With an unusual rash of injuries to key players, the Houston Texans could almost adopt “Bad Luck” as their new team theme song.
The Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes hit from 1975 described a litany of occurrences that indicate the singer is at his wit’s end and his fortunes have hit the skids. It said in part, “You’re downhearted and confused, because baby, you’ve been startin’ to lose. Losin’ out on everything you might try to do. Bad luck, fella’s got a hold on you.”
Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. You could say the 16-game pro season is a war of attrition. The teams that can avoid serious injury to key personnel are generally among the favorites to make the playoffs.
That’s what makes the Texans’ situation serious. The team has lost starting quarterback Deshaun Watson and two of its top three defensive players in defensive end J.J. Watt (tibia plateau fracture) and linebacker Whitney Mercilus (torn pectoral muscle) for the season. Watt and Mercilus suffered their injuries in the same game (Kansas City).
Head coach Bill O’Brien summed up of the loss of his defensive stars.
“[They are] two great players,” O’Brien said. “Obviously, we all feel terrible for them individually, personally. It’s tough to put in all the work that they put in, pour their hearts and soul into the thing and then to have their seasons cut short because of an injury.
“It’s tough. But – and that’s a big but – this football team understands that it is the ‘next man up’ philosophy. It’s going to take an effort by a lot of different people to fill those roles.”
The defensive losses were stout, but not insurmountable. Young stars like Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and D.J. Reader have helped take up the slack.
Unfortunately for the offense, rookie Watson went down in practice with a season-ending knee injury.
O’Brien once again tried to explain the loss of a key player; not just any player, but a young quarterback who was performing at an MVP level.
“[Watson’s] a very special player,” O’Brien said. “He’s a special kid. He’s got a great future. These things happen. They’re tough when they happen, but they happen… I’ve been involved with a lot of them.”
O’Brien recalled his days as an offensive coordinator with the Patriots.
“I was in New England in 2008 when we lost Tom Brady,” he said. “I think it was about the 12th play of the game of the first game of the season, coming off of an 18-1 season. Then I was there in 2009 when we lost Wes Welker going into the playoffs, the last regular season game.
“That’s football,” O’Brien said. “Football is a contact sport, even though [Watson’s injury] was a non-contact injury, but it’s a sport that requires a lot of different movements and a lot of different angles and things like that.
“There’s nothing you can do about it. But in the short time that [Watson] played for us, it’s obvious the type of guy that he is, and that he will be one of the top quarterbacks in this league for a long time to come.”
Under Watson the Texan offense had been rolling at a record pace, recording a franchise record by scoring 30 or more points in five straight games.
To understand the significance of the Watson loss, understand this – in the last game before his injury, against one of the NFL’s elite defenses (Seattle), Watson threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns.
Against Indy, one of the NFL’s worst defenses, Texan back-up QB Tom Savage threw for 219 yards and one TD. The Colts beat the Texans 20-14.
As the Blue Notes would say, “You got bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad luck…”