HOUSTON -- An embarrassing road loss to the Buffalo Bills, the worst margin of defeat in franchise history, left the Houston Texans reeling and searching for answers.
The 1-3 Texans lost their third consecutive game and looked completely overmatched against a top Super Bowl contender during a 40-0 loss that included five turnovers, four given away on interceptions thrown by struggling rookie quarterback Davis Mills.
As potentially demoralizing as this latest setback could be for a rebuilding franchise, Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair is hopeful that the team will bounce back starting Sunday at NRG Stadium against the 1-3 New England Patriots.
"Well, I think the only people that are happy about that live in Buffalo," McNair said during a Founder's Day event at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Houston. "I don't live in Buffalo. None of us are happy about that. We think we can play better and we're gonna play better. We've gotta put it behind us. We've got a team coming in here Sunday that's a well coached team that has a lot of history of success and we're looking forward to meeting them on the field on Sunday."
For the Texans to succeed, they need to take better care of the football, cut down on penalties and run the football much more effectively. They had 10 penalties for 100 yards against the Bills and rushed for just 48 yards as Mills had more completions to the Bills' defense with two interceptions than completions to his teammates during the first half as he had one completion and a 0.0 first-half passer rating.
The Texans allowed 450 yards of total offense against Buffalo. 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.
"I think that if we play our brand of football we'll have a chance in all of our games," McNair said. "If we play like we did on Sunday, then we'll have very little chance. We've got to play better football."
Texans general manager Nick Caserio, the primary architect of an overhauled roster, worked for two decades with the Patriots as coach Bill Belichick's right-hand man.
"Yeah, I'm sure he's excited to face his old team and looks forward to the challenge," McNair said. "I don't think he's done with his work yet, but he's made a lot of progress."
Mills has two touchdowns and five interceptions as the replacement for injured veteran starter Tyrod Taylor. A third-round draft pick from Stanford, Mills had some encouraging moments during a loss to the Carolina Panthers with one touchdown and no interceptions. He went backwards against the Bills and has a league-low 50.4 passer rating.
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Taylor has to miss at least one more week on injured reserve before he's eligible to return from a strained hamstring.
"That will be up to the coaches to decide when Tyrod is ready to play," Culley said. "They'll make that decision. I've been pleased with Davis and how he's gone out and taken control of the team. He's been in kind of a tough spot to settle in like that. I think the arrow is pointing up for him in the long term."
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.
“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 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.
“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.”