/takes deep breath
/does shot of Bushmills
Okay...let's do this. Let's start with a quick inventory of where your Houston Texans are at the moment. You know it well; it's called .500. At this point, some might think it's probably time we stopped renting space in the Land of Mediocrity and put down some roots. Buy a house, raise a family, join the PTA, and so forth. The honest truth, however, is that the season isn't over yet. Going into Monday night's game against Bud Adams' minions, an objective analysis of the Texans' schedule showed the Texans had to win two of their next three games--Titans, Colts, at Jaguars--to stay in the playoff hunt. That would put Houston at 7-5 going into games at home against Seattle and on the road against St. Louis.
Now, in the wake of Monday night's loss? There is no margin for error. To stay in the playoff hunt, your Houston Texans have to hand the Colts (led by an angry Peyton Manning, coming off what was probably his worst game of the season in Baltimore) their first loss of the season. It's a must-win game in every tired sense of the phrase if the Texans are to remain in the wild card chase. Lose on Sunday and realistically the Texans are an also-ran. Win on Sunday and Monday night's loss becomes a bump in the road, rather than the six-foot deep pothole it is right now. Seeing as how it's only Wednesday, the loss at home to Tennessee remains a pothole until further notice. Let's take stock of the painful specifics of the loss:
1. When your play results in a FanPost that features a title suggesting you should fornicate yourself, things are bleak, Kris Brown. In the last PGB, I noted that Brown had already missed as many FGs halfway through 2009 as he did in all of 2008. Thanks to the two (2) he yakked on Monday night, the situation has progressed from troubling to critical. But cutting the guy now? I can't get behind it. Kris Brown has been one of the, if not the, most consistent player(s) on the entire roster during his tenure in Houston. I mean, there's a reason he's been with the team since its inception, and there's a reason his extension with the organization back in June was met with applause. The guy is paid to be money when it counts the most, and he's let the team down the last two weeks. My guess is that for the first time in years the Texans bring in a challenger for the kicking job in the offseason. Absent him misfiring on another kick to tie or win a game, Brown's not getting cut mid-season. He's been too good for too long, and that counts for a whole lot, even in the face of back-to-back piles of excrement.
2. Remember when you felt like any kick inside 50 yards was going to split the uprights? Now every kick, whether it's a 20 yarder or a 54 yarder, is going to be fraught with tension. Such is our existence in this frightening new era with Kris Brown as your kicker. Across the country, Pittsburgh fans nod knowingly.
3. One more kicking-related note--despite Brown yipping in Indianapolis and missing an earlier, near-identical kick on Monday night, there's no question in my mind that Kubes did the right thing going to K. Brown when he did on Monday night. The data shows that Kris Brown usually nails that kick. You have to play the odds.
4. If you want to take exception with how Kubes handled his timeouts the last two minutes of the game, you'll get no argument from me. What I fail to understand is why people are suddenly calling for Kubes' head now. This is not a new development. Gary Kubiak has always been glaringly poor at two things--challenging rulings on the field and clock management. Always. He might be slightly better at it now than he used to be, but he's still well below average. If you want Kubes canned for his fourth quarter coaching now, you should've wanted him canned for it weeks, if not years, ago. The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and Kubes (or the people he has in charge of clock management) is/are woeful at in-game adjustments and/or management late in a game. It's science.
5. Should the Texans lay an egg on Sunday, you're going to be hearing and reading a whole lot of stuff about firing Kubes. As the Texans' record has defined mediocrity the last two and a half seasons, it's a fair issue to raise. I would caution that I think jettisoning Kubes could be hugely detrimental to the passing game. Would it be worth it? I don't know, but I don't think so at this point. Ask me at the end of the season.
6. Preceding paragraph aside, if anyone can tell me why Chris Brown got more than twice as many carries as Steve Slaton and 11 more carries than Ryan Moats on Monday night, I'm all ears. The only thing I can think of is that Kubiak lost a bet. To Chris Brown himself. Because no one who had the Texans' best interests at heart would've ever suggested, even jokingly, that Chris Brown should have been the featured back. Nothing, and I truly mean NOTHING, logically explains that decision. What's more, I'm not sure I want to live in a world where Chris Brown is the Texans' primary RB. My blood will be on Kubes' hands if Chris Brown gets the majority of the carries on Sunday. Remember me fondly.
7. For all the heat Kubes and Frank Bush get on a week-to-week basis, I am stunned at how Alex Gibbs remains totally off the blame radar. The guru of offensive line coaching is presiding over a horrific rushing attack and an offensive line that cannot block for a running back to save its life. Losing Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel for the season hurts, but the absence of those two guys alone does not explain the completely anemic running game, particularly considering how potent it was last year. Teams don't even have to pretend to respect the Texans' running game. One first down running the ball on Monday night. One!
8. I'm baffled as to why the Texans' front four cannot formulate a consistent pass rush. Vince Young typically had as much time as he wanted. Yet, at various times, you see good play from each individual on the line--Super Mario, Amobi, Antonio Smith, Shaun Cody--on a given play. Why can't they put it together every snap?
9. Speaking of Vince Young...hate him all you want, but the guy did what he needed to do, especially in terms of converting third downs. I would hope that Frank Bush commits a spy to him next year.
10. The Texans did a pretty good job holding Chris Johnson in check. He needed 29 carries to accumulate 151 yards, which was more than a yard below his YPC average going into Monday night. Johnson really only had one big run, and the Texans kept him out of the end zone. Houston bottled him up well enough to win the game.
11. While the officiating on Monday night left much to be desired, it didn't cost the Texans the game. The play that infuriated me the most was at the end of the first half, when the Titans laid on top of Steve Slaton, waiting for the clock to expire. Smart play by the Titans' defenders; even though I would've liked to see a flag, I knew it wasn't coming.
12. Some free advice for Dunta Robinson: Fire your agent. Every time I watch him play, I grow even more bewildered that he purportedly turned down $23,000,000.00 in guaranteed money from the Houston Texans. Dunta might as well have had "Faggins" across the back of jersey on Monday night with the way he got targeted and abused. By a rookie wide receiver. And a QB who's not exactly trumpeted for his passing acumen. And lest we forget, said QB also made Dunta look extremely foolish on a completely whiffed tackle. At the rate he's going, Dunta Robinson is challenging Latrell Sprewell for the title of "Worst Self-Evaluation By An Athlete At Contract Time."
13. As much as I like the guy, David Anderson should not be leading this team in receptions.
14. Man, I am struggling for positives this week. But there were some:
a. Matt Schaub--despite being under pressure for much of the evening, he played extremely well. And that last drive to get the Texans into field goal range was reminiscent of what he did last year against Miami, albeit with a different result this time around. Although he did make a horrible throw or two, Schaub didn't throw any picks. How many QBs would you take over him right now? It's a very short list.
b. James Casey--showed enough on Monday night that I'm geeked to see what he does the rest of the season, especially if the Texans continue playing him as much as they did two days ago.
There. Let us never speak of this again. Colts will be here before we know it, and the Texans' playoff hopes are on life support. Time to turn the page. At least that's what my therapist tells me.