Thursday, December 31, 2009

Won More

One more game to complete the 2009 regular season.

When the Houston Texans host the New England Patriots Sunday at Reliant, much will be riding on a season finale against an opponent that all recognize has much more to gain by resting its star players than by risking injury prior to the start of what has shaped up to be the most challenging post-season of their gilded era.

The Texans can finish with a winning record for the first time in franchise history, save Coach Kubiak from being fired, and build upon the valuable experience of perseverance towards a season in 2010 that finally takes them to the post-season.

The playoffs for this year aren't a mathematical impossibility, they just require the two losses by the Jets, Ravens, or Broncos. Not likely, but certainly possible. And because all of the games these three teams play are after the conclusion of the Texans game, a win will mean that for the first time ever Houston will have completed a season still in the running for the playoffs. That's alot to play for.

Here's hoping the Texans resolve to play to their potential, and adhere to the principles of Texans Ethics:

1. Live each day with courage---don't be afraid to be your best.
2. Take pride in your work---it usually results in excellence.
3. Finish what you start---how about a full 60 minutes, fellas.
4. Do what has to be done---execute.
5. Be tough, but be fair---play with sportsmanship, but don't roll over.
6. If you make a promise, keep it---deliver on the potential of this team.
7. Ride for the brand---you're representing Houston, we're a proud city...
8. Talk Less, Say more---play between the whistles and get it done.
9. Know when to draw the line---aren't you tired of not being a winner?
10. Remember some things aren't for sale---leave it all on the field

One more win to have won more than ever.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Told You So!

O.K., Texans Fans: Here goes nothing!

The next two weeks on the road for our Texans pose opponents whose total wins combined do not come close to what our lovable 6 - 7 underachievers should have tallied by now: This Sunday in St. Louis versus the 1 - 12 Rams, then on to Miami against the currently 7 - 6 Dolphins.

On the road this season is where this team has done its best job focusing on the task at hand. They can return home to Houston with an 8 - 7 record to host the by then likely AFC-East Division clinching Patriots who will have more to gain by resting their stars than by risking injury to them prior to what will be the most challenging post-season of their guilded era.

Think about it...9 - 7 ! It may not guarantee playoffs, but it will be the organization's best record in franchise history, clemency for our coach currently being fitted with comfortable shoes for the Green Mile, and hope that maybe, just maybe, they can build on their first winning season towards a season with its first playoff victories.

Like I said, "Aqui nada va!" It's fun to sing it to the tune of "Feliz Navidad". Go ahead, try it. I dare you. You'll be singing it all day long!

See...I told you so!

The Privilege of Practice

Congratulations to the Houston Texans, their coaching staff, and fans on being one game shy of .500, and not being offically mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

But let me tell you a little story that will illustrate the problem with the Texans:

Just so you know, Tuesday is the "day off" in the NFL. In certain situations, head coaches will reward stellar performances on Sunday with an additional "day off" for the team's players on Monday...meaning the team gets the next two days off before reporting to practice and offical meetings regarding the installation of strategy and schemes for the next opponent. It's a big deal for players, even if they do have to swing by the stadium and facilities for physical therapy and/or other incidental tasks and errands.

I recall in my youth seeing taped post-game locker room addresses to his team by Dennis Greene after a big win. The excitement in those young men upon hearing they would be given the next day off was amazing. But, one time, even after a big win, their coach said, "We got a big win today, but we've still got some things to work on. I'll see you tomorrow."

Why does this matter? Because after last week's loss to Jacksonville I read that "although the Texans are usually given the day off following a loss, they will be working hard on Monday preparing for Seattle." Are you kidding me? Championship and otherwise playoff-caliber teams relish the opportunity to improve, not seek shelter from hard work to make what's wrong right. What do you mean they customarily recieve the following day off as reward for poor performance? They haven't even earned "far and few between" additional days off following wins comprised of 60 minutes of effort and excellence. Not that there have been any.

The Paper Texan says, "The thrilling experience of victory in competition is necessarily preceded by the genuine satisfaction that comes from having prepared for it." Get the pads on fellas, and run the soreness out of your legs.

It's your privilege, afterall.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kids Rock'd

Robert James Ritchie says,

"If it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But... if it's real, you'll feel it."

I got a real feeling it's time to fire Gary Kubiak. The Texans are a great bunch of guys with a whole bunch of football skills and athletic ability. But, they don't look good, and you can see it. The fans' reasonable complaints don't sound good, and you can hear it. They're certainly marketed right...Reliant continues to sell out, but critics are no longer buying that the Texans can get it done. And the real need to fire the coach and get the players motivated and the team on the path to success, well, you can just feel it.

