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Quarterback Quandary? Texans Undecided On Starter After Shutout Loss

Neither Tyrod Taylor nor Davis Mills provided any spark in Sunday's shutout loss to Colts

HOUSTON -- David Culley informed Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor on the sideline Sunday that he was being benched, replacing him with rookie Davis Mills.

It didn't surprise the veteran passer.

“I told him that Davis was going in,” Culley said. “When I told him, he was moving his hand like he understood.”

The decision was prompted by Taylor and the entire Texans offense's ugly performance, which included Taylor being intercepted by Indianapolis Colts safety Kenny Moore on the first play of a 31-0 defeat at NRG Stadium that represents the first shutout at home in franchise regular-season history.

“The one thing he’s got to do, which he didn’t do today, first play of the game he had an interception, got to take care of the ball,” Culley said. “Our job for our quarterback is to get us in the end zone and he didn’t do that today.”

Another contributing factor to the decision: Taylor was dealing with a hyperextended left wrist. A team spokesman indicated that Taylor was healthy enough to finish the game. Trainers expressed concern to Culley that Taylor, who throws right-handed, couldn’t properly grip the football.

“I took him out of the game,” Culley said. “I put Davis in the game in when they told me they weren’t sure he could grip the ball.. He hyperextended his wrist a little bit, and he wasn’t sure he could handle the football. He probably could have came back into the game if we needed him to, but I don't know how effective he would have been in throwing the football.”

Now, Culley and the Texans have a decision to make in the wake of replacing Taylor after he completed just 5 of 13 passes for 45 yards and a putrid 16.5 passer rating. Does he give Taylor another shot after he has struggled since returning from a Grade 2 hamstring injury? Or does he go with Mills, a third-round draft pick from Stanford who completed 6 of 14 passes for 49 yards and a 52.4 passer rating Sunday in relief of Taylor.

The Texans have the lowest-scoring offense in the NFL.

Their drives on Sunday unfolded this way: Interception, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt, punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs. Seven of their 11 drives generated less than 10 yards.

In 21 possessions this season against the Colts, the Texans produced three points. They were outscored in the two losses by a combined 62-3. 

“When you don’t score any points in the game, you evaluate everything,” Culley said. “We're just going to look at the whole situation. I've got to look at the video just to see exactly what happened. I'm not sure why it was. I know initially, the two turnovers were a big key for us not being able to sustain anything.

“We’ve just got to look at Tyrod through the times that he was in there and then look at Davis while he was in there, and then just see where we need to go from there.”

Six days ago, Culley said that Taylor would be the starter for the remainder of the season, barring an injury to Taylor.

Now, Culley is rethinking the situation after the offense had just nine first downs and 141 yards of total offense and averaged just 2.8 yards per offensive play. The Texans went 3 for 12 on third down and Taylor and Mills combined for 11 of 27 passing for 94 yards as both were sacked four times.

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Taylor has completed 60.7 percent of his passes, producing 966 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions, three of those interceptions came during a road loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Mills went 0-6 as the starter when Taylor was sidelined previously.

It's been the usual up-and-down progression of a rookie quarterback.

Mills has passed for 1,406 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Now, Mills may be needed to start again.

“I think as a quarterback now, I'm better player than I was earlier in the season,” Mills said. “I wouldn't say more prepared, but I know more of the offense now, being in it for longer. I think the comfort builds as you get more playing experience out there. Unfortunately, went down today, and I was ready to step up.”

“Definitely more comfortable. I think the experience that I've had earlier in the season affects that and helps with that. Moving forward, it's the coach's decision to make. I'll just be ready when my number is called, if it does get called.”

Mills learned quickly after Taylor went into the blue medical tent that he was going to be pressed into duty.

“It was right in that moment,” Mills said. “ Right when he went into the tent, he came over and basically, where it was up to see how he was feeling, to see if I would go in or not. But they ended up making the call.”

Overall, the offense is horrible. The Texans have no real threat downfield outside of wide receiver Brandin Cooks. He was the only wide receiver to catch a pass Sunday for the Texans, finishing with three catches for 38 yards on six targets. Chris Conley was targeted four times and had no catches.

“You got to play better football,” Culley said. “You’ve got to look at it even more closely than we have and make necessary productions.. We’re playing with who we're playing with.

“We don’t have the consistency. We’re still having some breakdowns. We’re not good enough to play from behind the chains. I don’t think it’s in the game plan. It’s us executing. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching.”

Texans veteran center Justin Britt said he’s witnessed progress from Mills since his first game against the Cleveland Browns when Taylor injured his hamstring while running for a touchdown.

“Obviously, we don't want Tyrod to go down, and I'm not going to speculate or talk about injuries, but when Davis stepped in, there was no waver,” Britt said. “The confidence is up there. We know that he can play. We know that he can command the offense, and he did just that.

“You could tell it in his eyes, his belief in himself and the offense, his job, what he's got to do. He's more comfortable, more poised. It speaks volumes to who he is, how he prepares. And I thought he came in and, commanded the offense and did all he could to try to get us in the end zone.”