MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Chased toward the Texans’ sideline Sunday, a scrambling Tyrod Taylor almost casually flicked the football while fully intending to throw it away.
It was a costly error by the usually cautious veteran quarterback.
The errant pass inexplicably didn’t sail far enough out of bounds as Miami Dolphins quarterback Jerome Baker capitalized on the miscue that represented a microcosm of the Texans’ latest defeat and their eighth consecutive loss in a row, 17-9, Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Baker managed to establish his cleats inbounds, tapping his feet while hauling in a pivotal interception in the final minute of the first half. Four plays later, Dolphins backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, starting with Tua Tagovailoa sidelined with a broken middle finger on his left, throwing hand, connected with sliding wide receiver Mack Hollins with a five-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left in the half.
“I was trying to throw it away, careless on my part,” Taylor said. “Just got to make it clear and get it out of bounds versus leaving it in for the defender to grab it.”
Instead of trailing by four points at halftime and getting the football back to start the second half, the 1-8 Texans were suddenly down 17-6 and absorbed a 17-9 defeat despite an aggressive defense that created five turnovers and sacked Brissett four times.
With Taylor throwing three interceptions in his first game back from a Grade 2 hamstring injury that sidelined him for the previous six games, the Texans lost to team that entered Sunday with a 1-7 record and also on a seven-game losing streak. If there’s something below rock bottom for the Texans, it’s hard to imagine what could be much worse than this latest setback.
Taylor completed 23 of 34 passes for 240 yards, no scores and a 42.8 passer rating. He was under heavy duress, sacked five times and hit nine times overall. Before this game, Taylor had 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions for his career against the Dolphins in 167 previous throws.
Taylor looked rusty and out of sync. For a player whose game is built around rhythm and precision, this wasn’t up to his usual high standard.
“Bad decisions, something I need to get better at to give us an opportunity to win games,” Taylor said. “Especially on the road, turnovers are critical. It’s uncharacteristic of me, but it happened and it's something I have to clean up. And I'll do that moving forward.”
Instead of sparking the Texans after winning his first start of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Taylor threw his first interceptions of the season as the Texans finished with four turnovers.
Taylor was picked off when he tried to throw to wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the end zone at the start of the game when he got hit as he let go of the football.
The Texans went 0 for 4 in the red zone, and the Dolphins were 2 for 2.
“Very poor on offense,” Texans coach David Culley said. “Our job on offense is to protect the football. Our job for our quarterback is to protect the football. We didn't do that today. When you do that, you get these results. Our entire football team deserved better. Usually when you get five turnovers from your defense, you expect to win, but not when you have four from your offense.
“You're right, that's unusual for him. His history has always been to protect the football. He didn't do that today. We'll have to look at the video to see why those things happened, but that hasn't been his M.O., but it was today.”
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The Texans went 0-6 with rookie quarterback Davis Mills starting. The Texans went back to Taylor because they said he represents their best chance to win football games. Instead of turning things around, though, it was more of the same as the Texans lost yet another game and are now in sole possession of last place in the AFC South with the Jacksonville Jaguars winning Sunday.
Asked if Taylor will start going forward following the Texans’ bye this week, Culley was noncommittal. However, it would be mildly surprising to move on from Taylor that fast.
“We'll look at the whole situation,” Culley said. “When you're where we're at, you look at everything. We'll do that over the bye week.”
Taylor said his poor performance wasn’t because of the leg injury
“I feel good,” he said. “My hamstring isn’t bothering me.”
And Taylor didn’t chalk up his issues to all of the time he missed. He made no excuses.
“I don't think so,” he said. “I walked into this game fully confident in my ability to go out and perform. Just was a lack of execution. That starts with me. I own up to that. I have to be better for our team to have a chance to win. And I'll be better.
“It’s up to me to execute. Obviously, it's a team sport. But I'm the one that touched the ball every play and I have to be better at executing.”
Culley attributed Taylor’s problems to poor choices, nothing else, and not the time missed.
“When you go back to watch the video, you'll see why he did what he did,” Culley said. “I think a couple of then were bad decisions. He tried to throw it out of bounds, didn't get it out of bounds. The first interceptions he had he was trying to throw it in the back of the end zone and he was short. The guy made a play on it.”
The Texans are now the 12th team in NFL history to start 1-0 and then lose their next eight games.
The Texans' only victory of the season was when Taylor was under center in the season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Taylor completed 10 of 11 passes for 125 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 144.3 passer rating before having to leave a road game against the Cleveland Browns at halftime after hurting while running for a touchdown with defensive end Myles Garrett swiping at his left leg. Before Sunday’s debacle, Taylor had completed 70.5 percent of his throws for 416 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a career-high 122.9 passer rating.
That, and his calm demeanor and leadership skills, are why teammates expressed confidence that Taylor will play better going forward.
“It wasn't the return that Tyrod envisioned for himself,” defensive end Jordan Jenkins said. “But me knowing the guy, me knowing Tyrod -- played against him when he was with the Bills and I was with the Jets for multiple years, he's a competitor and fighter. And he's going to respond with passion and with a whole lot of attitude.”