HOUSTON -- When the Houston Texans signed Tavierre Thomas to a two-year, $4 million contract, they had plans for the veteran defensive back beyond operating as a special-teams ace.
Now, Thomas’ role has increased on defense as the Texans’ new primary nickel back with Desmond King shifting from nickel to replace Vernon Hargreaves as a starting outside cornerback opposite Terrance Mitchell.
The Texans reshuffled their secondary heading into a 40-0 road loss to the Buffalo Bills, including having safety Lonnie Johnson Jr. replace Eric Murray in the starting lineup.
Thomas had seven tackles while playing 46 snaps (64 percent overall) of the defensive snaps as Johnson intercepted a pass and King and Mitchell both forced fumbles. However, the Texans couldn’t overcome four interceptions from rookie quarterback Davis Mills. And the Texans’ defense allowed 450 yards of total offense, two touchdown passes to Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen as he completed 20 of 29 passes for 248 yards while connecting with star wide receiver Stefon Diggs seven times for 114 yards.
Thomas was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty leading up to a short field goal in the first half.
“We played pretty solid,” Thomas said Monday at NRG Stadium. “We could have played a little better on certain situations, like being more disciplined when tackling after the play. My penalty got them down even closer. So, just knock out that type of stuff and we would have been alright. We didn’t come out with the win. We just have to keep sticking together, stay together, don’t let it divide us offense, defense, and just keep it going.”
Texans coach David Culley was noncommittal on whether the new-look secondary is going to be how the defense proceeds going forward.
“Well, we’re just looking to find out what the best combination is right now,” Culley said. “We’ve had some injuries there, so we’ve moved some guys around and we’re just trying to find the right combination back there just to see what gives us the best fit.”
Thomas had 30 tackles, two for losses, last season for the Cleveland Browns. He returned 10 kickoffs for 204 yards in 2019 and blocked a field goal.
The 5-10, 205 pounder has recorded 55 career tackles in four NFL seasons after being undrafted following an All-American career at Division II Ferris State.
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The Texans’ best work was in their red-zone defense, allowing just 3 of 7 efficiency to the Bills.
“What I can say is no matter how fast you get down there or how slow you get down there if you’re not scoring points like touchdowns, it gives us an opportunity,” Thomas said. “And that’s what we were trying to do no matter how long we were on the field, we were just trying to not let them get in the end zone.
“If we continue to do that and the offense continue doing what they are doing and getting better, we are going to beat a lot of teams. We just have to continue letting them score three and not seven and the outcome could be changed.”
The loss to the Bills stung the pride of the Texans. It represents the most lopsided margin of defeat in franchise history, topping a 45-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017.
Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks spoke to his teammates about sticking together and maintaining their professionalism.
“It was disappointing, when we were in the locker room real disappointing,” Thomas said. “Brandin talked to us about keep getting better each and every day, not just with football but just in life period, like going with our daily routines.
“If everybody be together and stick together, we can turn this thing around. It’s going (to take) everyone, not just defense, not just offense but everybody, special teams as well. Everybody just has to stick together and just keep balling and it will turn around.”