The Texans either forfeit 17 - 0 leads for losses, or trail 17 - 0 unable to comeback due to a combination of poor play and worse playcalling. Sunday was an example of the latter. Their 23 - 18 loss to Jacksonville took them to 5 -7 on the season and all but mathematically eliminated them from playoff contention instead of putting them in the recliner for Monday Night Football rooting for Green Bay to defeat Baltimore to put them in a 6-way tie for an AFC WildCard spot.

Regarding the quote at the beginning of the article: Robert's stage name is Kid Rock. You got the energy to argue with him?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Texans Still Servin' Turkeys

The yucky weather has arrived, and it's too late to take advantage of a beautiful opportunity to put the lights up. "That's O.K." you told yourself as you settled into squandering 3 hours of "honey do" prime time yesterday to watch the Houston Texans. Great start, disheartening lapses, and predictable finish as they relinquish an early 17 - 0 lead to fall 35 - 27 to the Indianapolis Colts. And the lights are still in that tangled mess somewhere in the garage.

The AFC WildCard race is still in contention. And as long as it is, the Houston Texans will play disappointingly. Once any chance at the post-season is mathematically eliminated, they will play loose and more effectively.

But that could take a couple of more weeks.

Jacksonville next week, on the road. Anybody care? Good. That's just what the Texans need to start playing better.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Count Your Blessings


There. You feel better already don't you?

You don't have to tell me that your Houston Texans have squandered equally potential and ability to post a 5 - 5 record. Their near misses against the Jaguars, Cardinals, Colts, and now Titans are why they are not 9 - 1 hosting 9 - 1 division rival Indianapolis this Sunday for a chance to sweep them this season and lead the division in December with an outright shot at a BYE going into the playoffs.

The inches with which their blown opportunities passed them by might as well be a mile. It really does come down to the fact that they do not have a running game. That does not mean Coach Kubiak should insist on calling running plays, it means the Texans need a running back.

Get one, Houston, and Thanksgiving next year your blessings will be bountiful. The city will be giving thanks for a well run franchise and bona fide championship-caliber team.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Orange You Glad You Have an NFL Team?

I have heard for 8 years how the city of Houston deserves better than their Texans.

I have said for 8 years the Houston Texans deserve better than this city's fans. I can prove it to you. A week from now on Monday night under the bright lights of national exposure that is Monday Night Football, the seats will be half-empty at Kick-Off. And once Reliant Stadium is as full as its going to get, 25% of the seats will be occupied by bitter, burnt-orange-wearing humanity cheering for Vince Young as he tries to lead the once-Oilers to a victory against the team that passed on him in the 2006 NFL Draft. At least the Buffalo Bills got the finger from Titans owner Bud Adams. Reliant's occupants will be giving it to their own team!

Your team will be "V.Y."-ing for Wild Card contention for the next 6 weeks, and this game means everything as far as getting off on the right foot. Will the city finally prove it deserves the privilege of an NFL franchise? Or will it point out excuses masquerading as explanations as to why they did not?

Lose the collegiate colors. This is "big-boy" football. Act like you belong in the elite club of cities that has an NFL team. Cheer for your team, not the visiting team's quarterback.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Texans Get Smart

They say that failure is the best teacher. The Houston Texans have had their tassle moved from one side of their cap to the other so many times it resembles the motion of a windshield wiper. The Texans are a veritable PhD. in Disappointing Losses!

Fighting back against the Indianapolis Colts from a 13-0 deficit with a 56 yard field goal going into halftime, the Texans looked like a team ready to tear off the corner, rather than merely turn it. Two more touchdowns and they led their nemesis 17 - 13 in the 4th quarter on the road.

Tough defense and maybe even getting into the heads of the Colts (they felt they had to use a trick play: an intercepted pass off a halfback option!) looked like Matt Schaub was going to lead his team to a tie in regulation, or pehaps even a win.

If not for a Moats fumble on the 1 yard line earlier in the contest, the Texans would have been playing to preserve the win...not snatch it. The coaching staff with the equipment and knowledge to have advised the sideline to run a quick play to avoid a review was remiss in their responsibility. They would have earned the game ball in this victory, but...

The Texans are the greatest good team in the league. They were "right there" when it came to beating Indy on the road for the first time in franchise history. As Maxwell Smart would have said, "Missed it by that much."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Opportunity Knocks

Opportunity knocks this weekend for both the Houston Texans as a team and for Joel Dreessen and James Casey as individuals. It's not just the idea of improving to 6 - 3 on the year with a win against a division foe they've beaten only one time (Kris Brown's winning field goal as time expired at Reliant December 23, 2006 ) in franchise history. It's the chance for Dreessen and Casey to prove they're capable of picking up the slack for All-Pro Warrior Owen Daniels, and becoming a part of franchise history in their own right!

