Bulldozed repeatedly by the New York Jets' running backs, the Texans’ defense endured a slow burn during the second half Sunday afternoon.
It was an ugly meltdown as the Texans’ run defense got pounded after halftime in absorbing a 21-14 loss at NRG Stadium.
The Texans squandered a 14-11 halftime lead and allowed 157 rushing yards overall, two touchdown runs and a two-point conversion run as the Jets averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 34 carries. The Jets had gained only 50 rushing yards in the first half on a dozen carries.
“Can’t happen,” defensive end Jon Greenard said. “Inexcusable.”
The Texans dropped to 2-9 and now are tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second-worst record in the NFL behind the Detroit Lions.
Especially against the run, the Texans were deficient.
Tevin Coleman rushed for 67 yards on 16 carries, including a 19-yard run. Former Rice running back Austin Walter, a Crosby graduate, rushed for 38 yards and his first NFL touchdown on nine carries against his hometown NFL team.
“That’s not good enough,” Texans coach David Culley said of the porous run defense. “That’s not good enough.”
One week after the defense led the way in a 22-13 upset road win over the Tennessee Titans and intercepted veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill four times, the Texans intercepted Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson only once as nickel back Tavierre Thomas picked him off. Wilson ran for a touchdown. He wasn’t particularly effective throwing the football, completing 14 of 24 passes for 145 yards and no scores and was sacked four times, including once by Greenard for his team-leading eighth sack of the season.
“A lot of big plays in the run game, fits and stuff,” Greenard said. “Basically, just getting on the perimeter, getting their big guys on our little guys and just playing a numbers game. I think they executed that pretty well. We had our moments when we stopped it. We weren’t consistent enough to stop that.”
The Jets converted a 4th-and-1 that led to a field goal on an eight-yard run by rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore in the fourth quarter.
“It just can’t happen,” Greenard said. “No excuse, it just can’t happen. When you get in those predictable situations, we have to know what’s coming. Just have to be more sound and more understanding of their game plan and understand situational football and get better in that aspect, things we have to clean up for ourselves.”
The Texans, coming off a sterling defensive performance a week ago, didn’t play nearly that well against the Jets.
“It just shows that nobody cares what you did last week, any given Sunday,” Greenard said. “We just have to go out there and treat all of our opponents with the same respect that we did with Tennessee and just finish. No matter what, we had a chance to finish, we just got to do it.
“It’s just the aspect of when you have to finish a team, of course the record may not say the same at Tennessee but at the same time they are still in the NFL like we are. You have to treat them the same way we would treat Tennessee or any top team in the NFL. Hats off to them.”
Texans linebacker Kamu Grugier-acknowledged one of the team’s biggest failings: an inability to finish.
“Super disappointing,” he said. “I thought for sure we all had a pretty good game plan. We started out pretty hot, just got to finish. It’s been the same thing all year. Our ability to finish is not there.”
“We just have to be better. We are not proud of that. I think we pride ourselves on run defense for sure. So, to give that up is disappointing. Game after game we get put in these positions and it’s just, I don’t know. We just can’t finish. We got to figure it out.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128