Now that some time has passed and I’m able to return to normal physical functionality, it’s time for some more legitimate thoughts on Houston’s thrilling/maddening 43-37 overtime win over Jacksonville on Sunday.
First, let me make it clear – I am not freaking out about how this team barely won. I am beyond thrilled the Texans are 9-1. I am elated that the Texans won a grind-it-out defensive struggle last week, and then turned around and won a shootout on Sunday. THAT is a great football team. THAT is versatility. But I do want to focus on some defensive concerns, which I think are legitimate going forward.
Defensively, what went wrong?
Someone asked safety Danieal Manning the same question after the game, and his answer was honest and/or alarming. I’m paraphrasing, but it was to the effect of “we didn’t prepare for Chad Henne, we prepared for Blaine Gabbert.” This is kind of what I figured from the start, but a team with the talent and coaching like the Texans shouldn’t have to spend all week preparing for Chad Henne to beat him. Henne played out of his mind but there’s no way the Texans should not have been able to make adjustments in-game and at halftime to be able to handle him.
How much of this was the Texans playing “flat” or underestimating the Jaguars? I don’t know. I don’t think it was that much. Sometimes teams (and units within a team) just have bad games. That certainly seems to be the situation in this case. After the Green Bay game and now this game against Jacksonville, the Texans should absolutely be painfully aware that just as they can beat any team, they can lose to any team.
Secondary partied like it was 2010
Perhaps the most terrifying part of Sunday’s defensive struggles was the secondary play, specifically safeties Manning and Glover Quin. Manning is typically a sure-tackler, but his plans to shoulder-tackle Justin Blackmon resulted in disaster. Quin gambled and lost more often than not on Sunday. Kareem Jackson reminded us why he was a whipping boy for so long, but I’m not going to overreact to a bad game by him in the same way I haven’t overreacted to how much he’s improved in 2012.
Scary reality – without JJ Watt, the Texans don’t have much of a pass rush
With the rest of the league apparently now realizing that you just have no choice but to burn two blockers on JJ Watt, nearly at all times, it should put the Texans in a good position to generate a consistent pass rush. With Watt taking up two guys, Wade Phillips needs to be able to count on one of Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Whitney Mercilus, and Antonio Smith to get some pressure on the quarterback. Instead, there just isn’t much of a pass rush when other teams focus on Watt. Sure, Wade loves to dial up the blitzes and will continue to do so – but it’s gonna be tough to beat teams led by great quarterbacks if you can’t generate a pass rush with four guys. Peyton Manning might be the best of all time at beating the blitz. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger do it regularly. This is a problem if someone does not step up. Barwin and Reed, so good last year – really need to step it up. Like, REALLY.
Daryl Sharpton, hello, we’ve missed you
Daryl Sharpton is a guy I really like, and a guy I think can seriously help this team. I just figured it would be next year. After all the time he’s spent hurt over the last year, I did not expect him to contribute much in 2012. Whoa now, this dude came to play on Sunday. All Sharpton did was come off the bench for seven tackles and three assisted tackles. He had at least one tackle for loss, and was HITTING some guys. If he can stay healthy he is a HUGE boost to the suspect ILB group post-Brian Cushing. Bradie James and Tim Dobbins have played better than I expected them to since Cushing was injured, but Sharpton, when healthy, is the best of those three.
Now we all hold our collective breath as CB Johnathan Joseph gets an MRI on a sore hamstring. With a four-day turnaround until the Thanksgiving tilt with Detroit, I’d put J-Jo’s chances of playing at just about .01%. That means we are in for a dose of Kareem Jackson covering Calvin Johnson, with tons of safety help (unless Wade Phillips has lost his mind). Sounds like the best-case realistic scenario is that Joseph misses this game, but takes advantage of the long layoff in time to return against New England. No J-Jo against the Patriots – well, I’m not going to even think about that.