Texas

Mistakes add up in loss to Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — For nearly two months, Texans have been searching for answers as to why they can’t win.

Answers to why they can’t stop the run, why their offense can’t score, and why they can’t finish games.

They were hoping to find those answers this week.

But after Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Giants at Met Life Stadium, it’s clear those answers won’t be found until the offseason. The Texans are 1-7-1 — the worst record in the NFL — and they deserve it all.

From their inability to stop the run to their inefficient offense, the Texans’ games become all too predictable.

It’s the little things that continue to plague Texans. They miss too many tackles, commit unnecessary penalties and turn the ball far too often for a team that lacks the explosiveness to make comebacks.

When asked about his level of frustration after the loss, defensive tackle Maliek Collins was honest.

“It’s high,” he said. “I can only speak for myself, but it’s high for me.”

The Texans had many ways to make the game far more competitive than it actually was. They hit the red zone four times in the fourth quarter.

But neither of them produced a touchdown. In fact, two of those trips didn’t earn a point at all.

On their first trip to the red zone in the fourth quarter, the Texans got the ball left to the Giants’ 8-yard line 14-14. The Texans put the ball in the hands of their best players.

But Dameon Pierce, who hadn’t lost a fumble all season, lost the ball when he was pulled out by Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Pierce, who finished with 94 yards on 17 carries, lay on the ground in disbelief with his hands on his helmet.

“We were in the red zone, and that’s the last thing that should happen,” Pierce said of the fumble. “Especially when I’m doing it… Right at that moment I was like, ‘Gosh, that could have cost us,’ and eventually it did.”

It was one of many pieces the Texans tasted.

On their next drive, the Texans had the ball at the Giants’ 19-yard line. Quarterback Davis Mills found wide receiver Brandin Cooks open between safety and cornerback for a 19-yard touchdown, but the game was called back because rookie guard Kenyon Green was called out for a hold.

A result there would have made it a game with just one ball and momentum on their side.

Instead, more pain followed.

Two plays later, the Texans executed the same offensive play, this time with Phillip Dorsett lining up on the left. And this time, Mills threw his ninth interception this season.

“They felt like game changers,” Dorsett said of the two red-zone turnovers. “We had no problems getting down there. We just had to finish. We do not have that.”

The defense also had its problems.

The Giants were 7 of 14 on third downs, which helped them keep the drives alive and the Texans’ defense on the field just when it looked like they were about to be relegated.

There was one game in the third quarter that basically summed up the day.

The Giants faced a third-and-9 at their own 46-yard line. The Texans rushed six defenders and hit Giants quarterback Daniel Jones as he made the throw to wide receiver Darius Slayton about 30 yards from the first down

Rookie safety Jalen Pitre was on Slayton almost immediately. But Pitre overran the game and missed the tackle, allowing Slayton to run for a 54-yard touchdown.

Texans coach Lovie Smith highlighted this in his opening remarks at his post-game press conference. Aside from the missed tackle, Smith said there should have been another defender to stop Slayton in case Pitre missed the tackle.

But there was none.

“That hurt us,” Smith said.

He’s right. The touchdown gave the Giants a 14-3 lead and turned the momentum in their favor.

And the Texans aren’t good enough offensively to fall behind. Sunday’s game was the ninth time this season that they failed to reach 25 points. Even the Colts, who started Week 10 with the fewest points per game average, made it twice.

It also doesn’t help that the Texans still can’t stop the run even if they know what’s coming. Giants running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown with 35 carries. It was the fourth 150-yard rushing game of his NFL career.

Defensive end Jerry Hughes said their inability to stop the run was the most frustrating part.

“The way the season went, the way we played, I thought the guys were going to be ready for that,” Hughes said. “Our coach talks about it. Be physical, make teams one-dimensional. So lest we tune into what he’s been telling us all week, I think that’s just a small part of the breakup we need to figure out.

He’s right.

The Texans are halfway through the season with just a few easy games left on their schedule.

They’re heading straight for the league’s worst record and top overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. The frustration increases. And unless the Texans learn how to fix it, it’s only going to get worse.

Smith has often mentioned how close the Texans are to getting some of those wins. But proximity won’t cut it.

“There’s a saying ‘close but no cigar,'” Collins said. “You can get as close as you want, but eventually you have to finish.”

Preaching.

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