2DH: Putting The Defense In The Hot Tub With Matt Leinart

Al Messerschmidt - Getty Images

Game-action shots of Matt Leinart in a Texans uniform were hard to find.

Two-day-hangover_medium In 2006, the Texans signed free agent QB Sage J. Rosenfels. Rosenfels had been a fourth-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2001, but failed to make the team, and was released and was later signed by the Miami Dolphins. In four years in Miami, Rosenfels appeared in 13 games, starting (and losing) two. He left South Beach with a 49.5% completion percentage, 6 TDs and 6 INTs, and 776 passing yards. Rosenfels' first season in Houston saw him appear in four games, starting none, and he threw for 265 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT.

Cumulatively, Rosenfels entered the 2007 season with the following line: 0 wins, 2 losses, 81 completions, 148 attempts, 1,041 yards, 9 TDs, and 7 INTs. Given that he'd compiled this resume over five NFL seasons, it's not hyperbole at all to say that he'd shown nothing to suggest that he could be an NFL starter, even in limited duty. Yet, forced into five starts in 2007, Rosenfels went 4-1, throwing for 951 yards, 8 TDs, and 6 INTs in his starts. Overall that year, he completed 64.2% of his passes for 1,684 yards, 15 TDs, and 12 INTs.

The following year, Rosenfels was in his third year under Gary Kubiak, and Sage was again forced to start five games. While he'd feasted on Oakland, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Denver in 2007, the 2008 schedule had Rosenfels facing Indianapolis twice (he'd lost to them once in 2007), Baltimore (who would go 11-5), Cleveland, and Jacksonville. Rosenfels lost to the Colts and the Ravens, but beat the Browns and Jaguars. That is, he lost to the very good teams, but beat the bad ones (Cleveland and Jacksonville combined for 9 wins in 2008).

All told, in his time with Houston, Rosenfels went 6-4 as a starter, and he totaled 3,380 yards, 24 TDs, and 23 INTs. Based on this performance, he was highly sought after by teams needing a QB, and was ultimately sent to Minnesota for a fourth-round pick. Where he promptly failed to beat out Tarvaris Jackson as the starter. Rosenfels literally has not thrown a regular season NFL pass since being traded.

Why do I mention all of this? Well, I suppose you are just going to have to take the jump to find out.

Compare Sage Rosenfels' pre-2007 resume with that of one Matthew Stephen Leinart prior to landing in Houston. As a rookie in Arizona, the first-round pick started 11 games, going 4-7 on a team that would only win five games total that year, and winning four of the Cardinals' last six games (three of them against division rivals). He completed 56.8% of his passes for 2,547 yards, 11 TDs, and 12 INTs. While his season was not going to make Cardinals fans forget about Jim Hart or even Jake Plummer, Leinart had at least showed signs that he could be an NFL starter, even setting an NFL rookie record with 405 passing yards in a game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Leinart entered 2007 as the presumptive starter in Arizona. HC Ken Whisenhunt and OC Todd Haley had replaced Denny Green and Keith Rowen, however, and the new "brain trust" came up with a plan to use Kurt Warner as a situational QB, rotating him in every few series, almost like a relief pitcher. As a second-year QB --- one who had ended the previous season on a high note --- Leinart was (somewhat understandably) upset by this. Unfortunately for Leinart, a broken collarbone ended his season in Week 5, at which time Warner took the reins in Arizona for good. Leinart started no games in 2008, when the Cardinals snuck into the playoffs at 9-7 before losing in the Super Bowl, and he started only once in 2009.

I am not going to sit here and try to convince you that Matt Leinart is likely to become a superstar now that he's being given a chance. That would be silly. I would argue, however, that (a) Leinart is more talented than Sage Rosenfels was at this point in his career and (b) the evidence suggests that Sage Rosenfels' success (such as it was) was due almost entirely to being put in a good situation with a very good QB-minded coach and a great WR.

Now, when you factor in that Sage Rosenfels never had a defense like the 2011 Texans' defense to bail him out or keep the game from turning into a shootout, nor did Rosenfels have Arian Foster (Steve Slaton, on his best day, was not Arian Foster), and the prospect of Matt Leinart quarterbacking this team for the remainder of 2011, including the playoffs, is not as bone-chilling as some are making it out to seem.

I know the knock about Leinart, other than his hot-tub-frat-boy persona, is that he lacks a strong arm. That's a legit complaint, but I don't know that it matters much in this offense. After all, the 158 yards in the two TDs passes to Jacoby Jones and Arian Foster on Sunday traveled a combined 35 yards or so in the air. It's rare that Matt Schaub really airs the ball out, and no one would ever accuse him of having a cannon for an arm. Maybe having Leinart under center means that you eliminate some of the deep tries to Kevin Walter, but that is more than offset by the fact that Andre Johnson will be available as a target. Fact is, the offense that the Texans run is pretty similar to what Leinart ran at USC --- roll-outs, play-action, West Coast passing game, bolstered by a quality running game. You really couldn't ask for a better situation for Matt Leinart to prove whether he can be an NFL QB.

Do I think Matt Leinart will take the Texans to the Super Bowl? If I'm being honest with myself, probably not. But, at the same time, I don't think that he can't lead them there. And I certainly don't think that having him take snaps in January is a guaranteed one-and-done in the playoffs. So, while it's not ideal to lose Schaub now, it's far from signaling some sort of requiem on our postseason dreams.

