The Texans emphasized that they're sticking with kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn despite a rough game
In his first kicks of the year after missing the first three games of the season on injured reserve with a pulled leg muscle and not attempting any kicks other than kickoffs in a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Fairbairn missed a pair of extra points and a 56-yard field goal during a 25-22 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Signed to a four-year, $17.6 million contract that includes $9 million guaranteed and a $4 million base salary in 2021, the former Lou Groza Award winner from UCLA made 87.1 percent of his field goals last season (27 of 31) and 37 of 40 extra points last season.
In four NFL seasons, Fairbairn has made 105 of 125 field goals and 149 of 164 extra point.
"He's our kicker," Texans coach David Culley said. "He missed them. He’s got to make those."
Fairbairn wasn't alone in having a special teams miscue.
Texans punter Cameron Johnston, who's normally reliable, kicked a punt off of safety Terrence Brooks' helmet for zero yards. It didn't look like Johnston was backed up from the proper distance on the punt.
"Initially when the punt thing happened, I thought maybe it was penetration that got the punt blocked," Culley said. "He missed the punt, it wasn’t penetration. He actually mishit the punt and the punt went into one of our guys. So, it wasn’t a thing up front, it was something were our guys where our guys, our kicker didn’t do his job from a standpoint of being able to do those things and our punter did the same thing on the punt.
"It wasn’t our special teams not doing the right thing, we just didn’t execute, and they didn’t get the job done and he didn’t make the kicks. It has nothing to do with the distance. He missed the kick. The kick went off the inside of his foot. When you look at it closely, the kick went off the inside of his foot. He did it practice three times, and everything was perfect."
This isn't the first time this season the Texans have had breakdowns in the kicking game. Despite the presence of Pro Bowl return specialist Andre Roberts, there haven't been explosive plays.
“The big thing was we got to play better from the standpoint of our guys doing the right things, especially, first and foremost, in our return game," Culley said. "We haven’t got much out of our return game yet and that’s not just our returner. That’s just with the guys doing the right things. We’ve moved some guys in and out of there doing that. Just like we did on defense trying to find the right combination of who the right guys are on those special teams and we got to do a better job of doing that."
The Texans are 1-4 and mired in a four-game losing streak and lost to the Patriots despite rookie quarterback Davis Mills throwing three touchdown passes. Do the Texans have to play perfectly to win football games?
“I don’t think we have to be perfect, but we have to be more consistent than what we’ve been," Culley said. "When you’re 1-4 and you look back and you see why those things happen, you look back and want to say, ‘Was it the team you’re playing?’ That hasn’t been the case with us.
"It’s been us, we’ve been the enemy sometimes. A lot of those miscues that we had wasn’t because of what they did, it was what we didn’t do. We’ve got to just get better and continue to do that. We were in a ballgame that we could’ve very easily have won. They made the play in the end to win the game, and we didn’t put ourselves in a situation to do that. But I feel comfortable moving forward that we’ve just got to keep becoming more consistent and not be the enemy.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128