Think about it. Two years ago, Daniels was considered a respectable player, but no one could have predicted successful delivery of his pursuit of excellence made necessary by the knee injury suffered by Andre Johnson in the second game of the season on the road in Carolina. But he blossomed over the next 7 games in Johnson's absence and became a viable target and potent part of the offense. So too can Joel and James in Daniels' absence. I see it in them. And judging from the playcall in the red zone at the end of the game against Arizona earlier this year, apparently Kyle Shanahan sees it too.

Ryan Moats was a sweet slice of serendipity. His 100+ yards were the silver lining in the clouded victory against Buffalo that unfortunately included an injury to Owen that put him out for the season. While nobody would have traded O.D. for a productive running back who took care of the rock, he was a nice surprise. Turnovers were minimized, addressed, and overcome. The continued cohesion on the other side of the ball resulted in stingy and punishing defense. And special teams continues to be just one breath away from improving upon delivering great field position to putting points on the board.

Lucas Field is a tough place to play. Peyton Manning is, well, Peyton Manning. But the biggest surprise to Texans opponents this year, especially of late, is that this is not the team they've studied on film. They're much better.

"Knock-Knock", Dreessen and Casey...It's opportunity!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Low Hanging Fruit in Orchard Park

The Houston Texans head to New York this week to take on the 3 - 4 Buffalo Bills. Both teams are looking to improve upon a two-game winning streak. For Houston, it is a chance to be 5 - 3 and taken seriously in the NFL. Both would be franchise firsts.

This game really comes down to Houston finally taking advantage of playing to its potential for 60 minutes, as opposed to playing down to the level of its competition. In front of the loyal Bills fanbase is no position to risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Buffalo's Quarterback Trent Edwards will not play because of a concussion, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick (who?) at the helm of a team whose offensive line is decimated, running game is dismal, and receiving corp is anchored by the "he could blow any minute" underachieving Terrell Owens. Though Buffalo has made strides to strengthen its previously inexperienced linebacker positions via signings off the couch in September, they are still susceptible to Houston's potent passing attack and a potential break-out performance from the backfield.

The Texans are healthy, capable, and productive. Sound leadership from Schaub, ball security from Slaton and Brown, and continued excellence from the receivers will put 35 points on the board. Special Teams will maintain great field position. The continued cohesion of the defense will allow only 10 points.

This is a game the Texans could, should, and will win if they treat it like they respect themselves as much as they appreciate the opportunity to finally be taken seriously in the NFL. That would be a bountiful harvest with which to return from Orchard Park.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pass-Reliant Stadium

Finally. The Houston Texans are not force-feeding a running game with an offensive line challenged by loss of personnel and lack of experience. Matt Schaub lit up the 49ers defense in the first half with TD passes to Owen Daniels and Steve Slaton. He led another drive punctuated by a Steve Slaton rushing TD, giving them a 21 - 0 lead at the half.

Quin, Barber, Reeves, and Robinson provided a "bend, but don't break" defense of Michael Crabtree and the wily veteran Isaac Bruce for the first half. Coach Michael Singletary benched the struggling Shaun Hill who gave up a sack to both Zgonina and Williams. Alex Smith seized upon the availability of his tight end Vernon Davis in the seams down the middle of the field for 3 TDs in the 2nd half.

If not for a clutch 50-yard Kris Brown field goal halfway through the 4th quarter to increase Houston's lead to 24 - 14, the 49ers would have come back to tie the Texans. Coach Kubiak's team continues to struggle to put away teams, allowing potential comebacks with possessions forsaked by the now alarmingly all too familiar lost fumbles by Steve Slaton.

But the Texans hung on to win 24 - 21. For the first time in franchise history, they look to successfully defend the winning record they take into the month of November. They face the struggling Buffalo Bills before they then travel to still perfect Indianapolis.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why You Love Your Texans

Can play with them. Can win with them. Can coach with them. Can do it.

This Sunday at High Noon the showers will have passed through, the sun will have come out, and the roof will be open for the first time this season. Oh, and the Houston Texans will wield a winning record for the first time this season, too. Count on it.

The offense, especially if allowed to play to its strengths, will have no problem putting up enough points to win, even against San Francisco's 10th-rated defense.

