Post-Game Breakdown: Cardinals Hold When It Counts

I thought letting an extra day pass would make Sunday's loss a bit easier to digest. It hasn't.

What we witnessed on Sunday was a microcosm of the alternately thrilling and nauseating roller coaster that has been your 2009 Houston Texans. The first half featured a defense that couldn't stop anyone (if not for Eugene Wilson's hit and DeMeco Ryans' recovery on the goal line, the score would've been 28-0 at half) and an offense that couldn't move the ball against anyone. The second half featured a stifling defense and an offense that was as nasty as any team's in the league (excepting Schaub's INT, which was pretty bad, and the infamous goal line stand by the Cardinals). Watching this team is like furiously pounding beers in between hits of meth--highs and lows, crushing agony and glorious ecstasy. Part of me would actually prefer getting blown out to experiencing the emotional floor going out from underneath me at various points each Sunday. At least then I wouldn't be the completely manic lunatic that is increasingly leaning toward watching all Texans games by himself to avoid subjecting others to his wild mood swings. If this keeps up, I'm checking myself into a sanitarium.

Thoughts from the game:

1. In looking at the offense thus far this season, we've got (1) a poor two halves against the Jets; (2) two pretty strong halves against the Titans; (3) two salty halves against the Jaguars; (4) a somewhat strong first half, followed by a just-protect-the-lead second half against the Raiders; and (5) a horrific first half, followed by a furious-why-can't-they-do-this-every-week half against the Cardinals. In other words, the offense has played about 1.5 games of below-average football through five games. With a defense that could be labeled as "reprehensible" for every bit of three full games (entire Jets game, half of the Titans game, entire Jaguars game, and half of the Cardinals game) thus far, the offense doesn't have the luxury of misfiring for an entire half.

2. What I've really seen is that the offense goes completely as Matt Schaub goes. This might seem somewhat obvious, what with him being the QB and all, but I think it bears noting because...

3. The running game is almost completely useless. Steve Slaton has shown a few brief flashes of what he was last year. That's it. And the offensive line...well, they've been close to exceptional in the passing game. The running game? I honestly don't know if Slaton is the problem, or if it's more a function of his line. What I do know is that the OL seems to get thrown backward far more often than I remember last year. I don't see it getting any better, either. Early returns indicate that the drop off from Chester Pitts to Kasey Studdard is substantial, and there's no reason to feel good about a switch from Mike Brisiel to Chris White or Antoine Caldwell. Now you've got Chris Myers flanked by Studdard and White or Caldwell. Running between the tackles could prove to be totally futile, and as neat as it's been to see some success running wide, it's extraordinarily rare for a running attack to succeed in the NFL with its running backs trying to make a living by running for the sideline. The defenses are simply too fast.

4. All of this is to say, I guess, that Kubes' attempts to force a running game are going to get even more frustrating. What we've seen so far isn't working, but we haven't seen any inclination that there'll be any changes.

5. We can complain about Chris Brown not being a goal line back all we want, but I don't know who could have broken the plane with the way the middle of the offensive line got lit up on that last series. It was doomed from the start, which is why...

6. I don't understand for the life of me why Kubes or Kyle Shanahan would try to run the ball, straight up the gut, on fourth down, with the game on the line. They should know their offensive line can't get a push, and they should know that trying to run the ball up the middle won't work. It hasn't worked all year. Ideally, your offensive line and running back should be able to pick up half of a yard. Unfortunately, this is reality, and we have not seen any evidence that the interior of the Houston OL and/or Chris Brown can consistently pick up half a yard. You know that. I know that. How can the coaching staff not know that? The Texans' greatest asset is their receiving corps. Why not spread the field out to make the defense account for those weapons? More importantly...

7. WHY IS THE BEST WIDE RECEIVER ON THE PLANET STANDING ON THE SIDELINES DURING THE BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME? HE'S ANDRE FREAKING JOHNSON! HE'S ALREADY NOTCHED TWO TOUCHDOWNS, ONE OF WHICH FEATURED HIM HANDLING CONTACT BETTER THAN ANY RUNNING BACK ON THE ROSTER! LOUD NOISES!

8. One more note about Schaub...we need to accept that he's good for at least one turnover a game. Yes, this hurts. The good news is that Schaub seems to be good for 2-3 TDs a game. Give me that TD/TO ratio any day of the week.

9. Soooooo...how 'bout that Houston defense? For the record, I disagree with BFD about whether the defense looked better in the second half, versus the notion that we simply benefited from Arizona playing not to lose when they had the ball. While there's little doubt Arizona got conservative, they did try to open it back up as the half progressed and the Texans cut into the lead. And instead of reverting to first-half form, the Texans' defense responded and held the line. Jacques Reeves was a clear upgrade in the secondary, and I remain encouraged by what Bernard Pollard and Glover Quin bring to the table (that is, they actually tackle). If Frank Bush learns nothing else from the game, I hope that it's the idea that he can and should get creative with bringing pressure from the linebackers. Bush has increasingly turned Cushing loose after the QB, but Sunday was the first time I remember seeing Captain 'Meco hounding the QB more than once or twice. It was a welcome sign.

10. I'd write something positive about the return game here, but I don't want to jinx it.

11. Bottom line is that the Texans once again failed to show up when the game started. They were a different team after halftime, and that does speak to the fact that they responded to adversity. The issue is, of course, that they had a huge handle in creating that adversity with the way they played in the first half. No matter how big of a Kubes fan you are, you have to admit that it does not bode well that he and/or his staff have failed to have the Texans ready to play at the start of 40% of their games this young season.

On to Cincinnati to play a suprising Bengals squad, albeit one that could well be primed for a letdown after all the tight division wins they've pulled out. If the Texans are truly going to break the mold of inconsistency and mediocrity, they must win on Sunday. First step toward achieving that goal is actually showing up ready to play.

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