LOS ANGELES — Although the Houston Texans said the right things after a 33-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, their words belied the frustration of a team that sees its season slipping away.
Linebacker Brennan Scarlett said the locker room would never point fingers. Quarterback Tom Savage took the rap for the offense’s struggles. Coach Bill O’Brien assigned the blame entirely to himself.
“I haven’t done a good job coaching this team this year, and that was my message to the team,” O’Brien said. “I have to figure out how to coach this team better and try to get them to play better.”
No matter the culprit, there was a clear delineation between how the Texans (3-6) played in the first half compared to the second. Houston held the NFL’s top-scoring offense out of the end zone in the first half before allowing three touchdown passes by Jared Goff in the third quarter.
The Texans actually outgained the Rams in the first half, even outrushing Todd Gurley’s Rams by 46 yards. But they also turned the ball over twice, including a red-zone interception with 1:35 left in the half that allowed the Rams to drive for a 9-7 lead on Greg Zuerlein’s 50-yard field goal.
Savage threw the ball up into a crowd where there were two Texans and three Rams, including linebacker Mark Barron, who made the pick.
“Maybe should have run it there,” O’Brien said. “I don’t know, just kick the field goal and try to go in 10-6, but thought we had a good pass call there and just threw an interception.”
Over the final 31:35, the Rams had 355 yards to the Texans’ 96 and scored on five of their final eight possessions.
O’Brien was even blunter in his assessment of why the defense imploded from that point on.
“We weren’t doing anything offensively,” O’Brien said. “It’s a team game. If you’re not doing anything offensively, it’s hard to be on the field all that time.”
Scarlett and Savage were both confident that despite their coach’s acknowledgement of the divide between offense and defense, it would not spill over into the locker room.
“The most important part is just to stay together, you know. We all have a part in this and we all got to be better,” said Scarlett, who had three tackles for loss and two sacks.
“I think if you go in that locker room, you can tell that’s not the way this team operates,” Savage said. “I’ve been here for four years and I’ve seen it. I’ve seen bad and I’ve seen good, and I can promise you that those guys in that locker room are not going to stop competing or point fingers or do anything like that. We’re family in there. You are not going to find a better group of guys to go out there and kind of go on this side of the journey with. I wouldn’t choose another group.”
Edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney came the closest to laying out the team’s growing disappointment and anger since promising rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson was lost to a season-ending knee injury in practice on Nov. 2. The Texans have lost three straight games, the last two without Watson.
Clowney pointed to the play that changed the game, a 94-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Robert Woods early in the third quarter. The dramatic score allowed the Rams to create separation from the Texans at 16-7.
“You seen that touchdown pass he got? There was a holding on that. He pulled me by my waist in the end zone,” said Clowney, referring to Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein. “It should have been a safety, but they don’t call them calls all the time. But it happens. That was the momentum swing right there.”
Clowney, who had three tackles for loss and one sack, was on the sideline for the entirety of the Rams’ next scoring drive.
“I’m not a coach. I play,” Clowney said. “They made the decision to have me on the side. I don’t argue with the coach. Just do what they ask me to do, and that’s what I was doing.”