Friday, December 28, 2012

Can Texans pull out of this funk?

Last year after the Texans claimed their first ever AFC South title they went on a 3 game skid that cost them the possibility of the #1 overall seed and even a 1st rd bye. History is seemingly repeating itself. If the Texans lose this weekend at Indy and Denver and New England both win they will be the 3 seed and seemingly play the Bengals again in the Wild Card weekend. Last year the Texans hit the playoffs and woke up and went on a run and came up just short of the AFC title game. I just worry about this years version of them team. I don't know that they do ANYTHING better than last years team? Especially now with Schaub struggling down the stretch. This team will go where he takes us, but one offensive TD in 2 games isn't going to beat Denver or New England... It may not even beat Cincy.
I have had nightmares all year of the Texans losing in the first round ala the Packers last year and Falcons the previous year. I just really feel they peaked early.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Texans lose Brian Cushing for the year to a dirty block

On a cold New Jersey night, just miles from his hometown, Brian Cushing refused to be carted off after an irresponsible and illegal clip from behind ended his 2012 season.  At the time, we as fans weren't sure of his fate, and as the game was far from decided, it wasn't at the forefront of our attention.  But this afternoon, in Gary Kubiak's weekly press conference, we got the bad news that anyone watching could have read on Cushing's face as he left the field.  He has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season on injured reserve.

J.J. Watt is the unquestioned best player on this Texans defense, probably the league, but the heart of this defense is resides right in the middle with Brian Cushing.  He is the emotional leader of the defense, its leading tackler, and the guy you don't want to meet up with in the off chance that you get past J.J. Watt.  As Kubiak said, he's a guy who can't be replaced, you just have to asked everyone else to step it up a notch.  Now if there is a team that has experience in losing a star player like Brian Cushing and still being able to perform at a high level its the Houston Texans.  Ironically it was after week 5 last year that we lost Mario Williams for the year.  I don't think we have a Brooks Reed in the waiting in this situation, but with Darryl Sharpton coming off the PUP list next week, he might be just the medicine this team needs.  The #nextmanup philosophy that defined this team last year is going to need to be dug up and dusted off to account for the loss of production and leadership of a guy like Cushing.

The issue that worries me the most is how this will affect the Texan's run defense.  This is probably the weakest link on this Texans team.  A week ago, a fading star who hasn't cracked 25 yards against anyone this season, busted out against this unit for 141 yards.  Reggie Bush was averaging almost 5 yards a carry in the Miami game before Watt just blew that game up and the Dolphins had to abandon the run.  In fact most teams have to abandon the run against the Texans as they get up on teams early and often.  But once they start playing good teams, like Baltimore, Chicago, and New England they are going to have to be able to stop the run.  They can't assume they be up 2 TDs on everyone.  This team may be 5-0 but it still hasn't beat a team that currently has a winning record. This team has aspirations for much more than just a playoff appearance this year.  If you want to win in the playoffs, you need to be able to run the ball and stop the run, and honestly, against a team like San Francisco, I'm just not sure we'll be able to do either.  Yes, the only time we would see the 49ers would be the Super Bowl, but don't you think that is a real possibility for this team.

We'll really find out who this team is and how well they can deal with this adversity over the next few weeks against the reigning MVP and the Green Bay Packers and Joe Flacco and a team that this Texans team has never beaten.  We got the Jets monkey off our back this year, it will be a much bigger task now to get the Raven off our back.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Match up with Ravens inching closer

So first and foremost, let me apologize to all of my readers for such a slow start.  (By readers I mean all 3 of you!)  Anyway, maybe I should start this slow more often.  The Texans are off to anything but a slow start.  They've exploded out to the best start not only in franchise history, but Houston NFL history.  They also have quickly taken over the division with essentially a 3 game lead on everyone and reside at the top of almost every power ranking I can find.

But the consensus second best team in the AFC is on the schedule and just a few weeks away.  I would never overlook the Jets and definitely not the Packers, which may be one of the loudest, most hyped games in Texans history, but the Ravens game is lurking back just a few weeks away on this schedule and will probably tell us not only who these Texans really are, but also who the best team in the AFC is.  And for this fan's money, there is not a game on the schedule I want more than this one.  Sure the Titans and the Jags are big rivals, Green Bay would have the flash and ti would be great to beat Tom Brady, but this rivalry with Baltimore has been brewing for a few years and we still haven't got on the right side of the win loss column against the them.  The Texans always seem to be right on the cusp and then that stingy Ravens D just snatches it away, see 2010 OT Pick 6.

