The Texans season can be summed up in one word: Frustrating. Frustratingly bad against good teams. Dazzling at times against weak teams, and always making you wonder why they can’t put it together against better opponents. The same could be said of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Texans are nothing if not consistent. On Sunday, they crushed the Tennessee Titans for a second time this season, rolling to a 45-21 win at NRG Stadium. They did what they have done all season — take care of business against bad teams. Last week, we were once again reminded what happens when they play good teams when they were dominated by the Bengals.
This was the good week. Fitzpatrick did his best impression of Peyton Manning. DeAndre Hopkins had a breakout game. J.J. Watt continued to dazzle. It was all the things you wish you could see every week.
So the Texans are back to .500 at 6-6. They still have two games with the lowly Jaguars, then games against superior opponents in the Colts and Ravens. If form holds, the Texans will be 8-8 for the third time in franchise history.
After 12 games, we know exactly what they are, even after their best effort of the season: Mediocre. All playoff hopes realistically ended last week, and the Texans responded with one of their best efforts in years. It was thrilling to watch, and yet another game that made us wonder what might have been.
There are still things to enjoy down the stretch. Ryan Mallett’s injury ends any hopes of evaluating him. But there is still the brilliance of Watt and Arian Foster. The emergence of Hopkins. The development of Jadeveon Clowney. Oh wait, never mind on that one.
All that said, Sunday’s game was pure dominance and showed how good the Texans can be at times. It also proved why their mediocrity is so frustrating. They are like the girl who looks incredibly hot when she puts on makeup, but when she doesn’t looks downright scary. The Texans had their makeup on Sunday.
The game was essentially decided in the first half, when the Texans ran the ball effectively, got more from Fitzpatrick than they had all season, and took advantage of an interception to race to a 24-0 lead. Fitzpatrick was near perfect in the half, going 14 of 18 for 179 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. His quarterback rating for the half was a salty 147.7. He would keep it going in the second.
The game got interesting briefly in the second half, after Jason McCourty stripped Andre Johnson — Johnson’s third fumble of the season — and ran it back to make it 24-14. But Fitzpatrick connected on his fourth TD pass of the game and second to Hopkins to make it 31-14 and the rout was on.
For the game, Fitzpatrick finished 24 of 33 for 348 yards and an amazing six touchdowns and a rating of 147.5. Like his team, he often has games where he makes you think he can be the answer at quarterback. But then he becomes wildly inconsistent and makes terrible mistakes. This was one of those games where he provided hope. Two weeks after being benched, he responded with his best game of his career. Like the girl with he makeup on, he was simply beautiful. Don’t be shocked if he looks good against the Jaguars next week. But when they play the Colts? Different story. That has been the case all year. And for his career. But for one day, he was off the charts.
Hopkins was brilliant as well, with nine catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Watt had two sacks, including a strip sack/fumble in the fourth quarter that led to his third touchdown catch of the season. He also should have been called for roughing on a play that knocked Titans QB Zack Mettenberger out of the game. It was a borderline cheap shot. But his continued brilliance is undeniable.
Joseph had his second pick in two weeks, and Jumal Rolle had his third pick of the season and A.J. Bouye snagged one as well as the Texans defense continues to force turnovers at a high rate. So much promise at times. So frustrating at others.
This is what mediocre teams do. At times they make you think they can get it together. At others they look hopeless. In the end, they hang right around .500. On Sunday, they got back to that. Despite the brilliance against the Titans, don’t be shocked if that’s where they finish.