EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - NOVEMBER 21: Mario Williams #90 of the Houston Texans celebrates a sack against the New York Jets with teammate Antonio Smith #94 on November 21 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Texans 30-27. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
I think it's safe to say that outside of the first game of the season, this was probably the best defensive performance the Texans have had all season. 23 points surrendered, right up until Frank Bush's Battle Red Carpet Zone went to work in the last minute of the game. And part of the reason it was 23 in the first place was good field position for the Jets due to both the Arian Foster fumble and a HORRIFIC job by special teams, one that also spilled over onto the offense.
The underlying factor behind the better play? Well, part of it was personnel changes. Zac Diles had not defensed a pass all season, and although I'd have to run the numbers again to be able to say with absolute authority, little had changed from when I ran the numbers before the San Diego game and he'd allowed 92.5% of passes he was defending to be caught. Darryl Sharpton? Two pass targets, One pass defensed, zero completions. I don't want to get too excited because a lot of kids get picked apart in the film room after good starts, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we've been seeing every week.
The other reason? I'm not sure whether it was due to trailing early or not, but Frank Bush dialed up blitz after blitz against the Jets. The Texans sent four rushers on 25 pass plays, five rushers on 11 pass plays, six rushers on nine pass plays, and seven rushers on one play. That makes 45% of the time that Bush was sending the heat, a stat that was tilted under 50% solely because of the last drive. It helped that Jets guard Matt Slauson and backup tackle Wayne Hunter were so generous as far as giving up pressures as well. The coverage scheme was still broken, of course, because to actually put our corners in a position to jam instead of playing them off the line of scrimmage so the Jets could easily throw slants would be a sin against humanity in Frank's world, but at least the Texans were able to harass Mark Sanchez into some bad throws. And then some easy runs for first down and big dump-off pickups because Bush never covers anyone underneath. Okay, okay, okay, I'll keep trying to be positive here.
Behind the jump: Contemplating the offensive dichotomy, my favorite Arian Foster carry of the week, and did the Jets have a read on Brice McCain?
There are no dick jokes in dichotomy.
One of the hidden underlays in last season's Kyle Shanahan-led offense that I didn't get into a few weeks back when looking for the root of Matt Schaub's problems is that your Houston Texans actually had a much better DVOA as an offense last year when they ran plays out of the shotgun. I don't have time to put up an extensive analysis of whether that is an enormous factor for the Texans this year or not today, but I can tell you that it's very much my inkling that it makes a difference. We keep looking time and time for reasons that this offense does better when it's behind, and my guesstimation is that it could have a lot to do with how often we turn to the shotgun in those scenarios.
The Texans actually used the shotgun on 22 pass plays, to only 13 passes without. Of course, that too could owe something to how early they got behind in this game. As long as the Texans play-action game continues to struggle (just one 30+ yard gain yesterday, and that was on a play where Darrelle Revis broke coverage because he thought Schaub was going to run) going deep, they're probably better off passing out of the shotgun.
The problem with that, of course, is that the Texans can really start telegraphing run/pass based on personnel. The way that Vonta Leach is playing this year, you don't want him sitting down on most runs. On the flip side, as much as Jacoby Jones and David Anderson have struggled this year, you really don't want the Vonta Leach swing pass to become another staple of the offense. I wonder if Rick Dennison might be better off putting together some shotgun formations with two wide, one tight end on the line, and Leach acting as an H-back a little behind the line of scrimmage to throw the scent off a bit. You'd get Schaub some more vision on his throws, the play-action wouldn't have to vanish entirely, and you'd keep your big rushing advantage.
McCain in motion: That's a paddlin'.
Now, typically I eschew showing you guys the big scoring plays. You already know that McCain didn't cover the slant in the end zone, you already know that he (like Kareem Jackson before him) will fall down, you know that Troy Nolan missed a tackle on the long slant touchdown. I don't show these things because fans usually get the most replays of them, and thus they don't need .gifs of torchings.
I want to make an exception here because I think the Jets had discovered something pretty meaningful about McCain: He can't make pre-snap adjustments to save his life. Both of the big-gainers that McCain gave up were on quick slants where he was in motion on the snap. He lost his balance on both plays, and both times, the Texans defense gave up a big gain because of it:
You can't see it quite as well on this as you could on the replay, but rest safely in knowing that McCain definitely buckles on this play. It's a simple matter of not being able to change direction quickly enough.
I'm not sure if this was a deliberate strategy that the Jets saw on tape or something that just didn't happen all that often for McCain due to how often he was anchored outside while Glover Quin manned the slot in nickel formations, but boy was he ugly on those couple of plays, and it all starts with an inability to quickly change direction.
Arian Foster's run of the week.
I have made it a point not to pick on Chris Myers much this year, and while he still isn't what you'd like to see in pass protection, he's had a pretty good year run blocking. Against the Jets, the offensive line was mostly solid. Mike DeVito made a few pretty good plays for the Jets, but other than that the Jets linemen were non-factors in stopping the run.
But I wanted to show this play because it says a lot about what kind of running back Foster is.
Look at how badly Myers is destroyed here, and how easy it would be for Foster to fold on first contact. Now look at how far he actually gets. The system back talk had been shelved for some time after questions were raised early in the season (and helped by Derrick "Glacier" Ward's running), but at this point it's really time for the offensive staff to realize that Foster is too much of a weapon to leave off the field on back-to-back plays. Or at the start of the game. For no reason.