A lot of people were, shall we say, disappointed with my recap of the Texans 31-12 loss on Sunday. People said that I was looking at the game through Vandermeer-colored glasses. After all, the Texans just lost by 19. How can you say it was a good game? I'm glad you asked.
Yes, the Texans lost and yes, the Texans had some bad plays in there. Despite all that, I saw a world of awesome plays and even better, a winning game plan.
Let's look at the numbers.
The Texans' offense ran 65 plays. Even with the frantic passing attempts at the end of the game, they still came away with 57% passing/43% running. That's an incredibly balanced offensive attack. These plays were run out of 19 different formations. That means the Titans' defense saw a new look at least every 3.4 plays. It was far more often than that on most drives.
Schaub was shaky at times in the passing game, but he still put the ball where it needed to go more often than not. The "not" hurt with 3 interceptions and a few critical incompletes, but he's doing his job. With more practice, he'll do it better.
Also, there were numerous deep passes called. Kubiak had Schaub throwing to the flats, to the middle of the field, and deep down the side lines. As the game progressed, the Titans pass rush picked up in intensity. Kubiak had Schaub switch to 3 step drops as well as throw 2 great screens to slow down the pass rush.
The things that excited me most about the passing game were the play actions and bootlegs that were called. The Titans' defense was stacking 8-9 men in the box, and Kubiak started calling play actions and bootlegs against it. The Titans' defense backed up real quick. I'm excited because Kubiak made extensive use of some of his favorite tools in the passing game.
The running game itself was very even. With the exception of when it went directly behind the combination of Chris Myers and Mike Brisiel (RG) the running plays were called in every direction. I suspect that not as many running plays were called to go off right guard both because of a lack of power in that offensive line combination and as most runs off RG are straight at Albert Haynesworth.
Which brings me to a point I made in earlier posts: The Texans' offense played a very physical game. They moved all over the place in zone blocking for rushes and in pass protection. I reiterate that it was a great achievement to make Fat Albert run until he had to come off the field for a part of the game after having such a bad game against another fatty, Casey Hampton. This time Kubiak made the fat men run, and it had an effect. This will only improve with each game.
Most importantly, and I stress most importantly, Kubiak played the whole game from start to finish to win. He wasn't trying to keep it close. This game was a dog fight, and Kubiak had the Texans fighting the whole game. Rather than hope the Titans were going to slip up somewhere and have the Texans steal a win, Kubiak took it to them. He called 11 plays that were designed specifically to put the ball in the end zone. He took shots at the end zone from the 16 all the way out to the 35. They didn't pan out this game, but he took his shots. He went down in a blaze of glory. We know we have a coach who is playing to win. After years of a coach who played not to lose, I'm excited that we have a coach that knows how to win.
The scoring in this game was not as lopsided as the final score makes it appear. Examine the graph above and you'll see actual scoring on each drive, as well as the 11 attempts at the end zone. Despite all the mistakes along the way, it wasn't until midway through the 4th quarter that the game was out of reach. For the whole second half, a touchdown would have drastically changed the makeup of the game and Kubiak went for the TD over and over.
This game was a tale of 2 teams going all out. Take a look at the game book. First Downs: TEX 18 / TIT 19, 3rd Down Eff: TEX 20% / TIT 38%, Total Net Yds: TEX 317 / TIT 343, Total Off Plays: TEX 68 TIT 62, Average Gain: TEX 4.7 / TIT 5.5, Net Pass Yds: TEX 171 / TIT 189, Gross Pass Yds: TEX 188 / TIT 189. Even Net Punt Avg: TEX 38.8 / TIT 37.2.
There is only one stat that killed the Texans. Red Zone: TEX 1-6 17% / TIT 4-4 100%
That said, there are 3 things the Texans need to work on and games like this could turn into a 40+ point rout of the opponent.
Red Zone - The Texans are driving the ball down the field and not finishing. This has been a problem all along for the Texans, but now they're so close. Kubiak called 11 plays that were designed to specifiaclly put the ball in the endzone. That's a possible 77 points. Coming away with 1 TD and 12 total points says that when the Texans improve in the red zone, and when they do, they'll be hanging 30+ on opponents regularly.
Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson - Something is broken here. They are not in sync. I would make them stay after ever practice and throw every route imaginable until they are scoring TDs. Kubiak called AJ's number 12 times in the game. Of those 12 times, 5 of those plays had AJ in the endzone and he had 0 TD receptions. Of those 12 targets, he only had 2 receptions for 29 yards.
Running Game - The running game showed some life, especially with Steve Slaton going 18/116 1TD and an amazing 6.4 YPC. Yet, there were several running plays that managed to only pick up 3 or less yards. As the OL keeps working, I believe that the running game is going to be solid and churn out yards.
I'll look at the individual drives tomorrow and the defense later this week.