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.