….and…. deep breath.
It’s Monday, and so far – it’s still real. The Texans pulled out an incredible, improbable victory yesterday – a win that I can’t imagine ever would have happened for any previous incarnation of this team. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it.
The Texans’ stars proved why they are stars
Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Mario Williams are the Texans’ money players right now, and each one of them showed up in a HUGE way. Andre’s triumphant return from an ankle injury took him beyond the legend status he already had amongst fans, and Schaub followed up last week’s single-game Texans’ rushing record by Arian Foster by setting a team record for single-game passing. Mario (and everyone else) started slow, but when it counted he came through with three huge sacks. Two of which came in key situations and made 91,000 screaming fans shut their traps and cry.
Bernard Pollard: Two games, two game-changing (saving?) plays
It’s tough to point to just one play as the “play of the game.” You can’t argue with Andre’s TD catch on 4th & 10. Tough to beat TE Joel Dreessen’s catch that set up the game-winning field goal. There are many more (including some big mistakes by the Redskins). All of those are good choices, but the spark that lit the fire which eventually engulfed the Redskins might just be Bernard Pollard’s field goal block with 6:40 left in the 4th quarter. If that attempt is successful, the Redskins go up 30-20. That certainly wouldn’t have been an insurmountable lead, but it obviously made things much more manageable.
Pollard certainly has his limitations in pass coverage, which we’ve seen examples of over and over again. The fact is, the guy has a nose for the ball, and a knack for making big plays. If the Texans had a better free safety to go along with Pollard, it would probably help to disguise Pollard’s coverage issues, but I think we all know that right now we’re stuck with what we’ve got. Eugene Wilson, like the rest of the secondary – did NOT have a good game yesterday. For a veteran player with Super Bowl-winning experience, he sure makes a lot of half-hearted attempts at tackles, takes a lot of poor angles, and just plain comes out on the short end a lot. Troy Nolan, I hope you’re getting better in practice, my man.
Oh yes, the secondary
It’s a problem. It was always going to be a problem. The team HAD to know it was going to be a problem. The young secondary was my #1 concern in the offseason, and now it’s not so much a concern as it is a reason for me to consider lighting my hair on fire and jumping out of a window. I realize that Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb are both All-Pro QBs who may both arguably be headed for the Hall of Fame, but no matter the circumstances, 411 passing yards per game is a nightmare. Sure, it will even out eventually, but even the average quarterbacks we face are going to have season-high performances at this rate. I mean, McNabb is a pretty good QB, yet he has one of the worst WR corps in the NFL. 84-year old Joey Galloway and Santana Moss? Good God, get a stop already.
Pass protection – also a huge problem
No need to spend much time on this one. Five sacks. Five. No way Schaub makes it through 16 games… or even 14 or 12 if the Texans don’t fix their disastrous pass protection issues. The team had some difficulties in week one against the Colts, but that was largely covered up by the way the team ran the ball. Still – you could see the problems budding then, and yesterday it mushroomed out of control. A well-placed block by Wade Smith on the 4th & 10 heave to Johnson was just in time to prevent the on-target pass from becoming a harmless floater. Even with that block, Schaub got absolutely blown UP by a defensive lineman and was admiring the darkening Maryland skies as Andre made the catch.
On Kubiak’s decision not to kick the FG in overtime
I think it was the wrong call, but those who feel the opposite – please hear me out. It worked out GREAT, but it’s still not immune from criticism. I know that Neil Rackers’ range isn’t 55 yards like the CBS announcers would have you believe – he made his career-long 55-yarder in 2004 (and a 54-yarder in 2008). It would have been a 51-yarder. That is probably RIGHT at the edge of his range. Gary Kubiak stated that there was a bit of a breeze, as evidenced by some of the short kickoffs – and I accept that. But here’s the thing…
You’re on the road. In overtime. Your pass defense (and by now the Redskins had abandoned the run) has been ATROCIOUS. Sure, if you miss – you give them the ball with not far to go to get in field goal range – but again, the defense has been abysmal against the pass. I know they tightened up in the fourth quarter, but when you have a chance to win in overtime on the road – you take the chance. 100 times out of 100. Luckily for Kubiak, it all worked out in the end. Kubiak knows his kicker better than any of us do. He knows his defense better than any of us do. He made a call, and it (however unlikely) worked out. So, I commend him for his gumption, but I thought that was a bad decision.
Again, I get Kubiak’s reasoning, and honestly – the way I usually am about kickers, you’d think I’d be ELATED with this decision to not put the whole game on Rackers. If the pass defense hadn’t been as terrible as it was in that game, I would have been okay with the decision, but the way it played out I was SHOCKED to see Kubiak pass up the opportunity to win an overtime game on the road, especially after you had won the coin toss. That’s like found money. Not kicking the field goal is like leaving it where it was found.
I get it. I don’t think Kubiak is an idiot for it, I just don’t agree with it. You brought in a new kicker – why did you do that if you don’t think he can make a game-winning field goal?
Texans were out-coached for most of the game
Let’s be honest – The Shanahans kicked Kubiak and Frank Bush up and down the field for the vast majority of the game. Much was made of the familiarity with each other on both sides, but for most of the game it felt like Kubiak/Bush weren’t able to take advantage of that angle in any way. The teacher was pummeling the student, and it wasn’t even close. The difference in the end, was that the Texans just have a LOT more talent than the Redskins, especially on offense. Coaches coach, players play. The players won this game for the Texans.
Quietly, Kubiak has had two nice coaching moments this season so far. Yesterday he went with the old “ice the kicker” timeout that fortunately worked in the Texans’ favor (I hate that rule, but wow am I ever glad it worked out). Let’s also not forget the timeout he called against the Colts that might have saved an onside kick recovery. (I say might because the Texan closest to the play didn’t move on the kick because he heard the whistle blow.)
Don’t twist it – I’m absolutely over the moon about this game
I’m always a bit cynical and at times overly-critical. It’s just my nature as (what I hope) is being a competent blogger who tries to avoid pumping you full of sunshine. But sometimes I have to turn “Blogger Chris” off and just be a fan. Yesterday in the 3rd quarter when I started receiving the standard gloom and doom texts from friends, I turned off my phone, put the Twitter Pipe down and was just… a fan. The game was in doubt, for sure – but at no point did I think we were out of it – which is unusual for me. Very unusual. I just kept thinking about the talent gap, and how this team is so much more emotionally mature than it used to be, as proven against the Colts. In the end, we fans got a game we will never forget – and a game my DVR will never let go of.
Texans vs. Cowboys is the hottest football ticket in Houston since…
…since Joe Montana and the Chiefs came to town and ripped our Columbia Blue Oiler hearts out in the playoffs way back when. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be hostile… and it’s not going to go well for the Cowboys. I say that being fully aware of how incredibly talented they are, and how DESPERATE they will be to get a win. Basically, I think as long as the Cowboys are being coached by Wade Phillips, they’re going to be playing with a handicap.
Hell of a win by the good guys, my friends. Hell of a win. My neighbors must think I’m a maniac. My wife and I were screaming our heads off with no regard for anyone around us. I still haven’t seen the cat since I screamed HOLDING!!!! HOLDING!!!! HOLDING!!!! HOLDING!!!! HOLDING!!!! at the top of my lungs near the end of the fourth quarter when a Redskin player was trying to choke out Antonio Smith. By the way – special thanks CBS crew for not putting the “penalty flag” graphic up until several seconds after that play. I was about to blow my top on the referees for missing the obvious call.
Tony Romo and his stupid backwards hat are next. I can’t wait for Sunday. It’s going to be a long day for the Cowboys… and our cat.