Two close losses to Colts show Texans may not need long-term rebuild

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- While there have been many moments in 2020 when the Houston Texans have looked like they have a long way to go before they are competing for AFC South titles again, going toe-to-toe twice against the Indianapolis Colts, a likely playoff team, shows they may not need a long-term rebuild.

Two weeks after losing the game after Deshaun Watson fumbled a low snap with the chance to take the lead, the Texans again lost to the Colts in a close game, falling 27-20 to drop to 4-10.

But despite the losing record and lack of resources for a quick improvement, the Texans' performance in the division against two potential playoff teams (one-score losses to the Colts twice and an overtime loss to the Titans in October) shows they could be competing with them again in 2021.

The biggest reason is, of course, Watson, who again played well. He completed 33 of 41 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns. Watson has now thrown a single-season career high 27 touchdowns, which is the second-most passing touchdowns in a single season in franchise history.

The Texans have one more divisional test this season when they host the Tennessee Titans in Week 17, to see where they stand in the AFC South.

Watson's protection was again an issue on Sunday. In his last three games, Watson has been sacked 16 times, bringing his career total to 168. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that is the fifth-most by any player through their first four seasons since the merger in 1970.

This is the David Johnson -- at least in the passing game -- that Bill O'Brien was hoping for when he traded for the running back in March. Along with 27 yards on eight carries, Johnson caught 11 passes for 106 yards. But this was Johnson's best game of the season by far through the air and probably not a sign of things to come. He hasn't been good at running the ball either: in nine games this season, he has 479 yards and four touchdowns on 121 carries.

Will Johnson even be back in Houston in 2021? With one year left and $9 million remaining on his contract, it seems very unlikely Johnson will be back, especially with a new general manager in charge.

Chad Hansen had 13.2 yards of separation when the pass arrived on his 38-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, the second-most open player on a passing touchdown this season. The Texans now have the two most open touchdown catches of the season after Will Fuller had 18.8 yards of separation on his Week 12 score.
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