Have to admit, people...Monday Night games are rather fun. Not that I have anything more than a single game point of reference, but I had a heckuva time last night at Reliant. Tailgating was top-notch (many thanks to GlassJoe and the Bellville crew for their hospitality), and the atmosphere was as good as it's ever been at Reliant, which is to say that it was on par with last year's Thursday night game against Denver and/or the inaugural win over Dallas. I had a blast. And the football wasn't too shabby either.
Just when we think the season's become a foregone conclusion, your Houston Texans go on a two (2) game winning streak, complete with a road victory over a team that won ten (10) games in 2007 and a prime time win over a division rival that many pundits had tabbed as a Super Bowl contender in 2008. While it goes without saying that things haven't worked out for those two (2) teams as they had hoped this season, winning streaks in the NFL are a rarity and should be enjoyed accordingly.
That said, we should remain realistic. The Texans aren't going to the playoffs, which means they won't be winning the Super Bowl this year. In the final analysis, that's what matters. We should celebrate the positives along the way, and we should study why other facets aren't working. Lest there by any confusion, there are still several things that should continue to raise the collective eyebrow of the Battle Red community, even after a big-time win. Fortunately, that's what we have the PGB for. Away we go:
1. One guy that doesn't concern me in any way, shape, or form is this dude. Five (5) tackles, three (3) sacks, and a forced fumble. I'm beginning to think the Texans' lack of prime time games is chiefly due to a conspiracy by Goodell, the Free Masons, and Opus Dei centered around keeping Super Mario from breaking the single-season sack record. Gushing aside, we need to start a serious discussion about whether Mario Williams is the best DE in the league. If not him, then who? At minimum, if Super Mario isn't considered one of the best five (5) DEs in the league, I'd like to know who you'd rank higher.
2. You're not fooling me, Corpse Formerly Known As Anthony Weaver. Two (2) good games does not justify $6,206,720.00 this season.
3. Pedestrian stats aside, last night may have been as good as Amobi Okoye played all season. Not tenth-player-taken-overall-in-2007 good enough, but improvement nonetheless. I'm intrigued by Matt's suggestion of temporarily moving him to DE, though I'm considerably less bullish about Okoye's ability to stop the run at the edge.
4. Another week of Frank Okam not even suiting up. Yet Travis Johnson continues to start. What is it we're missing here? In related news, DelJuan Robinson's forced fumble makes him a more productive Texan than Travis Johnson has been or ever will be.
5. Don't look now, but DeMeco Ryans has returned to form. That's too bad for the teams left on the Texans' schedule.
6. Xavier Adibi continues to excite me. His speed and nose for the ball make him the perfect complement for DeMeco. I said it last week, and I'll say it again: The potential LB triumvirate of Diles, Ryans, and Adibi in 2009 should be a joy to watch.
7. Speaking of last week, I said this about Jacques Reeves:
8. The stats indicate that Jacques Reeves played very well yesterday. And yes, he actually did make a nice play (with his hands!) in knocking away what could have been a TD pass to Braylon Edwards. And yes, he did show some nice awareness picking off a deflected ball. And yes, he did force a fumble. If he can replicate that effort in every game for the rest of the season, I will consider backing off my assertion that he is one of the, if not the, worst CB(s) in the NFL. Not until then.
I stand by that, even in the face of recent praise of his play. His pick last night was a thing of beauty, though, and the best read I've seen him make all season.
8. I'm still amazed every time I see Dunta Robinson on the field. I'm even more amazed that he looks significantly better with each passing week.
9. Fred Bennett, however, does not look good. At all. At one point last night, he got completely turned around and managed to lose both his assignment and the ball at the sideline. What happened to him? Do opposing teams have enough tape on him now to exploit his tendencies?
10. I continue to be impressed with Nick Ferguson and Eugene Wilson, especially in run support. Both of them, especially Ferguson, sure can hit. Neither guy is a long-term solution at safety, but they've stepped in and shored up what was a complete disaster of a secondary.
11. I'm going to flesh this out in a separate post, but I'll tease it here: Should we be worried that the defense may be looking too good and thus enables Richard Smith to remain as DC in 2009?
12. Bryan Pittman is the Travis Johnson of the special teams unit. He underwhelms every week, yet manages to hold onto his job. Why? I can't imagine that finding a decent long snapper who hasn't (allegedly) run afoul of the league's substance abuse policy is that tough to do.
13. Three (3) punts by Matt Turk, all of them inside the twenty, and one of them was on the JAC 1. Nice work.
14. Kris Brown has been the most consistently excellent Texan throughout the franchise's history. Andre Johnson's been the best, but you can set your watch to Kris Brown. Which is why I do not understand Kubes' refusal to let Brown tee it up from 54 yards toward the end of the first quarter. It worked out, as Turk boxed 'em in at the JAC 1, but still...let Brown boot that and take the points.
15. That last point underscores a very distinct feeling I got from Kubes once your Houston Texans went up ten (10) points: That we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Steve Slaton rendered that feeling obsolete with his fourth quarter heroics, but the calls still struck me as too conservative.
16. That previous point begs the question as to why Kubes played it so close to the vest. The answer, I'd bet, is that he doesn't trust Sage Rosenfels. That's well and good; I can understand that. If Kubes really doesn't trust Sage, then why wasn't Matt Schaub starting?
17. The most unfortunate byproduct of Kubes/Shanahan not opening things up was that they implicitly reduced Andre Johnson's impact, which should have been much greater, especially when Rashean Mathis left the game. And that's not even playing up the fact that Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter were afterthoughts in the offensive scheme as well.
18. This is all palatable, of course, because of the singular brilliance of Steve Slaton. 182 total yards? Two (2) TDs? Are you kidding me? Now the rest of the country knows what we've known for months: Steve Slaton was the steal of the 2008 draft. If Smithiak brings in an effective short-yardage RB to shoulder some of the load next season, the running game will have been completely transformed in one year's time.
19. A big part of that transformation has been the development of the OL. They were brilliant again last night, opening up holes and not yielding a single sack. I don't know what Bob McNair is paying Alex Gibbs, but it's not enough.
20. Fake Game Balls: Offense--Steve Slaton; Defense--Mario Williams; Special Teams--Matt Turk.
21. One final point: Last night's open game threads (here and here) were the best we've ever had at BRB, both in terms of number of participants and quality of comments. Thanks to all of you; you make BRB what it is. Special thanks to HuskerDolphin and Mike Clark for being tremendously classy fans on a foreign site. Hope to see all of you back here.
Your Houston Texans have a short week before they travel to the Frozen Tundra to take on the Packers of Green Bay on Sunday. That's a tall order for any team, and it's an especially tall order for a young team that's trying to handle an unfamiliar bout with success. I don't love our chances, but we'll worry about that in another day or so. Until then, let's just savor the first Monday Night game, and the first Monday Night victory, in franchise history.