It was over when Matt Schaub threw a pick-six on the first drive of the game, or at least it was over mentally for the entire offense and coaching scheme. The San Francisco 49ers went on to storm ahead 21-0, and while Schaub stalled psychologically, the rest of the Texans offense found more and more problems.
Schaub will feel most of the blame for the teams third straight loss, and he might even lose his starting job over it. Whatever happens, though, there was a distinct lack of direction on Sunday night in the 34-3 loss—especially for a team that had no trouble putting points on the board in weeks past.
Andre Johnson Missing in Action
It was one of the first times in Andre Johnson's career that he has been physically outplayed. Fifty percent of it could be payed to Schaub's accuracy woes, but give credit to San Francisco's defense, and in particular, defensive backs Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock.
Johnson had his chances in this one but was unfortunately the victim of solid coverage and a simple bad game. On Schaub's first interception he was the target on what looked to be an outside fade route, only to be beat by Brock, who took the ball to the house.
Further on in the game, Johnson had a chance to redeem himself but failed to bring in a deep pass toward the pylon that should have been caught for a score.
Oddly enough, Johnson went for the one-handed catch over the safer two-handed option, and on one of the rare balls that was thrown pretty well from Schaub, Brown had enough time to apply his body on the veteran receiver.
Both Brown and Brock played a pretty physical game, and after a slight injury in recent weeks and quarterback troubles, it's no wonder Johnson wasn't a factor. Still, the Texans also saw zero production out of rookie DeAndre Hopkins this week, as he was also held tight by Brown through most of the game.
In case you haven't been counting, this is the ninth straight game (including last season) that Johnson hasn't caught a touchdown pass. The Texans should be pretty used to that by now, but with a ton of yards but no points to show for it, it would sure help out any quarterback if his leading receiver could get on the board.
In typical Johnson fashion, though, he's not ready to be negative.
The Running Attack Is Slowly Coming Apart
There's been a lot made of Arian Foster and Ben Tate's one-two punch. Early in the season it worked, but against San Francisco, it was a big, fat waste.
With a combined effort of 136 yards and zero touchdowns, Foster and Tate struggled against a 49ers defense that was minus Nnamdi Asomugha and Patrick Willis. Foster showed some brief bursts up the middle and converted on a 4th-and-2 play, but Tate went backward, fumbling for his second straight game.
But aside from running the ball, the Texans strayed away from what was working last week against the Seattle Seahawks. The short, underneath screen routes to running backs looked to be what Gary Kubiak was trying to employ in the offense to mix it up a little—yet on Sunday, we saw none of that.
For the past five weeks, the general feeling has been that the real Foster will show up eventually, and that he's just taking a little while to find his feet. Against a team like San Francisco, though, that ranks 20th in rush defense and second in rushing touchdowns allowed, it's a wonder when Foster will ever score his second touchdown of the season.
The Trouble with Third Down
On the second drive of the game, the Texans converted three third-down attempts and moved down the field nicely. It looked as if maybe they'd finally figured this third-down thing out, but then the old offense of weeks past reared its ugly head.
The Texans converted six of their 16 third-down attempts (37 percent) and once again struggled to keep the ball moving. Some of this is on Kubiak's play-calling, but a sloppy running game and a tight opposing secondary is always a recipe for disaster.
Some may not like it, but seeing Schaub move more freely outside of the pocket would help the offense immensely.
He's never been known as a mobile quarterback, but since the Texans defense has dealt with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick in the past two weeks, it's even more obvious that a quarterback who can scramble can make things a little easier.