Texans look to regroup after close loss to Indianapolis

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans were one play away from likely extending their winning streak to three games on Sunday.

Instead a late fumble on the Colts 2 kept them from scoring and led to a 26-20 loss to Indianapolis.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had 341 yards passing for his third straight 300-yard game, took the loss particularly hard after he was unable to handle the low snap that led to the fumble. The Colts recovered the ball after his fumble to seal the victory.

“We’re so close, and with being so close these last four years since I’ve been here, where we just can’t for some reason haven’t got over that (hump),” he said. “But one day we will for sure. I promise you that.”

Watson’s play has been one of the few bright spots in Houston’s dismal season. Interim coach Romeo Crennel appreciates that Watson assumed responsibility for Sunday’s loss, but he was quick to point out that much more goes into wins and losses than his performance.

“When it doesn’t go well, he blames himself, which is not necessarily right. But that’s what leaders do,” Crennel said. “It’s their job to pick up, step up and then get the team going. But I tell the guys all the time that it’s a team effort, and the team wins, and the team loses. Everybody plays a part in it and it’s not just one guy that can get it all done.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The Texans have been much better against the run in the past three games after giving up 231 yards rushing in a loss to the Browns on Nov. 15. Houston was allowing 167.4 yards rushing a game following that loss, but has given up just 101.3 yards rushing a game since then.

“Our guys stepped up and did their jobs, the linebackers filled the gaps and then we got off the field and gave the ball back to the offense,” Crennel said. “If we continue to do that, then our run defense will continue to improve. I think that the guys are beginning to see that and going down the stretch I expect to see it more on a regular basis.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

While the run defense keeps improving, Houston’s running game continues to be largely ineffective. The Texans rank last in the NFL by averaging just 84.4 yards rushing a game.

Starter David Johnson returned on Sunday after missing three games because of a concussion, but only managed 44 yards rushing in limited action. Crennel hopes that Johnson will be able to do more this week after easing back into things this week in his return from injury.

STOCK UP

WR Chad Hansen was activated to the active roster from the practice squad on Saturday and made a big contribution in Houston’s first game since receiver Will Fuller was suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers. Hansen, who hadn’t appeared in a game since playing 16 for the Jets in 2017, had five receptions for a career-high 101 yards.

STOCK DOWN

While Watson was credited with the fumble and took responsibility for the mistake, it was center Nick Martin’s low snap that caused it. The snap was not only low, but sailed to the left of Watson.

“If it had been to his right side, I think he would’ve been able to handle it,” Crennel said. “But because it was to his left side, he had to go across his body to try to handle it across his body. He couldn’t get the handle on it.”

INJURED

TE Pharaoh Brown sustained a concussion on Sunday.

KEY NUMBER

141 — WR Keke Coutee had a career-high 141 yards receiving on Sunday for his first 100-yard game since he had 110 yards receiving in a playoff game in the 2018 season as a rookie. Coutee had fallen out of favor with former coach Bill O’Brien, but has gotten a second chance under Crennel.

NEXT STEPS

The Texans will have a good chance to get back on track this week when they visit a Bears team that has dropped six in a row, capped by Sunday’s 34-30 loss to Detroit. Watson did a good job of utilizing different targets in the first game without Fuller, but should be even better this week with more practice time with receivers such as Coutee and Hansen.

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