Like an 8th grader at the mall, the Houston Texans were a walking fog of that pungent winner’s cologne.
For most of the last two months, their win-loss record overpowered any serious criticism. It was easy to spray around that old adage about good teams finding a way to win when they don’t play well. They were 8-1, 10-1, 12-2. Nothing to smell here. Move along.
They got blown out in New England, and that was alarming, but it was Tom Brady, and it was just one of those nights, and the Texans were still on top of the AFC.
But then came Sunday, and its stormcloud of stink. Suddenly, after taking a beatdown at home from a Vikings team that supposedly has one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, the Texans’ dirty drawers are out in the open.
All of your questions, complaints and concerns are now worth entertaining.
Is Gary Kubiak’s conservatism a fatal flaw in the team’s personality?
How good is Matt Schaub, really?
Why can’t the Texans run the ball anymore?
Does the secondary attend practice?
That’s a lot of big questions for a 12-3 team, and while it’s not fair to go back and tally up the games the Texans could have lost, that old bit about the best teams winning when they don’t play well suddenly doesn’t seem to apply.
The Texans are not the best team. The Texans are a very good team with a high number of tiny flaws. They have a pretty good quarterback, a great wide receiver, a pretty good running back, a great defensive coordinator and maybe the best player in the NFL.
But opponents have figured out that even with J.J. Watt having one of the best seasons ever recorded by a defensive lineman, you can throw on the Texans. If you can control your gaps you can stop Arian Foster; he doesn’t break a lot of tackles. Odds are, your special teams units will have a better day than the Texans’.
Most teams aren’t good enough to take advantage of those flaws, because the Texans are more balanced and more talented than the majority of the league, but this season isn’t about beating most teams. That was last year.
This season is about beating the Patriots, the Packers, the Broncos. It’s about the Super Bowl, and when it’s about the Super Bowl, people are going to rightfully flip out when you get manhandled by an average team in your own building.
The Texans are not what we thought they were, not even what they were in September.
For a month, the Texans have looked like they thought they were a little better than they are. They looked like a team that was hoping to coast into the playoffs, and that embarrassment in New England evidently was not embarrassing enough.
Houston is talented enough to win the Super Bowl, which makes it about as talented as a half-dozen other teams.
The Texans are good, but they aren’t special.
This reality now seems to have been obvious for weeks, but that’s mostly because we are now looking at some of those Texans wins with the perspective of someone who knows what it looks like when they lose, and we see a lot of similarities.
In the end, as Bill Parcells famously said, you are what your record says you are. The 16-game schedule has a way of sorting things out.