ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As coach David Culley spoke loudly to his team after a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the usually easy-going Houston Texans coach could be heard across the hall in the interview room.
His message to his team, he said not long after, was that he didn't have them "ready to play." And it's the fact that the game wasn't even competitive, several players said, that made it such a terrible loss.
“We didn’t come to play,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Buffalo, they had our card. It’s actually embarrassing when you lose how we lost.”
The loss was the Texans’ biggest in franchise history by point differential, eclipsing their 38-point loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Houston fell to 1-3 on the season, though the team is only one game out of first place in the AFC South.
“That’s one of the most embarrassing losses I’ve ever had, for sure," linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said. "It’s not going to break us. We’re going to learn from this, we’re going to get better and move on. It’s still very early in the season. We’re going to be all right.”
The offense struggled Sunday, getting shut out for just the third time during the regular season in franchise history. Rookie quarterback Davis Mills, making his second career start in place of an injured Tyrod Taylor, completed 11 of 21 passes for 87 yards with four interceptions. He had a passer rating of 23.4.
“Our entire offense didn’t play well today,” Culley said. “Obviously, the quarterback handles the ball every time. He made a couple of throws that I wish he’d have had back. But I thought he did exactly what we really asked him to do, other than taking care of the ball.
“It wasn’t on him. You put anybody out there today. You could put Joe Montana out there today, and the way we played, you’re not going to have any success on offense.”
The Texans had minus-23 net passing yards in the first half, the fewest by any team in a first half since the Eagles on Nov. 21, 1999. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the fewest in either half in franchise history.
Mills completed only one pass in the first half, a 3-yard completion to wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The Texans are the second team in the past four seasons to complete one or fewer passes in the first half of a game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Denver Broncos were the other team, going without a first-half completion against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12 last season when all of their quarterbacks were out because of COVID-19 protocols.
It wasn’t much better for the Texans on defense Sunday, though the unit did keep it close in the first half despite being put in challenging situations. In the second quarter, three of the Bills’ four possessions began at the 50-yard line or in Houston territory. The Texans’ defense held them to three field goals and forced a turnover on downs on the other possession.
On a rainy day in Orchard Park, the Bills ran all over a Texans defense that had already allowed six rushing touchdowns entering the game. On Sunday, 106 of the Bills' 199 rushing yards came after contact, their most yards after contact in a game since Week 14 in 2017, according to research by ESPN Stats & Info.
Houston finished the game with 109 net yards, a total almost eclipsed by its 100 penalty yards.
“That’s an undisciplined football team, and that starts with me,” Culley said. “... It puts us in bad situations. And we’re not going to be able to overcome those things. And we weren’t today.”
As the Texans turn their focus to their Week 5 matchup against the New England Patriots -- again without Taylor, as he has to miss at least three games while on injured reserve -- Mills was asked where the team goes next after this blowout loss.
“I guess there’s only up from here,” Mills said. "We’ll take that as a plus."