This game looks to be battle of one of the highest powered offenses in the league and statistically the best defense.  The Bulls on Parade Texans D will try to stop the high flying Ravens Offense in wh$%&...  Wait, I must have gotten that wrong!  The Ravens are the team with the nasty D that eats QBs and takes INTs to the house, and the Texans are the team that flings all over the field to a Hall of Famer like Andre Johnson and playmakers like Arian Foster and Owen Daniels right?  The Ravens are the team with Hall of Famers all over the defense and maybe the best MLB to ever suit up. And the Texans are the team with the WR with the highest yards per game average in NFL history.  The Ravens must be the stifling defense that we're talking about and the Texans must have that super prolific passing offense. One would think, except that is not the case this year.

The Ravens have really flipped the script on their identity.  The team that once was content beating you 10-3 with suffocating defense and just enough offense now has the 2nd best offense in the league and ironically the 3rd worst pass defense.  Joe Flacco has seemingly turned the corner in Baltimore and is having a Pro Bowl starting caliber year and is leading the AFC in passing yards.  Ray Rice has become one of the, if not the best weapon in the NFL and Torrey Smith leads the AFC in TD receptions.  But on the other side of the ball, without Terrell Suggs, the Baltimore defense is a fraction of its former self.  I'm not sure I would ever sleep on this defense that is still littered with all time greats but the proof is in the pudding.  The Ravens are 23rd in total defense and 29th in pass defense.  Now that could be a product of teams having to play catchup to that great offense and throwing the ball all day, but a team that was 3rd in the league in sacks last year is a middle of the road team now at getting to the QB, especially considering all the chances they get to rush the QB. Only 3 teams have had more passes attempted against them and 2 of them are in the dredges of the NFL.  Without reigning defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs, this defense just can't seem to get to the QB and the aging legs of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are having a hard time keeping up in pass coverage.

Meanwhile, the Texans have had a similar flip over the last two years.  A team that has been a perennial top 5 offense under Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub are a lack luster 14th in total offense, but conversely, lead the league in total defense and scoring defense.  The 8 to 80 hookup that has kept this team in close games in the past and brought this team back from the dead in others has been a secondary option this year to a power running game that features maybe the best set of backs in the league. Statistically the numbers are down on the offense but when your defense keeps getting you short fields and you have a  20 point lead in the 3rd quarter, you can afford to run the ball into a line of defenders, especially when you are #2 in the NFL in time of possession. This Texans defense on the other hand, a unit that in 2010 was one of the worst in all of football is now THE best.  The team leads the league in points and yards allowed.  They have so far, the leagues best defensive player who leads the NFL in sacks from a position that doesn't normally get a lot of sacks.  They are 2nd in the AFC in INTs, 2nd in the AFC in sacks, 1st in the league in fewest yards per pass attempt, and one of the most impressive stats, they are #1 in 3rd down percentage. This Texans D is nasty, they get to the QB, they ball hawk, and they get off the field.  They remind me a lot of the Ravens defenses that have built that franchise into what it is today.

So yes, this is a struggle between a great offense and great defense, but the teams are not in the roles you'd expect.   I still expect this to be a very good game, and again, I would never sleep on Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, or Haloti Ngata.  But unlike last year's Divisional Playoff game, I expect the Texans to come out of Reliant stadium with a W.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Offseason Questions

So we just finished the 2011 season with the Giants beating the Patriots… again.  The Texans are coming off the best season in franchise history with their first division title, first playoff appearance, and first playoff win.  Here comes the offseason and with it a lot of questions about what’s next, who stays, who goes, and how do we build on it for a deeper run next year. 
The biggest question for the Texans in the offseason is what to do with Mario Williams.  On hand I say, you have to let him go.  Brooks Reed obviously showed he can play the position at a high level and the defense looked spectacular after Mario left.  But if you really start to look at it, the Texans started their season against some of the best offenses in the league, playing New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Oakland (Oakland was a top 5 offense when we played them).  After Mario got hurt the schedule turned easier and we played teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Tampa. It was in this stretch that the defense became one of the best in the league. Now that stood up later against playoff teams Atlanta, Cincy, and Baltimore. But the fact is the defense was at its best without Mario.
Another school of thought, is that anyone can run behind our offensive line.  We almost had 2 thousand yard backs this year, and Derrick Ward looked dynamite behind this line in 2010.  It has been suggested that maybe they pay Mario and let Foster go. This team has often been called Denver South as its coaching crew and offensive philosophy have been taken from the late 90’s early 2000’s Denver Broncos.  Denver NEVER held onto great backs.  Clinton Portis had back to back 1500 yard seasons in 02-03 and after 2 years it was obvious he was up for a big contract and the Broncos shipped him out.  He hasn’t touched that same level of success since.   The Broncos though continued to be a powerhouse rushing team until 2008 which was the first time in a decade they hadn’t been in the top 10 in rushing.  The Shanahan/Kubiak philosophy is that a great running game is born out of a great blocking scheme, not great runners.
If it were up to me, and thank goodness it’s not, I would probably say pass rush is harder to duplicate than a running game. That said, I worry that Mario only plays half speed sometimes, and he’s ALWAYS hurt.  He’s a warrior and plays through injury almost always, but his effectiveness suffers tremendously.  But when he gets that next big deal, will he still take some plays off or will he be the monster we know he can be?  Conversely, I think Arian is replaceable.  I think had Ben Tate had the lion share of the carries he would have broken 1200 yds.  Now he’s not the receiver out of the backfield that Arian is but Arian is going to command max type money next year and we still have Tate on his rookie deal for 2 more years. 
To tell you the truth… the player they need to lock up the most this offseason is Chris Myers.  He is the anchor of the best O line in football and is key to making this zone blocking scheme effective.  He played in the Pro Bowl this year and should have been an All-Pro so he’s not going to be cheap, but at minimum they should franchise him if not locking him up in a long term deal.
I’m glad I’m not Rick Smith or Bob McNair (well I guess I wouldn’t mind being Bob McNair).  These are hard decision and will undoubtedly affect the future of this franchise.  I’d hate to let Mario go and see him in Tennessee or Jacksonville.  Or imagine the Colts with Andrew Luck, Arian Foster, and Reggie Wayne!!  What needs will we address in the draft?  How many more years can we expect to keep Wade Phillips?  The future of the Texans may be one of the brightest in the NFL but there is a lot of uncertainty right now. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Not So Happy Ending


