CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NFL is a copycat league, and it was proven once again on Sunday when the Houston Texans (3-4) lost to the Carolina Panthers (1-6) 15-13 on a game-winning field goal. The Panthers used the exact blueprint that their NFC South division opponent, Atlanta Falcons, set three weeks prior when they defeated the Texans 21-19 with a field goal as time expired off the clock.
Carolina limited rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud from beating them with down-the-field passes, as only five of his 16 completions went for ten or more yards. It was the same defensive scheme that the Falcons used by forcing Stroud to throw check-down passes, and even then, four of those passes were batted down.
“You can point the finger everywhere, but me personally, I point the thumb,” said Stroud about his performance on Sunday, finishing with a season-low 140 yards passing. “A lot of teams are being smart and playing back. Even when I do take the check-down, this team was knocking it down. I thought we could have gotten some firsts from that…I feel like the talent we have, we’ve got to use it, and we’ve got to be explosive like we want to be.”
“On top of that, we’ve got to take some shots. We’ve got to be more explosive and do some things down the field. We can’t just let people dictate what we do just because we’re not throwing the ball short. I mean, that’s me getting more trust from the coaches and the guys getting their depth in the routes.”
Sunday’s game once again highlighted the inability of first-year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik to make the necessary adjustments to the defensive game plans. Carolina consistently dropped a plethora of defenders into coverage, which generally would allow for open running lanes, but that is another inefficiency that the Texans struggle with, averaging a combined 91.9 yards per game.
“You can point the finger at everybody, but me I point the thumb,” said Texans QB C.J. Stroud about his play in the loss on Sunday. “We have to take more shots and be more explosive and do some things down the field.” #Texans #Sarge @TheTexansWire pic.twitter.com/DsMpTinDRc
— #SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) October 30, 2023
With the running game inept and the downfield passes being taken away, Houston’s offense seemed lethargic and had no proper rhythm to it, and that was with them scoring two touchdowns on the day, which would have been enough with the way the defense was putting pressure on rookie quarterback Bryce Young.
“I feel like that’s why we haven’t been consistent., too many taking the ball short and not having enough explosives [plays],” Stroud said.
The Texans can expect much of the same type of defensive schemes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another NFC South team, on Sunday at NRG Stadium, but it will be up to Stroud and Slowik to make the necessary adjustments.