HOUSTON (AP) — As bad as Houston’s running game has been this season, things could get even worse this week.
The Texans, who have had the league’s worst running game all season, had another terrible performance in a 33-13 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, gaining just 63 yards. They rank last in the NFL by averaging 77.5 yards rushing a game.
They were led Sunday by Rex Burkhead, who had 11 carries for 40 yards. But he injured his hip early in the third quarter and didn’t return, putting his availability for Sunday’s game at equally inept Jacksonville in question.
Burkhead’s injury was a blow to a team that entered the game without running back David Johnson, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 Sunday.
With Burkhead and Johnson sidelined, the Texans had to rely on third-stringer Royce Freeman for most of the second half. Freeman, signed off waivers from the Panthers in November, was largely ineffective Sunday, gaining 15 yards on 11 carries.
The issues in the running game forced the Texans to throw a season-high 49 times.
“That’s not what we want,” coach David Culley said.
Rookie Davis Mills got off to a strong start, and Houston trailed by just three points at halftime. But the third-round pick from Stanford was unable to get much going after the break as the Texans were shut out in the second half.
“You’ve got to have balance,” Culley said. “You put all the pressure on your quarterback and your line to drop back and throw. There has to be balance and we don’t have that balance right now. We’ve got to continue to try to find that balance.”
Not much is working on this woeful team that ranks last in the league in most statistical categories and whose 2-11 record is tied with Jacksonville for second worst in the NFL.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Mills showed improvement in his return as starter after Tyrod Taylor was benched, but he’ll need to be more consistent if the Texans are to end a three-game skid Sunday. Mills threw for a season-high 331 yards against the Seahawks. However, his inability to get Houston in the end zone after halftime dropped him to 0-7 as a starter.
“I’ve got to continue to learn and kind of just build experience from all the looks that I see out there from the defenses, and just keep moving forward,” Mills said.
Brandin Cooks had eight receptions for 101 yards against Seattle. It was his third 100-yard receiving game this season and first since Sept. 23 against Carolina.
Culley’s first season as a head coach after decades as an NFL assistant has been awful. The team has been riddled with disciplinary problems and the product on the field has varied from bad to embarrassing. Culley has repeatedly said he and his staff need to do a better job of putting the team in a position to win, but so far nothing has changed.
WR Davion Davis broke his leg Sunday and is out for the season. … LB Kamu Grugier-Hill has a knee injury but Culley said it wasn’t as serious as they initially believed and he could play this week. … S Justin Reid is in the concussion protocol.
61 – Ka’imi Fairbairn set a franchise-record with a 61-yard field goal in the second quarter. The kick bested Houston’s previous team mark of 57 made by both Kris Brown and Neil Rackers. Fairbairn’s longest field goal entering Sunday’s game was 55 yards.
If Johnson and Burkhead can’t play Sunday, the Texans might need to sign another running back to help Freeman against the Jaguars. The Texans had a season-high 160 yards rushing in the first meeting with Jacksonville this season, which was one of the team’s two wins and came in the opener. But that was with a big game by Mark Ingram, who is now with the Saints, so they’re unlikely to be as successful this time around.
They’ll need to generate some offense through the running game to help take pressure off Mills as he tries to get his first NFL win.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get it right for him,” Culley said.
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