The best season in Texans franchise history came to a crashing end on Sunday at the hands of Ed Reed and the Baltimore defense.  Looking at the statistics after the game just makes me cringe.  The Texans dominated this game defensively! But when the offense and special teams gives the ball away 4 times even this masterful defensive performance goes to waste.   After the 3rd interception of the day the Texans defense again stood strong and got the ball back for the TJ Yates and the Texans offense one last time.  With a shot at tying the game, Yates’ pass found no Texan and fell restlessly to the ground.
When you look at the box score, you think the Texans won.  The Texans D held the Ravens to 227 total yards, 87 rushing yards and a scant 2.8 yards per carry.  Andre Johnson had an Andre Johnson type performance with 8 catches for 111 yards and Arian Foster went for 27 carries and 132 yards and a TD. The best offensive line in football gave up 0 sacks to the team that led the NFL in sacks, and our defense got 5 sacks against the Ravens and held Flacco to under 50% passing. JJ Watt had one of his most dominating performances as a pro with 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks.  Almost everyone on the Texans played well enough to win. 
I said almost everyone.  There were two notable exceptions.  TJ Yates looked like a rookie going against a great defense.  All three of his interceptions were off of bad decisions. TJ got locked on to Andre Johnson and couldn’t seem to get to the next receiver in his progression. The one that killed the game though was at the end of what should have been the game tying drive. Reed grabbed his 8th career post season interception at the 4 yd line and ended a drive that could have vaulted Andre Johnson into post season lore.
The other obvious notable exception was Jacoby Jones. It hurts right now just to say his name.  A friend texted me during the game and said that Jacoby didn’t deserve his own initials as he was the anti JJ Watt of this game.  Jones had no catches in the game and averaged .7 yards per return. To be clear that is 0.7 yards not 7 yards.  His fumble in the first quarter flipped the script on the game after a great kickoff return by Danieal Manning and a quick 3 and out by the Texans defense. If he doesn’t get cut on the plane ride home, I may turn on Kubiak.  I don’t care how much money they gave him, he’s not worth it.  1 punt returned for a TD a year isn’t worth all the fumbles and the consistent lack of production. In Andre’s absence this year he was downright horrible. I don’t want to say the Jacoby is the reason we lost but my buddy did say if Jacoby’s dad had just pulled out… the game would have at least gone to overtime. Just sayin…

