Almost a full day later, it still hurts. If you're a believer in moral victories, yesterday's loss in Indianapolis probably counts as a moral victory. If you're like me, moral victories do very little for you eight (8) years in. Still, there's a lot to like from what we saw yesterday against the Colts, and your Houston Texans nearly beat an undefeated team (perhaps the best team in the NFL right now) at their house. Unfortunately, they don't keep track of "near-wins," and we have two full weeks to digest what we saw before the Texans get a chance to take the field again. Let's get to the specifics from the fourth loss of the season:
1. Kris Brown--you are forgiven. He has hit far too many big kicks in his career as a Texan, including but not limited to that monstrous 56-yarder he put through the uprights immediately before the half to seize momentum from the Colts (although it must be noted that said boot was the fortuitious consequence of the Colts calling timeout and erasing his first try), not to receive the benefit of the doubt. It is fair, however, to note that Brown has missed the same number of FGs thus far in 2009 that he missed in all of 2008, in 19 fewer attempts. Worth keeping an eye on.
2. How is it that seemingly every Texans fan, going into the game, knew it was folly to try to cover Dallas Clark with a linebacker, yet Frank Bush assigned Brian Cushing to the task virtually the entire game? Linebackers simply cannot cover Clark, just like linebackers could not cover Owen Daniels. By putting Cushing on Clark, the Texans were essentially conceding the matchup, and Peyton Manning blistered 'em all day. Why not put a DB on Clark?
3. The Texans cannot play zone. It's the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. Please, please, please do not subject us to any more zone looks, Mr. Bush. It's horrific to watch and astoundingly ineffective.
4. I do not come only to bury Frank Bush, friends. The horrors of the first half (first quarter in particular, when Peyton threw 25 (!) times for about 180 yards) were profound, yes, but Bush showed once again that he can make adjustments at halftime. Say what you will about the Houston offense controlling the ball in the second half, but that was a different Texans defense we saw after the intermission. The offense kept the defense fresh and off the field with sustained drives, but the defense was darn good in the second half.
5. In years past, your Houston Texans would have trailed the Colts 21-0 at halftime. This time, it was 13-3, because the defense bowed up and held the Colts to field goals. That is tangible and anecdotal progress.
6. Total Rushing Yards for Indianapolis: 72. Granted, they only ran it 18 times, primarily because they had so much success through the air. Still...72 yards is 72 yards.
7. I think Kerns e-mailed a copy of his Friday post to Bernard Pollard, because Pollard looked like a man angling for a new deal yesterday. Two interceptions from a SS who's not really the ballhawking type. Yes, one of them was on an awful throw from Reggie Wayne, and the other may well have been the result of a Colt running the wrong route. Regardless, both were HUGE plays and occurred on Houston's side of the field. Qualify them however you like, as long as you throw "HUGE" in there as well.
8. Glover Quin played exceptionally well. I've been one of those fans scratching my head over his elevation to the starting lineup over Jacques Reeves. No more. He's legit.
As legit as Fred Bennett was his rookie year!. Sorry about that.
9. Chicken/Egg here...although Reggie Wayne had 8 catches, he wasn't much of a factor. Was that relative ineffectiveness due to the Dallas Clark-Brian Cushing mismatch, or did Dunta Robinson have more to do with it than we'd like to admit? Personally, I'm of the mind that it's more the former, but Dunta can't win at this point. If Wayne would've had a big game, we'd all be ripping D-Rob for that.
11. I waited until the bye week was upon us to do this. I can't wait any longer. Here goes: Jacoby Jones is having a tremendous season. He's been an asset on special teams, in the passing game, and occasionally, in the running game. For someone I thought was sure to be cut in September, I might have been more wrong about him than I was about Cushing.
12. The preceding paragraph has guaranteed that Jacoby will fumble twice on Monday Night Football for all the world to see. My apologies--I simply couldn't continue not praising the guy for having a fine season.
13. While Joel Dreessen didn't put up Owen Daniels numbers, he did have a big third down catch. He's not OD. He doesn't have to be in an offense that features Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter starting at WR. That said, we saw how much Schaub misses OD yesterday. Peyton has Dallas Clark; Schaub had OD. Without OD, Schaub is more prone than ever to lock in on 'Dre and force passes his way (e.g., the pick into triple coverage). I hope that Schaub uses the bye week to reestablish the rapport he had last season with K-Dub. As amazing as 'Dre is, he cannot be expected to wrestle the football away from three defenders every game.
14. K-Dub's catch inside the IND 5 was one of the best I've seen this season. Nice to see him become a significant part of the offense again. I repeat: We're gonna need it more than ever with OD gone.
15. When Dwight Freeney beat Duane Brown yesterday, it looked really, really bad. What we don't see in nearly as dramatic fashion, however, is the multiple times Brown kept Freeney in check. Freeney's one of the best ends in the league, so Brown's going to get beat a time or three. Yet Schaub was clean most of the day, and that's a testament to the entire OL.
16. Schaub's second INT, though? All Chris Myers.
17. Matt Schaub finished with two (2) less completions and seven (7) less attempts than Peyton Manning en route to another 300+ yard passing day. Most importantly, he operated a two-minute offense, starting from his own 15 yard line, with no timeouts, and got the Texans into field goal range. That's about as good as it gets.
18. I hope Ryan Moats enjoyed that starting gig, because I don't think it's going to be his when the Titans visit on November 23rd. That's not to say he played poorly; he didn't. But when a guy gets the gig on the strength of not fumbling the football, then proceeds to fumble the football, all while the deposed starter does not fumble the football, I'm guessing Steve Slaton goes back to the first string.
19. Much was made in the Comments during and after the game about the Texans failing to snap the ball from the IND 1 after Moats appeared to fumble; as you'll recall, Houston let the clock run to the two-minute warning, which gave the Colts extra time to consider challenging the play. Which they did, successfully.
I don't blame Schaub for failing to snap the ball. I blame Kubes. More to the point, I blame whoever he's got in the booth. Kubes may not have been able to see it from the opposite sideline, but there's no excuse for his staff in the booth not to see what was going on. In the past, we've all given Kubes a lot of flack for his horrific and ill-timed challenges. Inevitably, this has led us to question exactly who he has watching over this stuff in the booth. I still don't know who it is. All I know is that the person or persons seem to be doing a very poor job. Even worse, Kubes doesn't seem to think it's a problem worth addressing.
20. Fake Game Balls: Offense--Matt Schaub (chiefly because of that final drive; Andre Johnson deserves it too); Defense--Bernard Pollard; Special Teams--Matt Turk (Jacoby actually did very little on punt returns, and I can't give it to the dude who missed the game-winner).
Now we get to work ourselves into a frenzy for two weeks until Bud Adams' Army of Darkness and Monday Night Football return to Reliant Stadium. It's gonna be a looooooooooong fortnight.