Only Oakland's offense, held to a pair of field goals three weeks ago at Reliant, is less productive than that of San Francisco. Despite flu-like symptoms, Bernard Pollard will rebound to join Robinson and Cushing in setting the tone this weekend for a victory that will be referred to on Monday as the franchise's greatest win. Here's why:

This football team has responded to disappointment not with discouragement, but encouragement and perseverance to a point of superior play on many fronts. To have so quickly rebounded from a 1 -2 start with no home wins in two attempts, to 4 - 3 with a chance to go one better against lowly Buffalo, is remarkable.

That's why we love this game, and why we love this team. Not just that they can be great, but they can still be great despite a tough start. That's why football is the quintesential emobodiment of the American spirit of teamwork, strategy, endurance, resiliency, and conquest through sacrifice. The Texans are as lucky to have you as you are to have them, and that's why this team is perfect for the city of Houston.

That's why you love your Texans!

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Open Door to Success

While it's nice to know you've got players who will run through a brick wall for you, wouldn't it be nice if you coached as if you realized the benefit of instead just using the open door?

For the second consecutive week, the Houston Texans defense has made halftime adjustments on the road that have kept Kurt Warner-Anquan Bolden-Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer-Cedric Benson-Chad Ochocinco offenses SHUTOUT in the 2nd Half. Say that out loud and let it wash over you.

Resist your inclination to point out shortcomings in individual ability and a slow start this season. This is a good defense, finally playing to their strengths...which brings me to my point about the offense:

Despite a coaching staff's distaste for a pass-happy yet effective offense, this is a talented group with potent weapons and sound leadership. With an interception the only blemish on an otherwise stellar day, Matt Schaub had a 124 quarterback rating on 70% passing efficiency just shy of 400 yards, and 4 touchdowns spread to Daniels (2), Jacoby Jones, and Steve Slaton.

Coach Gary Kubiak has said in the past that he wanted to limit Matt's passing to diminish his risk for injury. Ironically, it is precisely that mindset and accompanying strategy that has put Matt in predictable situations in which the opponent's defense could tee off on him. Schaub's safety is enhanced when the staff finally stops trying to "square peg in a round hole" the strengths and opportunities of this squad with ineffective, run-heavy playcalling.

This is one of those rare groups that doesn't have to run to set up the pass. Defenses have to honor that Matt can accurately hit one of five targets regardless of the look they give him. Stop trying to run through a brick wall...there's an open door right in the middle of it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Open Letter to the Houston Texans from...Guess Who?

(No time left for you) On my way to better things

I've dedicated over 7 seasons to you, I'm done

(No time left for you) I found myself some wings

Despite the perpetually closed Reliant Roof, I'm flyin' the coop

(No time left for you) Distant roads are callin' me

Even the team on I-45 north of here looks good

No time for a summer friend

I've been burned by draft-choice potential

No time for the love you send

I'm tired of training camp promises

Seasons change and so did I

Summer's gone and so am I

You need not wonder why

Do you even need to ask why?

You need not wonder why

Seriously, you wonder why?

There's no time left for you

It's over

No time left for you

It's really over...

Unless you return home from Cincinnati victorious. In which case, I'll be sending you a Whole Lotta Love...Whole Lotta Love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Bad News Bears Good News

First, the bad news:

400 yards passing, 3 TDs/0 INTs, a QB rating north of 110, and a comeback road victory to define himself and his team as he staked a claim to the path leading to an AFC Wild Card berth. That's what Matt Schaub forsaked with a Pick-6 to instead go down 28 - 21 while driving to go up 28 - 21, and an uncharacteristicly technique-deficient pass to a WIDE-open Joel Dreessen in the back of the endzone. It would have tied the game with time winding down in regulation to force overtime against an opponent whose offense had all but collapsed.

After an exciting Andre Davis kick-off return for 62 yards following Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's interception return for a touchdown, Schaub drove his team down to the 6-yard line. With under a minute to go, a nifty delayed flick of a shuttle pass to Steve Slaton advanced them to the 1-yard line and the Texans were in business. 3 chances at 3 feet!

2nd Down: Chris Brown straight up the gut behind the battering ram that is Vonta Leach for no gain. Two more times, right? Spread the field...make them respect the receivers and Schaub's accuracy, create some gaps and give our burgeoning backfield 2 more shots at the opportunity, right? 3rd down: Instead, a sophisticated play-action playcall left a safe and space-protected Matt Schaub, with eyes no doubt as big as the heartbreak of this loss, free to deliver an easy toss-and-catch to Dreessen waiting patiently and all alone. He hurried the throw without setting his feet, and a valiant effort to bring down the sailing ball in bounds failed. 4th Down: Chris Brown straight up the middle for a last, desperate attempt. Stoned.

