The 2021 visit of the Los Angeles Chargers to Houston offered a glimmer of hope to the Texans in the form of an upset win while also proving that "anything can happen.''
Sunday's Week 4 2022 rematch at NRG Stadium, however, sapped Houston hope while also proving that while "anything can happen,'' normalcy usually does.
And Chargers over Texans, unfortunately, felt "normal.''
What Houston did to the Chargers late last year helped kill their playoff chances. That chance to "play spoiler'' in what became a 41-29 victory offered motivation to the otherwise woeful Texans.
But now? It might not be fair or accurate to say that one month in to the 2022 season, the Texans have "regressed.''
But it surely is a headache for Texans fans who have to honestly consider the possibility.
The Chargers came in dealing with a handful of injuries to big-game guys, but a key was quarterback Justin Herbert playing through a rib issue. Stats aside, his presence alone - especially when teaming with weapons like Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler - creates a separation between the Chargers and the Texans ...
And between where the Texans are and where they wish to go.
The Texans are now 0-3-1, and that season-opening tie against the Colts - the one that Texans players claimed felt like a loss - actually, increasingly, seems like a high-water mark. Houston remains winless, with leaks springing up all over.
Coming in, the Texans had been outscored 30-0 in the fourth quarter. This time? It was a 27-7 halftime deficit that caused most of the afternoon-long pain for coach Lovie Smith's bunch.
QB Davis Mills tossed a pair of TD passes (to Brandin Cooks and Rex Burkhead) but Houston also threw two interceptions. Ekeler scored three times and Herbert totaled 340 passing yards with two TDs and no picks. Williams had seven catches for 120 yards.
The Houston answer? Rookie running back Dameon Pierce was good for 131 yards on 14 carries, and caught six balls as well. Beyond that? Just that same "bad taste in your mouth'' that Lovie spoke of this week.
''The only way to get the bad taste out of your mouth,'' he'd said, "is to go back to work.''
And the most important order of business? To quit letting losing feel "normal.''
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