INDIANAPOLIS — The issues that have plagued the Houston Texas all season long prevented them from having a legitimate chance to pull off the upset of the season on Saturday night in their Divisional Round playoff matchup against the New England Patriots.
While the Houston defense was on the mark throughout the game — intercepting Tom Brady twice — and even the Texans' special teams made their mark, the team's offense sputtered once again, and the Patriots took full advantage in their 34-16 win that advances them to the AFC Championship Game for an NFL record sixth straight season.
Defensively, the Texans — which finished with a 10-8 overall record — held their own, and when they weren't stepping in front of Brady's throws, they were often in the quarterback's face, particularly Jadeveon Clowney, who hit Brady three times (one of which was flagged for roughing the passer).
The Houston special teams also forced a turnover in the game, but the team's offense could do little to take advantage of the extra possessions. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was picked off three times, and completed 23 of his 40 passes for 198 yards with a touchdown. The Patriots (15-2) also held the Texans to 104 rushing yards and no touchdowns on the night.
The Texans certainly had their chances. They trailed by only four points, 17-13, at halftime, but would only get a single field goal over the final two quarters. It didn't help Houston's effort that the Patriots' Dion Lewis was an all-around machine on Saturday in Foxborough, as he scored a 13-yard touchdown reception, had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and then scored a late one-yard touchdown run.
New England advances to play either Pittsburgh or Kansas City — who play Sunday night — in the AFC title game.
Saturday's game ends an up-and-down season for the Texans, who were able to overcome the loss of J.J. Watt, who suffered a season-ending back injury before Week 1, to win their second straight divisional title. But the huge issues on offense gives the team plenty to work on this offseason, and the team has repeated that head coach Bill O'Brien will continue to be the man in charge moving forward.
Here's a look at the latest offseason news from the other two AFC South Division teams:Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars added three assistants to new coach Doug Marrone's staff Saturday.
The Jaguars retained Todd Wash as defensive coordinator, hired Perry Fewell as secondary coach and Pat Flaherty as offensive line coach. They join Joe DeCamillis, who was hired Friday as special teams coordinator.
Keeping Wash creates some continuity on the defensive side of the ball, and that should be a good thing.
In Wash's first season as Jacksonville's coordinator, the Jaguars moved into the league's top 10 in a number of categories, including sixth in total yards, fifth in passing yards and eighth in third-down percentage. But they also tied for 19th in sacks (33) and were next to last in takeaways (13).
Tom Coughlin, the team's new executive vice president of football operations, and Marrone still have one major hire to settle on — offensive coordinator. But they've already started rounding out the staff.
Fewell has 32 years of coaching experience, including 19 in the NFL, and previously worked under Coughlin in Jacksonville as the team's defensive backs coach (1998-2002) and with the New York Giants as defensive coordinator (2010-2014).
"He brings the experience of having been in several defensive systems," Coughlin said. "He will be a great fit for our defense and for what we want to accomplish."
Flaherty has 37 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and NFL levels. He joins the Jaguars after a one-year stint as San Francisco's offensive line coach. Flaherty spent the previous 12 seasons (2004-15) working under Coughlin.
"Pat Flaherty is a Super Bowl-winning coach and teacher, and I could not be more excited to welcome him to our staff," Marrone said.
"With over 35 years of coaching experience, coach Flaherty brings a wealth of knowledge to the offensive line room and will help develop our group into a tough, physical unit, which will be key to our success for this year and for years to come."*
(Story via The Associated Press)*Tennessee Titans
The Titans are going to be a confident bunch heading into the 2017 season, so they have a primary goal as a team heading into the offseason.
"We've got to make sure we live up to the hype," defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said, via ESPN.com. "Our job is going to come back in and don't drop off, keep on getting better. That's got to be our goal."
The Titans in 2016 certainly showed glimpses of being a top AFC team at times, defeating five playoff teams. But they struggled in AFC South Division play, winning just twice, and their loss to the lowly Jaguars in Week 16 eliminated them from the postseason picture.
Tennessee finished with a 9-7 record — the same as the division champion Texans — and think with a couple tweaks here and there, they can be the top dog in the South next season.
"Expectations are going to be high and that's good," outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "Now it's pretty clear we're a force to be reckoned with. We're playing on all cylinders. It's definitely gratifying."
It's a far cry from the state of things just three years ago, when the team went 3-13.
"My first year here, winning three games, I sounded like a fool to my family and friends telling them how good we were going to be," said tight end Anthony Fasano, who signed with the team in 2015. "I knew it was just a couple pieces, a couple tweaks."
From here, left tackle Taylor Lewan said the key will be how the team handles the expecations.
"How will we deal?" Lewan asked. "Hopefully we'll exceed [the expectations] like we did this year. … Our expectation should be greater than what the community expectation is."