HOUSTON – Standing inside the visitor’s locker room, rookie running back Dameon Pierce summed up the exasperated mood surrounding the Texans.
The Texans could easily be 3-0, but they aren’t. Instead, they have failed to win a single game and are 0-2-1 after their latest setback: a 23-20 defeat to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Despite gaining a season-high 80 rushing yards and scoring his first NFL touchdown as he powered his way into the end zone, Pierce, like his teammates, is a bit salty about the state of the team and losing close games the past two weeks.
“I mean the frustration level is at 100,” Pierce said. “Every Tuesday, we set that goal of winning every week. Obviously, there’s a level of frustration, but all we can do now is come back and grind Tuesday and try to come back next week.”
Pierce fumbled twice against the Bears, with both recovered by teammates.
Pierce fumbled in the fourth quarter while battling for extra yards with offensive tackle Tytus Howard recovering the loose football. The score was tied at 20-20 on Pierce’s second fumble.
“Fighting for yards, I’m a violent runner,” Pierce said. “I try to get every yard I can. I just got to make sure I got that ball security, emphasizing that when I’m fighting for extra yards. Nothing too crazy, just in traffic, got to make sure I keep that balled up.”
After the second fumble, Pierce was replaced in the lineup by backup Rex Burkhead. Texans coach Lovie Smith didn’t characterize the change as benching Pierce.
“I mean, when I say taken out, we have a rotation with Dameon,” Smith said. “Dameon is our tailback. He can’t fumble the ball in that situation. Whenever you put the ball on the ground, it’s not a good thing, but we’re not going to stop playing Dameon just based on that. Just got to protect the ball better like everybody else.”
The Texans are dismayed by their record and how flashes of strong performance aren’t carrying over in the fourth quarter. They’ve been outscored 30-0 in the fourth quarter.
“Man, I feel like we came out blazing,” Pierce said. “We were executing pretty well. It’s the NFL, so they’re going to draw up things to stop what we do offensively. We had our time to shine. Ultimately, we didn’t come out with the win.”
Every week, the fourth-round draft pick from Florida has improved his production.
Pierce (5-foot-10, 218 pounds) has rushed for 182 yards and one touchdown on 46 carries, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is running a ground-oriented offense that quarterback Davis Mills characterized as “ground and pound.”
Pierce wants to see his handiwork turn into a victory for the winless Texans.
“It didn’t lead to a victory,” Pierce said. “We have to come up with more ways to finish drives. Pep is a great OC. He’s going to find a way to crank things up. We’re going to get it going eventually.”
With a punishing, juiced-up running style, Pierce figures into the equation as more of a solution than anything else.
“He ran the ball pretty good,” Howard said. “He ran hard all night. He’s a talented back. We just got to keep feeding him.”
Smith reiterated that he’s pleased with the running back personnel on the roster and isn’t looking to make changes. Burkhead is a third-down back and provides a proven change of pace.
“We like our running backs that we have,” Smith said. “Dameon has got to protect the football better. The times that he’s played all three games, we like what our No. 1 running back has done. It’s pretty hard to get three running backs involved.
“Rex in his role will continue. I’ve seen signs of improvement each week. It’s not where it needs to be. A lot of time with the running game, too, you’ve got to have some explosive (plays) in there. Some explosive runs and then it looks a whole lot better. That’s what they (Bears, 281 rushing yards) were able to do. Eventually, we’ll get that.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com