Now the good news:

Playing in front of a hostile crowd and initially succumbing to the high-powered weaponry of Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin, the Texans dug themselves from a 21 - 0 hole with successful defensive adjustments, inspired special teams play and sporadically effective quarterbacking, even if ultimately tragic.

People will second guess playcalling, I call attention to poor execution. Kevin Walters should not have been thrown to so late in his pattern allowing the interception for a score, and Joel Dreessen was open to tie the game. The loss came down to one person. He knows who he is, the team knows who he is, and the city knows who he is. Matt will overcome and learn from the harsh lessons of this tough defeat, and deliver like the pro he can be next Sunday in Cincinnati.

That's good news, because he's got a heck of a team waiting for him.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is a Win in the Cards?

For the duel in the desert this weekend, a Houston Texans win comes down to how they play their cards.

The odds are stacked in the Texans favor when you consider that the Arizona Cardinals are the worst rushing team team in the NFL. It's no bluff that the Houston Texans have figured out how to effectively defend against the run. Winning on the road this Sunday in Phoenix will to some degree come down to whether or not Kurt Warner is flushed by the defensive line while his receivers are checked by a resurgent secondary. Admittedly, there's not a taller order at a free all-you-can-eat pancake promotion at IHOP!

There's no denying Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are two of a kind. They comprise the most impressive receiving corp in the NFL for people not familiar with Houston's Four Aces: Johnson, Walters, Anderson, and Daniels. But as an opponent, what their defense yields and its offense takes, the Cardinals are statistically exactly what has put the Texans in a position to have the best starting record in franchise history, save a goalline fumble by Chris Brown in the final moments of a heartbreaking home loss against a desperate Jacksonville. I know, I know... "ifs and buts, candy and nuts".

The NFL has only 4 teams more anemic on offense than Arizona. They can't run the ball, and the yardage totals through the air are down for Warner. Houston can run the ball, and 300+ yard games for Schaub are a constant threat against teams he faces.

Here's the river card for victory on Sunday: Turnovers. Straight up, the Houston Texans improve to 3-2 if the hand they play starts and ends with their own hands ensuring ball security.

And from the reports of lagging ticket sales in Tempe, it appears they won't face a Full House.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Day of Firsts

Lit was the short fuse of a beleaguered Houston Texans Defense maligned for its soft point of attack and undisciplined play. They were eager to prove themselves capable of contributing to victory versus the visiting Oakland Raiders. Their play sparked an intensity that transcended the entire roster, leading to a 29 - 6 victory that kept their opponent out of the endzone and a day of firsts for the 2009 season.

First, the obvious: A Home Win! But there was also Amobi Okoye's First Sack, Reliant's first home-team sack, Mario Williams' First Forced Fumble, Connor Barwin's First Fumble Recovery, First Safety courtesy of Brian Cushing, First Return for a T.D. via Jacoby Jones' 95-yard thriller off the ensuing free-kick, Steve Slaton's First Rushing Touchdown, his First Receiving T.D., and his first dual-threat pay-dirt delivery in the same game.

It started with the defense. Coinciding with the new arrival this week of Bernard Pollard's play and attitude, a veteran-led effort showcased run-defense that was as stingy as its pass rush was relentless. Open-field tackling was as technically sound as it was hard-hitting. The inspired Glover Quinn and Brice McCain frolicked: With reckless abandon they flew to the ball...piercing the protection of blockers to deliver drive-ending tackles for losses and teaming up for punishing blows to receivers who dared tread their secondary. Within the huddle the defense insatiably fed off an intensity and confidence Brian Cushing told me was a big part of the squad's success.

The successful rushing tandem of the complementary styles of Moats and Slaton resulted in the opportunity for a balanced Texans attack. Schaub was given the time needed to let his receivers get open, enlisting even Slaton in the aerial assault when he struck for 18 yards off a catch from the left slot for his second touchdown of the game.

There were a multitude of offensive gems evenly spread to the receiving corp's Johnson, Walters, Anderson, and Daniels. After burning Oakland on a textbook-perfect "double move" Post Corner for 62 yards in the First Quarter, Andre admitted in private he caught himself laughing out loud as he later ran a route that left Daniels wide open for his career-long catch of 43 yards. That play was made possible by Slaton, the lone back who beautifully executed his protection assignment against the would-be opportunistic Raider defender who had snuck to the line of scrimmage just prior to the snap of the ball. "I was inspired by our defense. I did what had to be done" he said.

It bears repeating: It started with the inspired play of the Defense. Dunta Robinson explained, "It came down to holding each other responsible and accountable, as both individual players and as a team." While open to the idea that the Defense may have won back some fans, Dunta reminded me, "It's a work in progress...", that challenges remain. Indeed. Next week they face on the road a Kurt Warner-led offense at The Toaster in Tempe.

