HOUSTON – It wasn’t the smooth regular-season debut that the Texans and veteran center Justin Britt had envisioned.
During a 20-20 tie versus the Indianapolis Colts lowlighted by squandering a 20-3 lead in the fourth quarter and not scoring after the third quarter, the Texans had just 20 first downs, 299 yards of total offense, and a running game that mustered just 77 yards and an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
There were also some miscommunications and blocking breakdowns across the offensive line during pivotal moments.
Besides quarterback Davis Mills being sacked three times and losing one fumble on an E.J. Speed blitz that led to a touchdown that changed the momentum of the game when Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil and left guard Kenyon Green were blocking the same player, there were a pair of false start penalties in overtime. Then, coach Lovie Smith had seen enough and punted on fourth down rather than trying to extend the drive and attempt to win the game.
During the Texans’ initial overtime drive, Mills was sacked by Kwity Paye. Then, right tackle Tytus Howard had a false start to set up a 3rd-and-22 with Mills sacked again by Paye to halt the drive.
Britt had a false start during the Texans’ final drive of the game, and running back Rex Burkhead was stuffed for a loss of two yards on 3rd-and-1 by Grover Stewart on a run behind Britt and right guard A.J. Cann.
“If there is a communication error, it starts with me being the voice of the o-line,” Britt said Tuesday at NRG Stadium. “The guy who sets it all. I false-started for something that shouldn’t have happened. I was late on a snap and Tytus (Howard) false started, and again, that shouldn’t have happened. Just things like that. Just do better next time.”
Britt didn’t play in any preseason games as a precautionary measure after he dealt with a knee injury last season.
He wasn’t pleased with his performance as he expects a high personal standard.
“I think it just comes down to details, fundamentals, technique,” Britt said. “My first live reps of the season, looking at myself, I was a little out of control. Whether that was excitement or game-day jitters, that’s something I need to improve on. I can’t speak for everyone. I’m ready to get back to work and to put something better on film and make sure we add something to the win column this week.”
This marked the Texans’ first regular-season game under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
“I feel like for me personally, I made a couple of critical errors at some times,” Britt said. “I’m going to put more weight on my shoulders, and maybe there needs to be. I hold myself to a standard. I like Pep’s offense, I like our approach and I like the way the game was called.”
“We, us, me can execute more and definitely put more points on the board. Week 1 we didn’t lose. There are more games we get to go out there. The story doesn’t change. Go out there have a good week of preparation, tune into the playbook and the game plan and trust if we can go out there and execute.”
The Texans struggled to run the football with Burkhead and rookie Dameon Pierce’s longest runs just eight yards apiece.
They had 40 yards and 33 yards, respectively. The Texans’ heavy formations with extra tight ends and fullback Troy Hairston were ineffective.
“We feel like we can run in any scenario,” Britt said. “At the end of the day whatever play call is called, we try to execute it. However we get to the win, we get there. We have goals of hitting a certain amount of rushing yards or yards per rush. That matters to us. So whenever we don’t hit those, we’ll evaluate and see what we need to do better.”
The Texans are preparing for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, whose front seven is headlined by defensive end Bradley Chubb.
“Every opponent is different,” Britt said. “Most times from whatever we had in the game plan last week, there will be some carryover but it’s a completely different defensive scheme. We’re going from a four down (four defensive linemen) to a 3-4 Bear front so that invites new plays, different schemes and different thoughts. We’ll watch the film and break it down. Hopefully, critique it pretty roughly and take away what we need to take away, and come to work.”
The Texans are 0-0-1 and tied with the Colts for first place in the AFC South division.
The line is a bit different from last season with Cann installed at right guard and Howard back to his natural right tackle position and Justin McCray and Green splitting up the workload at left guard.
“I think continuity is super important on the o-line,” Britt said. “I don’t know if having to play preseason games altogether for 10-20 plays a game will make it magically appear. I think that’s something you just kind of get throughout camp.
“It’s not like we don’t have it. It’s Week 1, we didn’t lose. There are definitely things we can improve on but I’m sure there are a lot of things we can grow from, take and grow from the positives. Onward and upward. Our goal is to go 1-0 versus the next opponent.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com