The second half of this game, one filled with equal parts anxiety, sadness, befuddlement, and overarching joy, proved two things to the football world.
One of those things is that yes, in the absence of good strategical coaching, good playcalling, and tactical advantages, the Houston Texans offense has enough star power to win a ball game on it's own merits. Despite going into comeback mode, passing way too often, and with Schaub taking lumps play after play, the Texans came back and won the game.
The other of these is that in the absence of defensive talent, luck helps. Forced into zones after Kareem Jackson was again targeted mercilessly, the Texans allowed three long drives that ended in a touchdown, a blocked field goal, and a missed field goal, along the way narrowly avoiding two game-ending deep balls on their secondary thanks to slight overthrows from Donovan McNabb. At this point, the entire pass defense hedges on whether Mario Williams and Antonio Smith can get pass pressure.
Behind the jump, along with a 56K Warning, I want to look at one particular defensive series, pile praise on Matt Schaub, lament Eugene Wilson's existence, and take a look at the individual stats that I've compiled through two weeks.
Eugene Wilson makes me sad.
Look at this ball.
This is a perfect blitz call by Frank Bush, and DeMeco Ryans comes untouched. McNabb, for once, has no chance to do anything but hurl the ball up and pray. An interception turns the tide of the game (this is before the field goal is blocked, something which 99% of the time does not happen) back to the Texans.
Wilson doesn't have many skills. He leads the Texans in missed tackles despite seemingly always being away from where the ball is thrown. He was covering deep on the second Joey Galloway deep ball, which was inches away from ending the game, and Galloway had him beat by a good four yards. If your only marketable skill is that well, hey, you have made some interceptions in the past, then this is a ball that you absolutely have to catch to prove you should be on the field.
I don't suspect there are many ways that the Texans can upgrade their secondary at this point. Rick Smith has yet to make an in-season trade, they have too much invested in Kareem Jackson to not let him take his lumps, Bernard Pollard is what he is, and Glover Quin hasn't played well but also isn't a big problem. I know a lot of people have mentioned this in passing, so it's not exactly an original idea, but how many more awful games of Wilson will we have to endure before the coaching staff makes the only move they can make that has a chance at improving the secondary and gives Troy Nolan or Dominique Barber a shot? If he doesn't make some sort of play against Dallas this week, he shouldn't be in the starting lineup in Week Four.
Hasletting The Schaub Doesn't Work.
Here is a breakdown of the Redskins' rush patterns on passing plays:
Rush 3: 3 times
Rush 4: 21 times
Rush 5: 33 times
Rush 6: 2 times
I really wish that was the Texans' pattern. At this point, I'm not even sure it would be more effective. It would just be something new and different. Anyway, off the tangent and back to the main point: The Redskins sent five or more at Schaub on nearly 60% of the snaps, so if it seemed like Schaub was having to deal with LaRon Landry in his face all game, that's because it's exactly what happened. We know Andre Johnson got hurt, came back into the game, and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. But how about a little more credit for Schaub surviving shots like this:
Without leaving the game at all. Of those 35 dropbacks, Schaub was sacked five times, hurried thirteen more, and watched his blockers blow eleven blocks. All he did with those 30 pass attempts? 20-30, 260 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. I know he doesn't fit the traditional mold of "beast", with the receding hairline and all, but Sunday, he was a beast.
If there's one series that perfectly embodies everything that frustrates me with this defense, it has to be Washington's first series in the second half. I want to focus on their second set of downs here. Mario Williams beats Jammal Brown outside on first down, giving the Texans a rare chance to get off the field. Second and seventeen is your down and distance, and the Texans pick the turtle shell defense:
As a general rule, I hate it when dumpoff passes go rewarded. I know seven yards isn't enough to reach the rate of it being a successful play, but that's a big chunk of yards gone with very little effort taken to stop it.
But it's okay! Third down is coming up, I'm sure we'll stop--
Needless to say, the Redskins marched right down the field on the Texans and really threatened to blow them out of the water after that. I don't MIND having a bad pass defense, per se, because I am so used to it I have no choice but to not mind it. But if you can't keep a team from getting a first down on second and seventeen, then all the run defense in the world isn't going to help you. File this as Exhibit No. 89183729201372.b of "Evidence That Our Zone Schemes Suck."
I decided it might be fun to compile some of our raw data for argument's sake. So I'll be going over the individual counting stats on every "even" week and the playcalling data on every "odd" week. As this is an even week, here are your individuals!
No meaningful conclusions should be gleaned just from these stats alone. For instance, do not assume that Glover Quin is a worse player than Kareem Jackson because he has allowed more catches. Jackson's men have more drops. Likewise, do not assume that Antonio Smith is better than Mario Williams, because sacks are not counted here and Smith has gotten more reps against weaker offensive linemen. All "targets" are based on the FO system of "if in doubt or if not in a clear zone, pick the closest available player."
Kareem Jackson: 20/9/41
Zac Diles: 19/17/54
Glover Quin: 18/13/47
DeMeco Ryans: 9/6/15
Bernard Pollard: 6/5/24
Brice McCain: 5/1/3
Eugene Wilson: 2/0/0
Earl Mitchell: 1/1/3
Shaun Cody: 1/1/5
Xavier Adibi: 1/1/8