The Eternal Sunshine Of Tim's Besotted Mind (Or, "The Assassination Of Optimism By The Coward MDC")

From: MDC
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 11:55 AM
To: Tim
Subject: Texans @ Titans

I know that you and I came away from the Ravens game with vastly different outlooks on the state of the Texans and where they are going from here.  Rather than have some sort of lame "Ask a BESF Fan" thread, which would undoubtedly lead to me making jokes about their hilarious reaction to a certain comment I made in 2009, an email exchange in which we discuss who we think will win Sunday's game seems like a good idea.  I'll go first; here are four reasons why the Titans will win Sunday:

1. Mario Williams.  Or, more specifically, the absence of Mario Williams, both as a pass rusher and as a run defender.  It's no secret that Matt Hasselbeck is playing well above his actual talent level right now, and a big reason why is because he's getting plenty of time to throw and not taking many hits.  Prior to their game against Pittsburgh, Hasselbeck had only been sacked 4 times in 4 games.  Yes, Pittsburgh was able to get to him 3 times, but that only proves my point: you can beat the Titans if you can force Hasselbeck to hurry and can shut down their running game.  Mario is the Texans' best player in both of those scenarios, and no combination of Brooks Reed, Bryan Braman, and Jesse Nading is going to replace that.  Speaking of Reed...

2. Brooks Reed playing run defense on the edge against Chris Johnson scares me like few things can.  I like Reed well enough as a borderline-psychotic edge rusher, but in the limited snaps I've seen so far, he looks both lost and WAY too aggressive in run defense.  As we've seen, overpursuit against Chris Johnson is a very bad thing, and I have this sneaking suspicion that we're going to get to see a ton of overpursuit Sunday.  In fact, I shouldn't even limit this point to Brooks Reed; all of the OLBs on the roster worry me when it comes to shutting down the outside runs.

3. Andre Johnson.  I'll put it this way, if Andre Johnson doesn't play Sunday, my prediction goes from "I think we will probably lose" to "we are certainly going to lose and will do so in a painful fashion."  If last week showed me anything, it is that this offense needs Dre not just as a playmaker but also for the attention that he draws from the defense, allowing other people to get open and keeping teams from stacking the box against Arian Foster.  The Titans have given up only one rushing TD this season, but have given up 9 passing TDs and appear to be beatable through the air.  Unless you're banking on Jacoby Jones suddenly putting it all together and playing every game from here on out like he played in Baltimore, the lack of Andre Johnson just seems like it will take away the Texans' ability to exploit the Titans' weaknesses and will make for a very long day for Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

4. The Titans are coming off a bye, and this game is on the road.  The Texans have won exactly 1 of their last nine road games stretching back to last year, and that was a hard-fought win against a Dolphins team that is apparently terrible.  Yes, many of those losses were very close to being wins (Q-Tip, Jets game, Tebow's winning run, etc.), but that's small comfort.

So, there you go.  Now bring your newly discovered sparkling opTIMism and convince me otherwise.

-M

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From: Tim
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 12:48 PM
To: MDC
Subject: RE: Texans @ Titans

Of course you send me this as I'm about to leave the office. Shrewd move, limiting the amount of time I have to respond to your salient points, because you know that my daily 1 p.m. trip to the liquor store can't be missed under any circumstances. You are a worthy adversary.

I plan on addressing each of your points in greater detail later this afternoon (when the whiskey has me good and philosophical), but in the meantime, I will shift the burden back to you by asking you a few questions:

1. Not to dismiss the impact of being forced to live in a Super Marioless world, but the pass rush against Joe Flacco without Mario was pretty damn strong in Baltimore, was it not? Connor Barwin seemed to step his game up, and I was impressed with Brooks Reed as well. Oh, and then there was your boy Tim Jamison, who I believe played for Michigan State (right? RIGHT?). None of these guys are Mario Williams, but they were all very solid last week. Why can't it happen again in Nashville on Sunday?

2. Do you think Bud Adams' minions can take Owen Daniels out of the passing game like Baltimore did? Because I don't.

3. He's still day-to-day last I saw, but can we agree that whether James Casey plays on Sunday is a huge freaking deal? I firmly believe part of the problems the offense faced in Baltimore arose from the lack of Thor. He presents a ton of matchup problems for any team, and his presence on Sunday could help lessen the absence of 'Dre.

