HOUSTON (AP) — After the Houston Texans dropped their sixth straight game Sunday with a lopsided loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the first question asked to coach David Culley wasn't even about the game.
Following another putrid offensive showing by these Texans led by rookie quarterback Davis Mills, the first thing reporters wondered is if Tyrod Taylor would finally return this week.
Culley said he wasn't sure, but the good news is that the veteran will return to practice this week for the first time since injuring a hamstring in Week 2, opening the possibility for his return Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Culley said he'd have a better idea of where Taylor is once he returns to practice Wednesday and talked about what he'll need to see from him.
"Just to make sure that when he is running around back there that there's nothing hampering him from being the kind of player that he is using his legs," he said. "If there's nothing there, then we feel good about going and playing with him. The only way that we're going to find that out is by practicing him."
Houston's skid is its longest since dropping the last six games of the 2017 season to end 4-12. Taylor led the team to its only victory in the opener against Jacksonville this season before Mills took over at halftime after Taylor was injured the following week.
The Texans managed just three points on offense Sunday in a 31-5 loss where their defense got them on the board first with a safety in the first quarter. Mills threw for 135 yards and lost a fumble as the Texans failed to score a touchdown for the third time in four weeks.
Though Culley has acknowledged that Mills needs to play better, he's more focused on team-wide issues and said there are three things that the Texans must do if they hope to end their skid.
The first thing is eliminating penalties after they had eight for 80 yards against Arizona. Culley also needs his team to stop giving up big plays and the last key, he says, is to improve tackling across the board.
A.J. Green had a 41-yard reception for Arizona in the second quarter and Kyler Murray found newly acquired tight end Zach Ertz for a 47-yard TD in the third Sunday.
"Some of those big plays are happening, because we have them for short gains and they're getting big gains because we're missing tackles," Culley said.
On this team it's difficult to say that anything is working.
"I'm not happy with anything we're doing right now, offensively, defensively or special teams," he said. "It's a three-phase deal. When you're winning and when you're doing the things that you should be doing, it's all three phases doing their job. Right now, all three phases aren't doing their jobs ... the way we need to be."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
DL Jacob Martin scored almost as many points as Houston's offense Sunday when he sacked Murray in the end zone for a safety. It was the first safety the Texans have had since Week 6 of the 2017 season.
There are too many bad performers on this team to single out just one player.
Culley said Sunday that LB Christian Kirksey may have fractured his thumb and said Monday that he was still being evaluated.
13.9 — The Texans are averaging just 13.9 points a game this season which ranks 31st in the NFL.
Despite the terrible start, Culley, who is in his first season as a head coach after decades as an NFL assistant, remains optimistic that things will improve.
"It does not weigh on me, because I've been there," he said. "I know that if you stay the course and you get the things corrected that need to be corrected, it will get turned around, and I believe that."