Dearly departed, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of one of the most electrifying, entertaining and exillerating teams in the NFL.
This team proved they could hang with the best in the league on both offense and defense. They earned their stripes early, and were the epitome of “next man up.”
Today, we grieve the death of the 2017 Houston Texans’ season.
The stage could not have been set more perfectly at the beginning of the season.
Defensive end J.J. Watt was making his triumphant return to the gridiron after playing in just three games in 2016.
The Texans cashed in a first-round pick on former Clemson quarterback and College Football Playoff National Champion Deshaun Watson, and spent a third-round pick on former Texas running back D’Onta Foreman, fresh off of a 2,000-yard season.
And, at first, everything looked alright. Watt clearly hadn’t completely recovered from his previous injuries, but the fact that he was on the field showed that his rehab was taking a step in the right direction.
Watson took over for Tom Savage after a brutal first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars and flashed the ability to make plays with his arm as well as his feet.
Foreman’s touches were limited, but he usually made the most of his chances and proved he could thump through the trenches as a pro, just as he did in college.
Then, the unthinkable happened. One by one, they all went down.
Watt was playing in his fifth game of the season when he got bit by the injury bug. He’d racked up 15 tackles entering a home matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. On the opening drive of the game, he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg and was later ruled out for the season. The Texans lost the game and fell to 2-3 on the season.
Luckily, Houston still had big-time players to keep them afloat. Watson showed promise and was starting to build chemistry with his receivers. He led the Texans in a victory over the Browns and narrowly defeated the Seattle Seahawks. He was well on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. Houston was 3-4, not completely out of the playoff picture, but certainly heading that way.
Then, during a Thursday practice, Watson tore his ACL and was also ruled out for the season.
Watson’s absence really hurt the Texans, especially on offense. In its next two games, Houston put up just 14 points against the Indianapolis Colts and seven points against the Los Angeles Rams. The team couldn’t quite figure out a winning formula.
Foreman emerged as the solution. Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the running back ran for 65 yards on 10 carries and scored the first two touchdowns of his young career as the Texans ended up winning the game 31-21. But on his second score, which came in the fourth quarter, Foreman fell to the ground, clutching his left leg.
An MRI the following Monday confirmed that Foreman tore his Achilles tendon and — you guessed it — he was ruled out for the season.
The loss of Foreman will cause the Houston offense to sputter even more. Combined with Watson, the pair accounted for more than 50 percent of the Texans’ yards and points. The points category is even more foreboding when you consider that kicker Ka’imi Fairburn holds a 24 percent share.
Houston’s defense has remained sturdy throughout Watt’s injury, but without him they likely won’t be able to carry the offense back to a .500 record. Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V are both studs, but with Tom “Not So” Savage throwing them the ball, it’s clear another dropoff is coming.
And with that, a projected playoff contender’s chances were dashed and its hopes put to bed.
But rather than dwell on the death of the 2017 Houston Texans, let us celebrate the bright potential of what lays ahead. Watson and Foreman can be a lethal 1-2 punch. Watt is still one of the premier defensive lineman in the NFL. Things will get better.
Thank you 2017 Houston Texans for a great early part of the season. We will all sincerely miss you.