inside the 20. Coverage was decent.
Lovie Smith and his assistants know they could have won this game with a better performance from Pep Hamilton’s passing game. The offense was a disappointment. It didn’t produce a touchdown. The running game improved with the emphasis on Dameon Pierce rather than Rex Burkhead. Smith’s defense allowed one touchdown and played well enough to win.
John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610, where he also does three Houtopia Podcasts a week. He can be heard Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio and can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com.