______________________________________________

From: MDC
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 4:40 PM
To: Tim
Subject: RE: RE: Texans @ Titans

Considering I am arguing on behalf of Bud Adams and his minions, underhanded ploys to try to sabotage you should probably be expected. Though I do applaud your dedication to alcoholism. No one likes a quitter.

To answer your questions:

1. Aside from my boy, Tim Jamison (who was injured early in the 2004 season and missed the Rose Bowl where his Michigan State Spartans lost to Vince Young and the Oklahoma Sooners), I was less pleased with the pass rush than you were, I guess. Yeah, it seemed like they were getting pressure on Joe Flacco, but Flacco still had 305 yards and (more importantly) completed 60% of his passes for the first time this season, and his 9.4 yards/attempt were a season high as well. Worse, in the second half, Flacco's completion percentage increased to 65% and he got 178 of his 305 yards. I loved what I saw from Connor Barwin, especially the three QB hits, but (a) Tennessee's line is better than Baltimore's in terms of keeping the QB upright and (b) Chris Johnson changes direction far better than Ray Rice, which is why I said I worried about overpursuit leading to big plays. (Brooks Reed worries me even more in the run game, as I mentioned.)

2. I do think OD and Joel Dreessen can have a big game ... if Kubiak and Co. will lean on them. We've seen more than once this year that the Texans will inexplicably abandon the TE passes because ... uh ... yeah. (Yes, that's my less-than-subtle way of suggesting that Gary Kubiak's 2nd and 3rd Quarter play calling has been questionable at times.)

3. As James Casey's biggest fan --- and screw that court order that says I have to stay 1,000 feet from him at all times! --- I absolutely agree with this. I'll even go so far as to say that Casey's presence against Tennessee would have more impact than it would have against Baltimore. But I am not confident that he'll play and, even if he does, I think the pec injury is likely to mean that Vickers is on the field more on running plays, thereby negating some of the surprise factor that Casey brings and removing a passing option for Matt Schaub in those situations. (Honestly, I don't want to see another pass thrown to Vickers any time soon.)

I await your drunken questioning of my fanhood.

_________________________________________________

From: Tim
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 6:54 PM
To: MDC
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Texans @ Titans

First things first...what shall we call this exchange of ideas? I vote "PessiMATTism v. OpTIMism: Dark Meets Light." Your thoughts?

I will address your latest observations first. Not because they're better than your original takes, but because scrolling down further could require more dexterity than I have right now. Onward!

1. I don't want to entirely dismiss your Flacco stats, yet I believe the final numbers, to some degree, make Flacco look better than he actually was. To wit: (1) 51 of Flacco's 305 passing yards came on a "catch" by Torrey Smith that never actually occurred (Kubiak is truly the Rebecca Black of challenges); and (2) 56 of Flacco's 305 passing yards came on a wholly legitimate big play to Anquan Boldin. In other words, it's not like Flacco was carving the Texans' defense up all day. He had one legitimately big play that accounted for a huge percentage of his stats, and one other big play that never should have stood that accounted for another sizable portion of his final statistics. Yes, I know both plays count, and if my aunt had a member she'd be my uncle, and so on..still, I don't look at what Flacco did as some sort of omen for what Hasselbeck will do on Sunday.

2. If nothing else, you'd hope that Kubes and Rick Dennison look at last week's game and say, "Man, we have to get creative as to how we get Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, and (hopefully) James Casey the ball. Our offense really loses an edge by not exploiting the colossal matchup problems our TEs create, especially when we don't have Andre Johnson around. Also, we had better read Battle Red Blog this week, or we'll never be able to put together a successful game plan. Those guys are geniuses!"

3. We're clearly in agreement about James Casey. Well, except the part where I think he'll play and you don't think he will. I attribute that to me looking for the good in every situation, and you hating happiness.

Circling back to your original points, to the extent they haven't already been addressed...

1. No one replaces Mario Williams. I do believe, however, that the Texans can still successfully hassle Hasselbeck without him. Like you, I'm more concerned about the lack of Super Mario against the run. As you and I have frequently discussed, Mario Williams is criminally underrated against the run. Teams run away from him, and that' s not about to happen with Brooks Reed in his stead. The key is going to be discipline: Brooks Reed has to stay in his lane and let the rest of the LBs (and/or DBs) do what they're supposed to do. If he overpursues, problems could ensue...assuming Chris Johnson remembers he's Chris Johnson and not LenDale White. Admitttedly, that's not entirely fair; from what I've read, a good number of Titans fans blame the Tennessee OL for failing to spring CJ2YPC.

