<
>

Texans defense struggling to keep up with high-powered offense

play
Did the Texans' D tire out? (1:04)

Jeff Saturday questions why Texans coach Bill O'Brien didn't call a timeout to give his defense a rest on the Seahawks' final drive. (1:04)

HOUSTON -- For the second time this season, Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans offense gave the team a lead late in a game against an elite team.

Unfortunately for them, Sunday's 41-38 loss to the Seahawks was the second time they have lost such a game.

Watson twice gave the Texans the lead in the fourth quarter with touchdown passes at CenturyLink Field, but the defense could not hold on. The Texans are 2-3 this season when scoring 30 or more points. Prior to this season, they were 36-3 in franchise history when scoring 30 or more.

The Texans have allowed 26.9 points per game this season, which ranks 29th in the NFL. Head coach Bill O'Brien said the defense needs "to do a better job of combining coverage and rush."

"When you look at the game yesterday, you look at Russell Wilson, just did a great job of extending plays, and that's hurt us all year," O'Brien said. "I thought our defense did a great job of stopping the run, but there were too many X-plays, too many pass plays that were 20 yards or more down the field."

The Seahawks quarterback completed a career-high nine passes thrown 15-plus yards downfield for a total of 320 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Wilson was 3-of-3 for 75 yards, with the game-winning touchdown to a wide-open Jimmy Graham on the Seahawks' final scoring drive.

"We just have to go out there and win games, and we didn't finish the task," outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said. "We've got to play better."

The Texans have lost several key pieces from the 2016 unit that allowed nearly 6.5 fewer points per game and ranked as the NFL's No. 1 defense in yards allowed. Cornerback A.J. Bouye (led the Texans in pass break-ups), safety Quintin Demps (led the team in interceptions) and 2016 starting inside linebacker John Simon left via free agency during the offseason, and linebacker Whitney Mercilus and defensive end J.J. Watt saw their seasons end Week 5 against the Chiefs due to injuries. Linebacker Brian Cushing also is serving a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The Texans also likely lost defensive end Christian Covington for the season after he tore his biceps on Sunday. Houston added depth at cornerback as they got Jeremy Lane from the Seahawks in the trade for left tackle Duane Brown.

That's seven key contributors the Texans are missing from last season's impressive group.

Bouye was one of the best cover corners in the league, and his presence as a shutdown player has been missed in the secondary. The Texans have beaten quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota (who was injured during the game in Houston) and Kevin Hogan this season, while their last three losses have come against Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Wilson.

In those last three losses, the three quarterbacks have completed 70.2 percent of their passes, thrown for 1,154 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Texans allowed a combined 119 points in those defeats, while the offense scored an extremely respectable 105. While Houston sacked the immobile Brady five times, the Texans combined for three sacks against Smith and Wilson.

Houston has a chance to get back on track on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, who have the 25th-ranked scoring offense, averaging just 17.8 points per game. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett does have a history of success against the Texans, though, having helped the Patriots to a 27-0 win in Foxborough, Mass., last season before being traded to the Colts this season.

"We've been here before," Clowney said. "We had New England on the ropes, it comes down to the last minute. That's the difference between a Super Bowl team and us right now. We've got to come together and regroup and get ready for next week."