Speaking of "firsts", a road victory following a home win would be a first for the Houston Texans this young season.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Winning Back Fans Rests with The Defense

Defense wins Championships. There, I said it. Happy?

As someone who still wears a necklace with #80 around his neck based on my affection for flashy offense, I have long fought and refused the notion that anything other than well executed offensive strategies, schemes, and plays was responsible for Division victories, playoff seeding, and post-season success.

It was, I steadfastly held, inventive offenses, sexy sets, imaginative play calling, and athleticism that yielded first downs, sustained drives, big plays, and amazing scores. But I now stand before you a convert. Allow me to introduce to you the newest member of the combined congregation of The Disciples of Run Defense, The Temple of Pass Rush, The Church of Cornerbacks, The Benevolent Order of Nickelbacks, Safety Synagogue, The Divine Diocese of Da' Blitz, and Our Lady of Disguised Coverage.

The Offense is staying healthy and productive, appearing to be on track after stumbling out of the gate in the season opener. But without field position management and a majority of time of possession---both inarguably resulting more directly from defense than any other facet of the game---the efforts of our multiple Pro Bowl-talented players on the offensive side of the ball will be for naught, regardless of how many fun and exciting scores to which they treat us.

Our Defense takes to the field this Sunday in an attempt to prevent for the first time this season an opponent scoring at will. They gave up 31 points each of the last two games, and in a loss to a rookie quarterback in the season opener they yielded 24 points.The 1-2 Houston Texans host the 1-2 Oakland Raiders who average just half that with 12 points a contest. But when the 32nd best defense takes on the 31st best offense, you throw out the records, right? I can just see the marquee at Kirby and 610: Defensively Deficient vs. Offensively Challenged...Something's gotta give! Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

"As long as there are tests, there will always be prayer in school," states a semi-sarcastic argument in favor of allowing religion in public education. I pray our defense rises to the challenge of the test it will face this Sunday.

Let us bow our heads...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Fumbles

With apologies to Charles Dickens, it was the best of games, it was the worst of games.

Battle Red Day saw the 1-1 Houston Texans hosting the still-winless Jacksonville Jaguars. This formiddable Jack Del Rio-coached AFC-South Division rival featured a suddenly competent, productive, and confident David Garrard, an always dangerous Maurice Jones-Drew, and a veteran playmaker Terry Holt-led receiving corp that included big-play capability from Marcedes Lewis and Mike Sims-Walker. They lacked, however, the knowledge of how appropriate was a scarlet-sourced sensation of intimidation from our under-achieving home team ready to be taken seriously, even if it meant dressing like so many bottles of ketchup.

Their ignorance was their bliss as they outplayed, outcoached, and outlasted the Texans. Progressive and imaginative playcalling flawlessly executed by the Jaguars led to a deluge of defensive deficiencies displayed in blown assignments and half-hearted tackles. Stop me if you've heard this before. Mike Bell, err...I mean Adrian Peterson, err...I mean Chris Johnson, err...I mean Jones-Drew (you'll have to excuse me---all their big run plays for more than half a football field untouched up the middle and busted outside for a score looked the same) told me the "chess match" in which they prevailed was one of adjustments. When Houston snuck its safetys forward, their secondary was burned by surgically precise spirals thrown to perfectly ran routes. When Houston stayed back to help prevent aerial assault, they were run against putting up slightly less resistance than room temperature butter to a hot knife.

But it was an entertaining game. Long sustained drives, impressive yardage totals for rushing and passing, and limited field goals / multiple touchdowns by both clubs. And with the 31-24 leading Jaguars threatening to ice the game with yet another successful drive late in the final period, it happened...The Fumble! This was the Best of Games!

Texans take over at midfield with 4:30 remaining in the game, impressively mixing screens, down-field passes, and determined rushes to within the Jaguar 5 yard line. Two plays after a penalty negated a game-tying touchdown pass to Kevin Walters with under 2:00 minutes to play, Houston went to the run, designating Chris Brown as the would-be hero. But instead, as he crossed the goal line in an attempt to knot the score surrounded by a sea of desperate, turbulent humanity, it happened...The Other Fumble! This was the Worst of Games!