2. See above.

3. The most important part of the Texans' offensive strategy has to be how they'll get Arian Foster the ball, with the second most important part being incorporating Owen Daniels & Co. into the passing game. Quite simply, Arian has to have a big game for the Texans to win this contest. Whether it's him rediscovering his 2010 form on the ground or Dennison making it a point to get him involved via the passing attack (I hear screens can be neat), Arian Foster has to be the bell cow on Sunday. I believe he will be. And no, that's not just the Bushmills talking. I felt that way when I was drinking Coors Light this afternoon, too.

4. Dude, if we're going to talk depressing Texans statistics, how about the one how Gary Kubiak has only led the Texans to one road win over a team that's finished over .500 since he rode into town? Sad, right?

Allow me to cheer you up then, my friend. Some other notable stats, courtesy of the NFL guy who e-mails me such things each week:

-Dating back to 11/28/10, your Houston Texans have won 3 of their past 4 vs. AFC South.
-In the past 5 games against the Titans, Matt Schaub has completed 133 of 206 passes (64.6%) for 1,449 yards with 11 TDs vs. 1 INT and a 101 passer rating. In three road games this season, Schaub has completed 64 of 105 passes (61 %) for 823 yards with 6 TDs vs. 1 INT and a 100.6 passer rating.
-In past six versus AFC South opponents, Arian Foster is averaging 121.2 rush yards per game (727 total) with 7 rush TDs. On Sunday, Foster aims for his 4th straight game with at least 100+ scrimmage yards (166, 184, 101).
-Kevin Walter had 7 catches for 79 yards (11.3 avg.) and a TD in the last meeting vs. Titans.
-Owen Daniels has 415 career yards vs. Titans, his most versus any team.
-Your Houston Texans defense is tied for the AFC-best with 17 sacks.

Believe, Matt. Believe!

________________________________________

From: MDC
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 8:56 PM
To: Tim
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Texans @ Titans

What shall we call it? Well, I would lean more toward something that references our rakish good looks and pokes fun at MCM, but I got nothing, so your suggestion works for me.

1. You raise a good point about Flacco's yardage total being misleading. Still, Oh No Joe came in completing less than half of his passes on the year, and the Texans allowed him to complete over 60% on the day. I'm not going to say that the pass rush was a total illusion --- as you noted, Barwin and Jamison played well in that regard --- but I do question how good you should feel about it based on what we saw Sunday. Obviously, hurries and hits only matter to the extent that they cause the QB to throw the ball away or make mistakes or whatever; considering Flacco was better in the second half, even notwithstanding the Torrey Smith "catch," and considering that all three of Barwin's hits and five of the team's seven QB hits came in the first half, it seems like the Ravens were able to make a few adjustments and negate much of the pass rush.

1a. As for Kubiak as Rebecca Black, I think you might be giving him too much credit. Looking at R-Bla's video, about 29% of the people who saw her "sing" liked it. You'd be hard-pressed to find 3 out of 10 Texans fans who like Kubiak's use of the little red flag.

1b. Question about Rebecca Black, since you brought her up: What is going on with the creepy rapping dude at the end? I mean, Black is, what, 14? When she's not informing you that the day before Friday is, in fact, Thursday, she's droning on about school and friends and "partying." Then, all of the sudden, you've got this guy (who has to be at least 30) rapping about, basically, following her SCHOOL BUS to a party. If there was a sequel to this "song" --- God forbid --- I have to assume it would involve Amber Alerts and Megan's Law. Also, autotune.

2. I've given up hope for Kubiak and the staff reading BRB. They employed Petey Faggins far longer than any team should have. Shaun Cody is still getting regular snaps (admittedly, being slightly less sucktacular than early in the year, but that's like saying that John Wayne Gacy was slightly less creepy when not in his clown suit). The Texans have still not run a true 3-TE set the way I drew it up, though they have teased me a couple times, starting in that formation before moving around. That said, I hope you are right. It doesn't take a genius (or an astute blogger) to realize that, with Andre Johnson out, Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen, and James Casey are ridiculously more effective than Kevin Walter, et al.

3. I would put more stock in your "looking for the good in every situation" if I didn't vividly remember your refusal to acknowledge that there might be an upside to having a daughter. Your current role as Pollyanna Sunshine frightens and alarms me.

