HOUSTON -- Emotions were running extremely high after the Houston Texans were thoroughly bulldozed by the Buffalo Bills, a superior team that exploited their weaknesses and capitalized on multiple self-inflicted miscues.
The 40-0 defeat last Sunday represents the most lopsided defeat in Texans franchise history, even worse than a 45-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills was intercepted four times with the team committing five total turnovers and being penalized for 100 yards, nine yards less than the team’s total production on offense.
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“That’s one of the most embarrassing losses I’ve ever had, that’s for sure,” Texans linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said. “It's not going to break us. We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to get better.”
The Texans allowed 450 yards of total offense. If not for a stout red-zone defense, limiting the Bills to 3 of 7 efficiency in that area, this score could have been even uglier.
“Yes, it’s embarrassing,” Texans defensive end Whitney Mercilus said. “The biggest thing is we can’t point fingers and we can’t separate.”
One day later, Texans coach David Culley shared the players’ sentiment about what the loss felt like while discussing the state of the team in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The 1-3 Texans are 30th in total offense, 29th in scoring offense and 28th in total defense.
It was the third shutout in franchise regular-season history. They hadn’t been shut out since a 27-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Sept. 22, 2016 with hapless quarterback bust Brock Osweiler under center.
One day after Culley could be overhead loudly addressing the team in the locker room, he reflected on what the team is doing to address its mistakes.
“Well, it is embarrassing,” Culley said Monday at NRG Stadium. “The thing we say is to win a football game, you’ve got to keep from losing. We felt like we lost the football game because we didn’t do the things that we need to do to play winning football, and that’s protect the football, not have penalties that’s going to keep drives from sustaining, and we did those things frequently.
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“When your football team plays the way we played, they are not ready to play. I take the blame, I am to blame for that. Our coaching staff is to blame for that because we haven’t played that way until that point.”
Mills has thrown five interceptions in eight quarters and three games, going 0-2 as a starter in place of injured veteran Tyrod Taylor. Mills has a 50.4 passer rating, the lowest in the league.
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“You know, that’s crazy because I’m Canadian, right?” Auclair says of his sporting choice. “I don’t even know how to skate, to be honest. I know it’s weird.”
The Texans rank third in the NFL with 31 penalties behind the Philadelphia Eagles (44) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (34).
“You always want to look and see who is the enemy,” Culley said. “The enemy was us for about 24 points in the ballgame that we gave up, because of things that we didn’t do correctly, the things that we need to do better at. Basically, we’ve got to get those things corrected. And we know that when we play good football and play complementary football, we’ll be OK.”
The Texans have practically no running game to speak of. They’re 27th in rushing offense despite the presence of three former Pro Bowl selections in Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson.
The mistakes are correctable, Culley emphasized. And he disagreed with the suggestion that the elements at rain-soaked Highmark Stadium was a factor in the blowout loss.
“Well, I don’t think it’s a quick fix,” Culley said. “I think it’s fixable. We just got to coach better. There were things that we did that we haven’t been doing. I keep hearing about the weather, had nothing to do with the weather. It was the fact that we didn’t play good football.”
As much as the Texans appreciate Culley taking accountability on his shoulders for the team’s struggles, players were quick to deflect blame back onto themselves.
“I feel like it’s more on us, the players,” Johnson said. “They can come up with a scheme, but it’s up to us to execute and do our job. Especially me, personally, I felt like I didn’t do enough to help out, whether it’s pass protection or running the ball. I feel like it’s a little bit more on the players than the coaches.
“Biggest thing I can tell is his humility, his ability to just not blame. The biggest thing you don’t want to do is blame and point fingers, because then that starts getting a negative effect amongst the team. For him to do that, even though I know and a lot of the players know, it’s really on the players more. It’s pretty huge, and I respect him for that. Mood is still high, especially we’re still early in the season and our (division) isn’t doing well as a whole, so we’ve still got a chance.”
The Texans are averaging just 16.8 points per game. They’ll play without Taylor for at least one more game as he’s not eligible to be activated from injured reserve until he is out the minimum three games. Mills will start Sunday’s home game against the New England Patriots.
As rough as Mills’ performance was, including just one first-half completion for three yards while throwing two interceptions and finishing with 87 passing yards and a 23.4 passer rating, teammates haven’t noticed any loss of poise.
“The biggest thing I can tell was his composure,” Johnson said. “I didn’t go and speak to him because he probably has a lot of people probably talking in his ear. The thing I noticed about him was his composure is calm, he still had that fight in his eyes and his demeanor and his attitude.”