Texans,1-2, winless at home, hosting their next game versus the Oakland Raiders the first weekend the month of Halloween.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nietzsche vs. Einstein

"Out of chaos comes order" even otherwise Nietzsche-ignorant Blazing Saddles fans can tell you, as well as what the person perpetrating philosophical prowess can do. On the other hand, Einstein says it is insane to continue doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

So, which is it? After the continued chaos, do we hope for some degree of order after the defensive debacle against the Jets and Titans allowing a total of 55 points in their young 1-1 season. "Fat, Drunk, and Stupid is no way to go through life, son", Dean Wormer warned. But neither is being torched for an average 240 yards passing and 215 yards rushing. With the 32nd best defense in the NFL (how's that for a "velvet covered" sledge hammer?), the onus is on the Texans Defense to find a way to win with its offense scoring a touchdown per quarter.

Coach Kubiak had either look to the heavens for divine inspiration for another motivating pre-game speech, or hire me. Because if he doesn't have this team ready to win at home against a winless division rival, it is we the fans who are insane for thinking that we can expect a result different from an, at best, 8-8 record at the end of the season.

Say it with me in your best Jim Mora: "Playoffs...Playoffs, are you kidding me? Playoffs?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Titanic Turnaround

A city disgusted by unfulfilled promise... A team disheartened by undeveloped potential... A conference division happy to have back for another season what appeared to be a team resigned to its perennial cellar dweller status...

And long-time division nemesis, The "Once Oilers", fresh off of a close but no cigar defeat to the Steelers, convinced that after just one week in the NFL's 2009 schedule the dark headlines and glum reports of the demise of the Houston Texans must be accurate, fell for it.


Did you really think you had an answer for a 357 yard, 4-0 TD/Int. QB who spread the wealth to his AllPro Receiver Andre Johnson with 149 yards on 10 catches with 2 TDs, and the balance split between Owen Daniels and Jacoby "is he finally going to prove he belongs on this stage?" Jones.

The heart to come back on the road from an early 21-7 deficit, the grit to not give the lead right back, and the unmitigated audacity to as much snatch victory as deal defeat without the least bit impunity. That's football, that's Texas Football, and that's what the league, this city, and the rest of the AFC should expect from the Texans in 2009.

Houston rolls out the red carpet for 0-2 Jacksonville next weekend, followed by the currently 1-1 Radiers who as hosts last year prevented Houston's securing of its first winning season. Finishing the First Quarter of the Season 3-1 despite the way it started might just be a sign that indeed this is a team of character.

Maybe not with a talented secondary or defensive line, maybe not with a great running game, but an organization nonetheless bent on proving that a city disgusted by unfulfilled promise...A team disheartened by undeveloped potential...and a conference division happy to have back for another season what appeared to be a team resigned to its perennial cellar dweller status... in for a treat in 2009.

Cue another week's worth of unhappy sportsfans' comments, columnist’s dismay, and a community one move away from disowning the franchise. It seems to motivate these guys!When the chips are down, fellas, please, Remember the Titans!

Friday, September 11, 2009

NFL Threatens Blackouts...We need Whiteout!

An NFL city whose franchise fails to sell out its games will have its fans suffer not having the game broadcast on local TV: Blackout!

It is time the Houston Texans spill Whiteout all over the game plan for the season they told us we could expect, because the current blueprint is obviously inadequate. A Rookie Quarterback with the confidence to win, a legend-delivered pep talk, a running back with the desire to run AND hold on to the football and a "get after it" denfense whose mindset transcended the entire Jets roster were the ingredients for the most disappointing Houston Texans season opener, at home no less, in some time.

Jets had 5 times the rushing that finished at 190 yards, 150% more passing, they doubled up the Texans on first downs (evenly spread across rushing and passing), a conversion ratio success that surpassed that of the missionaries visiting the new world with twice the efficiency on 3rd down, and going 2 for 2 on 4th down vs. an 0-1 uninspired half-hearted attempt by the Texans that elicited well deserved boos and jeering from the home crowd.

Even a Busing-created turnover with an interception was put on the ground, luckily scooped up by Barber and ran in for a touchdown that put the Texans on the board for a 24-7 Texans loss that saw their highpowered, talented offense shut out!

Joe Namath told me, "Well, it started with the tone set by our defense" and the protection Mark got from the O-line, and then him just relaxing, playing with poise, and executing. Other than Mark Sanchez's one mistake of an interception, from which he bounced back nicely, he played an outstanding game.

The Texans D-line was manhandled and the secondary was outrun, outsmarted, and outhearted. Their offensive line was ignored, their running backs abused, and their Quarterback as flustered as he was irrelevant.

Hey, Office Depot...We need some Whiteout!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Texans' Offseason a Labor of Love?

Labor Day, the holiday where we celebrate those who toil. I have, since the Houston Texans' schedule was released last Spring, wanted to move the day of national observance from yesterday to one week later: Monday, September 14th.