4. I've read that same stuff about the Titans fans, geniuses that they are, blaming the O-line for Chris Johnson's woes. Pro Football Focus's numbers bear that out to an extent --- only Michael Roos has a positive run-blocking score. Thing is, the line was even worse last year (according to PFF) when he rushed for almost 1,400 yards, so I don't think I buy any theory that doesn't lay some large percentage of the problem on Johnson rather than his blockers. (Just for the sake of being thorough, I checked FO's numbers for the Titans' run blocking this year and last. Right now, they are dead last. Last year, they were next to last. So, yeah.)

5. I agree 100% that the Texans fail or succeed on Sunday based on what Arian Foster does. As these things go, I feel better about that than I would if we were forced to replace Foster's name in that sentence with, say, "Ahman Green." Still, I remain pessimistic, mainly because, as I've said, I think the absence of Andre Johnson allows the Titans to key on Foster far more than they would with Dre in the lineup.

6. That statistic made me a little ill, though I'm not even slightly surprised by it. As for the rest of your stats, they did make me feel a little better. At first. Until I started thinking about them more. To wit:

-Dating back to 11/28/10, your Houston Texans have won 3 of their past 4 vs. AFC South.
That list of vanquished foes? The Rusty Smith-led Titans in Houston. The Trent Edwards-led (and MJD-lacking) Jacksonville Jaguars in Houston. And the Peyton Manning-less Colts in Houston. The loss? The Titans in Nashville. Under Kubiak, the Texans have won two AFC South road games (@J'ville in '06 and @TEN in '09).

-In the past 5 games against the Titans, Matt Schaub has completed 133 of 206 passes (64.6%) for 1,449 yards with 11 TDs vs. 1 INT and a 101 passer rating. In three road games this season, Schaub has completed 64 of 105 passes (61 %) for 823 yards with 6 TDs vs. 1 INT and a 100.6 passer rating.
Care to guess how many of those past five games against the Titans that Matt Schaub had Andre Johnson? Five. Guess how many Johnson scored TDs in? Five. Not exactly apples to apples.

As for the three road games, the yardage total is skewed by his nearly 400 yards in New Orleans. Otherwise, I have no problem with those stats. You know, other than the fact that the Texans lost two of those games and the only win in there was against the now-0-5 Dolphins who haven't won in their own stadium since November 14 of last year and have only won there one time since early December of 2009.

-In past six versus AFC South opponents, Arian Foster is averaging 121.2 rush yards per game (727 total) with 7 rush TDs. On Sunday, Foster aims for his 4th straight game with at least 100+ scrimmage yards (166, 184, 101).
Arian Foster is a bad man, and we are in agreement as to his importance.

-Kevin Walter had 7 catches for 79 yards (11.3 avg.) and a TD in the last meeting vs. Titans.
That game? A loss in Nashville.

-Owen Daniels has 415 career yards vs. Titans, his most versus any team.
Playing them twice per year probably impacts that. I mean, he has 368 against the Jags and 218 against the Colts. He has 200+ yards against only one other team (Oakland, 297).

-Your Houston Texans defense is tied for the AFC-best with 17 sacks.
I love this stat, and it still kinda weirds me out. Still, 5 of those were Mario, and he's not walking through the tunnel on Sunday. He also has 5.5 for his career against the Titans, the highest single-player total on the Texans' roster.

***

I want to believe. I still buy the idea that the Texans win the division. But I have a bad feeling about Sunday. I hope I'm wrong.

______________________________________

From: Tim
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2011 9:26 AM
To: MDC
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Texans @ Titans

Why did you have to go and analyze the stats? Why couldn't you just take them at face value? You're overthinking yourself right into a crippling bout of depression. Repeat after me...

1. Matt Schaub is a better QB than Matt Hasselbeck. While not having Andre Johnson hurts, the Texans still have more than enough weapons to move the ball and consistently score on Bud Adams' Army of Darkness.

2. Who would you rather have on your team this Sunday--Arian Foster or Chris Johnson? Well, great news, buddy! The guy you picked is a Texan! And he's going to have a big game...again...on Sunday.

3. In Wade We Trust. Losing Mario Williams is a tragedy on par with BFD's hairline, but we shall overcome. Wade is quite possibly the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, and his checks are signed by Bob McNair. He is going to make the machine hum in two days.

In my humble opinion, that last point is the most important, and the reason I have so much hope about Sunday. Wade Phillips is the difference. The defense, even without Mario Williams and a CB2 that may as well line up on the goal line each snap, is formidable.

The Texans will win. Bet your daughter's college fund on it.

Texans vs Titans coverage

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