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!