That was, well, uh, unique. Come the offseason, what will we remember yesterday's win for? That Owen Daniels' otherworldy season was cruelly cut short? That Steve Slaton's inability to hold onto the football finally had lasting consequences? That Ryan Moats somehow laid claim to a job that none of us ever thought would be in play? Possibilities all.
Personally, I believe I'm going to remember it for a different reason. Namely, that it was the first game I can readily recall in the Gary Kubiak Era that the defense won. Yes, the offense put up 31 points, highlighted by Moats' three (3) fourth quarter TD runs. The offense also turned the ball over three (3) times in the first quarter, thanks to two (2) picks by Matt Schaub and yet another inexcusable fumble by Slaton. In years past, those three turnovers would have been fatal. Each would have likely led to points, and the snowball effect of it all would have been insurmountable. Not this time, though.
This time, the defense refused to budge. This time, the three miscues resulted in a yield of only seven, not twenty-one, points. This time, the defense picked the offense up. For a team that's generally seen the offense compensating for the defense's shortcomings, that's simply huge. 31 points scored or not, any Texans fan who watched yesterday's game knows the victory belonged to the defense. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time a Houston win was due more to defense than offense. Pittsburgh in 2002 comes to mind, and that's it.
Has the defense arrived? Depends on what your definition of "arrived" is. No one's going to confuse this Texans' D with the Steel Curtain. But has it progressed to a point where you'd deem it average, with the capability of being flat out good on some afternoons? I think so. Given how good the offense has been on balance this season, this team just might be complete enough to make some noise when it counts. We'll find out much, much more in Indianapolis on Sunday.
On to the specifics from the Bills game:
1. Condolences to Owen Daniels, who was playing like one of the, if not the, best TE in the NFL. OD may have become Schaub's favorite target, even moreso than Andre Johnson. It's impossible to quantify how big OD's absence will loom until we see how the offense evolves, but I will say this: Schaub spreads the ball around, as evidenced by the fact that ten (10!) different Texans had receptions yesterday. If there was ever a system that could withstand the loss of a star, it may be this one.
2. Joel Dreessen figures to be the new starter at TE, but James Casey was the guy catching passes once OD went down. There's little doubt that Casey can be a helluva receiver; unfortunately, that's only half the gig. It's going to be his blocking skills that limit his snaps, at least for a little while. Dreessen is the more complete option at TE for now, though I expect Casey to see more and more time as the season progresses.
3. Going to be very, very, very, VERY interesting to see how the organization proceeds with Daniels in contract talks. Everything OD has done this season up to the point of injury says he deserves big dollars. Now what? Although the situations aren't identical, they're similar enough that the way the Texans handled Dunta Robinson is probably instructive. I'd be surprised if Daniels doesn't get the franchise tag in a few months; he's going to (rightfully) want more than the Texans are likely to offer, and the Texans are going to want to see him produce on that surgically repaired knee before they commit to the kind of dollars OD wants.
4. There's been a lot of back and forth on what Kubes should do about his newfound Steve Slaton/Ryan Moats conundrum. My take is rather simple, echoes the view of several others, and pains me considerably, seeing as how Slaton is on my fantasy squad. Start Moats against the Colts. He earned it with what he did yesterday, and Slaton earned it with what he's done all season. That's not to say that Slaton should be tethered to the bench. He's the most talented RB on the roster, and he should remain a big part of the gameplan on Sunday. Until Slaton shows he can avoid putting the ball on the turf, however, he cannot be consistenly counted upon. Although the sample size is skewed, the data we have this season shows that Moats is the more surehanded option. As such, give him the start.
5. It's a fine line Kubes has to walk; he can't bury Slaton, and he has to be careful not to exacerbate what I imagine is an increasingly mental problem for Slaton. At the same time, he can't keep trotting Slaton out there as though nothing's wrong when the early returns show that Slaton's good for a fumble or two each game. Turnovers kill, and Slaton's been skirting first-degree murder charges all season.
6. One more word about Casey, before I forget. Prior to OD's injury (I think), Casey had an absolutely monstrous special teams tackle. Merits a mention.
7. As LoneSpot noted in the Comments, Super Mario managed to completely avoid mention in the box score. Odd, though I seem to recall him being directly responsible for one sack by making Ryan Fitzpatrick step up into the pocket and into someone's grasp. I plan on writing a longer post about Mario in the coming days.
8. Antonio Smith finally posted some stats yesterday. Again, I think he's been solid for most of the year; it just hasn't shown up statistically. Now it has.
9. Amobi Okoye is not a bust.
10. Is Brian Cushing already the second-best linebacker in franchise history? Depends on what you think about Jamie Sharper.
11. Bernard Pollard is too good in run support to have been on the street when the season started. Smithiak really got lucky there.
12. Terrell Owens got his first TD of the season because Dunta Robinson did not do his job. -Jay saw it immediately and pointed it out to me; I caught it on the replay. Dunta had contain and should have forced Owens inside on that TD run. Instead, Dunta gave up the sideline, and that was all she wrote.
14. Sign No. 79 This May Not Be Your Grandmother's Texans Defense: Jacques Reeves put his hands up and made a fine play in the end zone in coverage on Terrell Owens.
15. This would be where I lavished praise on Jacoby Jones if I wasn't terrified of jinxing Jacoby Jones.
16. Fake Game Balls: Offense--Ryan Moats; Defense--Brian Cushing; Special Teams--Rhymes with "Macoby Mones."
Off to Indy before the bye week. Peyton Manning & Co. may well be playing the best football in the entire league right now, and the Texans have had as many wins at the RCA Dome as Kerry Collins does this season. The Colts are prohibitive favorites, as they should be. It's going to take a near-perfect effort from the Texans to pull this one out. A month ago, that wouldn't have seemed possible. Now? Who knows?Texans vs Bills coverage
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