Everyone is looking for something or someone to blame after the Houston Texans‘ 30-9 routing by the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. I’ve heard fans call for Rick Dennison to lose his job, read articles from sports writers about Gary Kubiak‘s conservative play-calling and seen signs posted above highways that have called for the Texans to cut starting quarterback Matt Schaub. But even though blame certainly rests on the shoulders of these individuals, maybe there’s an even bigger force at work here.
Every game in 2013 — preseason and regular season — there has been at least one important member of the Texans injured and out of the game. In the preseason, we saw Arian Foster, Whitney Mercilus, Ed Reed, DeAndre Hopkins, DeVier Posey and Wade Smith all miss time, and now in the regular season Reed missed the first two games, Andre Johnson has missed some playing time in the past two games and Duane Brown missed last week and could be out this week.
Injuries have plagued the Texans more than anything else — Schaub’s struggles to throw downfield, “Konservniak’s” play-calling, terrible special teams — the past two seasons. Johnson and Schaub missed significant time in 2011, Schaub due to Lisfranc injury and Johnson thanks to his hamstring. In 2012, Brian Cushing missed the final nine games of the season completely after rupturing his Achilles in the fifth game of the year. Both years, the Texans went from a dark horse Super Bowl contender to losing several consecutive games to end the season and losing in the second round of the playoffs.
This year has been no different, as Brown missing time has come against arguably the Texans’ two most-challenging opponents. The Ravens showed just how much Brown matters to this offensive line, sacking Schaub three times and knocking him down seven times. They also limited the Texans to just 94 rushing yards, the fewest Houston has put up in this young season. And this Sunday, the Texans face an even greater challenge, taking on arguably the best defense in the league in the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have 10 takeaways already, and have yet to allow 200 yards to any quarterback that’s faced them.
Going into this game, Johnson and Brown are game-time decisions, and a report has recently surfaced that Schaub may have a hurt ankle. For the Texans to have a chance at winning this game, Schaub will have to throw downfield and the run game will have to work quite a bit better so the play-action pass can once again be utilized. But Brown and Johnson are essential for either of these to work, so there are definitely a lot of “ifs” going into this game.
I hate to make excuses for the Texans, but the bad luck Houston has had with the injury bug seems almost too much to overcome at times. It doesn’t matter how well you call a play or coach your players if the starting-caliber talent is all stuck on the sidelines. If the Texans can stay healthy, there are no teams in the league that they shouldn’t be able to beat. But injuries are also the hardest thing to prevent from happening to your team.