These are the kind of posts that I enjoy writing. A Texans win means we, the fine denizens of Battle Red Blog, get to sing the praises of Sunday heroes. On Mondays, we find those unheralded players who stepped up and contributed to a Texans win. This week, there isn't one unsung hero, but four - The Replacements (h/t liono who said it during the first quarter thread).
FS Eugene Wilson was
thankfully ruled out on Wednesday with a hamstring issue, WR Andre Johnson was inactive with a sprained ankle, TE Owen Daniels was limited all week with his own hamstring issue, LT Duane Brown was still serving his four-game suspension, and RB Arian Foster was held out of the first quarter-and-a-half due to a "coach's decision." Did any Texans fan even realize that six, when you include SLB Brian Cushing, starters weren't starting on Sunday?
A sign of a good team is that they are able to overcome adversity. On a good team, if a starter goes down, then someone is waiting to fill the void. What does it say about a team that is able to fill six voids? On Sunday, The Replacements - FS Troy Nolan, TE Joel Dreessen, OT Rashad Butler, and RB Derrick Ward - showed that the Houston Texans have great depth.
I won't dwell too much on FS Troy Nolan because he did receive a lot of praise in the post-game thread, but he did step up. With Wilson hurt, Nolan outperformed game-starter Dominique Barber and made the most of his opportunity. With his five tackles and two interceptions, Troy Nolan needs to replace Eugene Wilson permanently.
No Andre Johnson and a very limited Owen Daniels? Not a problem when your team employs Joel Dreessen. Owen's back-up led the Texans with five receptions and 73 yards. He also scored an Owen-like touchdown on a quick 11-yard stirke on 3rd down in the red zone. While Owen has looked rusty in his return from injury, Joel continues to prove that he can provide Matt Schaub with a good receiving option at tight end. As Lance Zierlein pondered after Sunday's game, Joel may be making Owen more expendable.
In his second career start, Rashad Butler had another nice game. Last week, he only allowed one (coverage) sack, and Butler improved upon that with a 0 sack-allowed performance. In fact, if I recall correctly, most of the pressure Schaub saw came from the Oakland defensive tackles, which means Butler kept his man in check all game long. Pass blocking aside, Rashad made some key second-level blocks on runs and screen passes that opened up some space for the running backs. How good was that running game? Butler and the offensive line opened holes for the running backs to gain an impressive 249 yards on 36 carries.
Who ended up with 80 of those rushing yards? Old man Derrick Ward. While many were scratching their heads and asking for Arian Foster, Derrick Ward managed 80 rushing yards, 33 on a rushing touchdown, on 12 carries. Some have expressed concern about wearing down Arian Foster early, but Ward showed he could potentially provide a breather in spots when the line is opening holes as they did on Sunday. Of all of these back-ups, Ward was the most-forgotten man after the game, but he's equally deserving of praise for helping the offense weather the Arian-less storm.
For stepping up when the team needed them most, Troy Nolan, Joel Dreessen, Rashad Butler, and Derrick Ward - The Replacements - are the unsung heroes of Week Four. Agree? Disagree? Didn't realize so many starters weren't playing? Make your voice heard in the comments.