That would be the day following the commencement of the Texans' 2009 Quest for Credibility, their combined and collective campaign to finish a season with a record that reflected winning more than losing for the first time in their existence. This Sunday at High Noon the Houston Texans host Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets to determine who will start the season 1-0 vs. 0-1. Reliant Stadium has treated well Rookie Franchise Quarterbacks and their professional unveling. Can you say, "19-10?"

The Jets come to town with the idea that playoffs are imminent, and post-season success is achievable. The Texans host their opponent with their fans' worrying the Texans Defense will suffer an opening run-play off-tackle that may go for 75 yards and 6 points.

A Quarterback who can stay healthy if he plays wisely has a talented receiver corp and a capable backfield. Coach Joe has a dangerous quick-strike special teams squad, and Coach Bush has a defense led by an inspired DeMeco Ryans to be joined by a cornerback with the heart of a lion and the decision making of a chess champion in Dunta Robinson.

Here's hoping Monday, September 14th is the day we can celebrate the labor of The Houston Texans this past offseason. Afterall, the thrilling experience of victory in competition is necessarily preceded by the genuine satisfaction that comes from having prepared for it. Let's hope we see that it was a labor of love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Youth and Desperation No Match for Old Age and Athleticism

Well, for starters, Wow!

A Houston Texans defensive team had been told that no starting job was secure, no roster spot safe. That the reckless abandon with which a unit should play had squarely shifted to reckless desperation.

A Vikings kick-off return to their own 25...and with that the defense took to the field on Monday Night Football for the first series of the game against both a quarterback legend and arguably the game's most dangerous, quick-hit running back. They had much to prove when it came to their need to step up their defensive intensity, unity, and understanding of and commitment to the assignments of their defensive schemes.

Well, for starters, Wow!

Adrian Peterson, off tackle, untouched into the secondary, bounced it outside to the right sideline. 8 seconds and 75 yards later he had put up 6 points, sucked the air out of Reliant Stadium, demolished the fans' expectation that their team had had enough ridicule after last week's rushing defense debacle against the Saints, and set the tone for an evening that had you hoping for at least a competitive effort at some point by the Texans that would be reflected in a respectable score if not a bona fide contest.

Well, for starters, Wow!

Other than DeMeco Ryans' inspired defensive play that included 12 tackles and a sack, the Vikings offensive penalties were pretty much their own defense as 3rd and 8s were converted with the same ease as 3rd and 2s, with conversion success in excess of 50% before their starting QB was taken out to enjoy the rest of the evening from the sideline.

From the podium during the post-game press conference, Brett Favre was asked "What have you learned, if anything, about yourself with this organization and your new teammates, that even as an 18 year veteran of the league, you didn't know a week and a half ago?"

"That I can still play."

With the complement of an ever-threatening running attack, #4 delivered completions from naked bootlegs off of play-action fakes in his own endzone while chased by top draft pick defensive lineman, 72% passing efficiency on 13 of 18 attempts, a TD Pass, and half a 300 yard game in just two quarters of play...all with the continued toughness and durability that included withstanding a couple of sacks, and getting a flag thrown for throwing a crack-back block when he found himself out in front of a run. You know, just playing football!

The evening was supposed to be about the Houston Texans making a statement: keep their QB healthy...hurt ankle, minimize turnovers...2 interceptions, and a defense stepping up to prove to themselves and us that they belonged on the field. Instead, it was #4 making sure there was no mistake about where he should be...

Well, for starters, Wow!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Houston Texans' Line in the Sand

Not since the line drawn in the sand at the Alamo has the commitment required of those present been more clear.

Send a message to Jared Allen and the rest of the NFL that the Houston Texans QB is not their red-headed step-child to be abused at will. With Monday arrives Monday Night Football, Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sage Rosenfels, and the national spotlight to see if, among other things, the Texans are ready to step up to the challenge of deserving recognition as a team on the verge of doing great things.

Just as Burt Reynolds' Paul "Wrecking" Crew saw the value of delivering a message from Mean Machine to The Guards in the form of drilling a D-Lineman with a powerful spiral to the "equipment locker", so to speak, the O-Line should do whatever it takes to play as mean as necessary to protect Matt Schaub. Holding, Personal Fouls, Offsides...I don't care. Tee off on #69 (Dude, you're not on a beer-league softball team!) and send a message to the rest of the league that our QB is as valuable and important to us as the other protected personnel throughout the league.

The biggest challenge to success for the Texans during their entire tenure in the league has been their lack of confidence, as a team, that they deserved to be truly competing. They would graciously accept from opponents their last minute snatches of defeat from the jaws of victory, but never really consistently laid the wood with the attitude that there's a new sherriff in town...and his name is Reggie Hammond. Ya'll be cool...right on!