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Playoff Experience

Sorry for the long layoff.  I am just getting my voice back, literally and metaphorically.  So what happened while I was gone?  The Texans finally won a game I hear!  And what an experience!  I snagged some tickets the day before because I figured I share my experience with you.
I was at work on Friday when a coworker was perusing StubHub and said there were tickets that were under $100.  I said I didn’t believe him and when I saw it for myself I decided to give the wife a call to get the go ahead. (Yes, she controls the wallet).  She knew there was no way I was going to miss this so she acquiesced with little fight. I secretly think she really wanted to go too! We also snagged a parking pass from a good friend of mine who manages Reliant Park. So were set, tickets, parking pass and a voice to lay in sacrifice on the football altar.
We met up with a buddy of mine in the Blue Lot and had one hell of a tailgate.  The BBQ was great, the beer was flowing, and the anticipation was building.  I have to admit, I had been anxious all day about the game and walking up to the stadium I was so nervous for the Texans.  Could they beat this team again after a less than stellar performance the first time around?
We go into the stadium about 15 minutes before kickoff and it was as packed as I’ve ever seen before kickoff.  The atmosphere was already buzzing and when the starting lineups were announced it felt as if the roof might blow off.  Then the entire visitors side of the lower bowl became on big “GO TEXANS” billboard and at the moment the crowd just erupted!!  It was amazing! 
I was really looking forward to the first big 3rd down to see how loud the crowd would get and the fans didn’t disappoint, it was near deafening.  I could barely hear myself screaming, as my yells of excitement just seemed to fall in line with the rest and commenced an attack on the Bengals offensive eardrums.  It would get much louder though… much!
Much of the first half was a defensive battle and the Texans had far from asserted dominance.  But when J.J. Watt grabbed that ball out of the air and started running the place went crazy.  I spilled half the beer in my cup, as I was jumping around like an idiot screaming “Oh my god!, Oh my god!, Oh my god!!!!”.  The Houston Chronicle reported that the sound was measured on the field at 110 decibels, which is the equivalent to listening to a power saw at 3 feet.  I tell you what, there was a power saw on that field in the second half as the Texans completely dominated the Bengals from the halfway mark.  And let me say this, I was so happy and so proud to be have been a Texans fan for so long when I saw Andre juke Pacman out of his shoes and scored his first playoff touchdown! He did a Lambeau Leap that he’s been holding for a long time!

 I tweeted after the game that I spent $105 on the tickets and it was totally effing worth it.  It was. It was worth every dollar.  Not sure if I can afford tickets should fate bring the Texans back home in two weeks, but we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.  The Texans are 1-0 last week and hopefully they can find a way to go 1-0 this week.  For now, I'm going to check out this Bama-LSU rematch.  Talk to y'all soon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pro Bowl Snubs!

So the Pro Bowl selections were announced yesterday and, of course like a typical Houston fan, I’m upset about the apparent lack of respect for the Houston Texans.  I know that Pro Bowls are much more about star power than actual performance and no one outside of the beltway has heard of players like Conner Barwin or Chris Myers.  Two Texans did make the initial roster and nine Texans were named as alternates.  Arian Foster will be making his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl and Johnathan Joseph gets the call for the first time. But on a team with the best offensive line in football and the 2nd best defense to have only 2 Pro bowlers is a slap in the face if you ask me, and neither of which will be starters.
The fact that the Texans have no Pro Bowlers on arguably the best offensive line in football is possibly the biggest Pro Bowl snub in the league. LT Duane Brown gave up zero sacks and had only 2 penalties all year.  A left tackle gave up ZERO sacks! Think about that for a second. said Chris Myers at center was easiest selection of all the AFC players and that no one was even close.   Yet the Jets have 2 Pro Bowlers on their offensive line that wasn’t even close to the Texans.  700 less rushing yds and  8 more sacks given up than the Texans.  The Texans sack numbers are also a bit inflated too due to the addition of a rookie QB.
The other big snub for the Texans is Brian Cushing.  Ray Lewis gets voted in off sheer reputation.  He’s missed 4 games this year and his stats don’t stack up well against Cushing.  Every Pro Bowl projection I’ve seen had shown Cushing and Derrick Johnson as the starters.  Cushing has played lights out this year with impact plays all over the field. He has 110 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.  Many of the pundits have said today that Cushing may have been affected by his previous PED suspension 2 years ago. But to that I say what about Ray Lewis? He was allegedly picked up at the border trying to sneak out of the country in a car trunk after he was implicated in a murder!  I guess that makes Ray Lewis a scary bad ass and Cushing a cheater?
I think that Conner Barwin is deserving of a Pro Bowl selection, but again, ask someone in New York or LA who Conner Barwin is and most likely you’ll hear something like “huh?” or “who?”.  Plus Barwin gets penalized for being an OLB on a 3-4 defense.  If it were a 4-3 he would likely play DE in which he would have most certainly made the Pro Bowl… I hope.  Considering that he had 11.5 sacks compared to Dwight Freeney’s pathetic 7.5 sacks and 18 total tackles.  The fact that Freeney gets a Pro Bowl start with JAG numbers off of the worst team in football and one of the worst defenses in the NFL is downright outrageous! It’s not like he didn’t have his chances either.  The Colts defense was on the field longer than any in the league and they were 3rd from the bottom in plays allowed.
I always tell fans that are angry about lack of Texans coverage from ESPN or NFL network that respect is earned and the fact that they are not getting it just means they have to work harder.  The Texans have done well this year in the underdog role and have responded to adversity at seemingly every turn. Hopefully the Texans will post this one on the bulletin board and try to prove themselves to their doubters, again.