To put it a different way, it's entirely possible that the sky will fall ... but let's wait until we see some chunks hit the ground before we decide that it is.

On to the Hangover...

80.

Length in yards of Jacoby Jones's TD catch, the longest in team history. That's right: Jacoby Jones holds the team record for the longest TD catch. And, if that's not weird enough, as we discussed a few weeks back, the longest catch in team history remains Corey Bradford's 81-yard grab in 2002 against Buffalo.

78.

Length in yards of Arian Foster's TD catch against the Bucs. This is, of course, his second 78-yard TD catch this season (the other was against the Titans, in case you just awoke from a coma or something). The top-five longest TD receptions in Texans' history look like this:

  1. Jacoby Jones (80 yards v. Tampa Bay, 2011)
  2. Corey Bradford (78 yards v. Miami, 2003)
  3. Arian Foster (78 yards v. Tennessee, 2011)
  4. Arian Foster (78 yards v. Tampa Bay, 2011)
  5. Andre Johnson (77 yards v. Kansas City, 2007)

2.

Number of running backs in NFL history to have two TD receptions of 70+ yards in one season: Arian Foster and some dude named Walter Payton.

583.

Number of rushing yards needed by Arian Foster to pass Domanick Williams (nee Davis) for first all-time in Texans' history. Given the increased reliance on the running game that is likely to occur, the fact that Foster has averaged 166.5/game against the Colts and 116/game against the Jaguars, and the fact that the Panthers are allowing 137.6 rushing yards/game, you have to like Foster's odds of getting the 583 (97.2/game) before season's end.

7.

Career forced fumbles for DeMeco Ryans, pushing him past Dunta Robinson for second all-time in team history. Mario Williams is first all-time with 11.

6.

Career interceptions by Brian Cushing, tying him with Jason Allen (6 as a Texan) for 4th in team history.

49.

Pounds given up by Johnathan Joseph in his encounter with Kellen Winslow, Jr. on Sunday. You know, the encounter that broke up a pass, gave Brian Cushing a gift INT (great catch), and left Winslow limping off the field while JoJo high-fived his teammates. JoJo hits people and they stay hit.

Jojo_medium

Con Law With Kevin Bacon.

Apparently, they remade Footloose, thus proving once and for all that Hollywood has run out of ideas. (We should have suspected this already, what with the existence of 2002's Rollerball remake that completely missed the point of the original film, but I digress.)

When I heard about the Footloose reboot, my brain was forced to think about that movie for the first time more than two decades. I pondered the whole plot for roughly 4.8 seconds when it dawned on me that the entire premise of the movie --- the banning of rock music and dancing --- was grossly unconstitutional.

You see, since well before the first Footloose was made, the Supreme Court has taken a dim view of laws that would categorically ban certain forms of entertainment. As the Court said in Schad v. Mt. Ephraim, 452 U.S. 61 (1981), "Entertainment, as well as political and ideological speech, is protected; motion pictures, programs broadcast by radio and television, and live entertainment, such as musical and dramatic works, fall within the First Amendment guarantee." Moreover, by banning only "rock and roll" music and not all music (assuming, momentarily, that such a law would not be facially unconstitutional), the government of (fictional) Bomont, Utah, would be engaging in regulation of free speech that was not viewpoint neutral. See, generally, Legal Services Corp. v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 535 (2001) (holding that the government may not engage in viewpoint-based restriction of private speech).

Then you've got another problem under the First Amendment, as the law would also violate the right to freedom of assembly. " It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the 'liberty' assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech." NAACP v. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958). "Of course, it is immaterial whether the beliefs sought to be advanced by association pertain to political, economic, religious or cultural matters, and state action which may have the effect of curtailing the freedom to associate is subject to the closest scrutiny." Id.

Now, maybe, if you suspend your disbelief enough, the fact that the underlying rules were unconstitutional is not fatal to the first Footloose film. After all, 1984 was a different time, and it predated a lot of the jurisprudence that makes the conclusions here seem so clear. In the case of the remake, however, given how litigious society is (to say nothing of the various third-party groups that would be chomping to take this law to court)? That's a different story altogether, and that absurdity alone should be enough to keep anyone from claiming to enjoy the remake.

Tangent: If you know someone who says he or she enjoyed the remake, you should never speak to that person again.

107.

Point differential for your Houston Texans in 2011. This is the best differential in the AFC by a fairly wide margin: Baltimore is #2 with +73. The only team better than the Texans in terms of differential is the Green Bay Packers who, following Monday's throttling of the Vikings, sit at +134.

5.9; 75.8; .4.

Average line (catches, yards, TDs) for Larry Fitzgerald in games that Matt Leinart started in Arizona. For comparison, know that Fitzgerald's career average line is 5.6; 76.9; .6.

5.6; 58.2; .5.

Average line for Anquan Boldin in games that Matt Leinart started in Arizona. For comparison, know that Boldin's career average line in Arizona was 6.2; 79.2; .5.

4.

Number of times your Houston Texans appear in the top five on the NFL.com Team Stats page.

Toldya_medium

Viva Wade!

Math.

Per a commercial that I just saw, Dave and Buster's new tagline is, apparently, "Fun x Awesome - Lame x Awesome." Now, they didn't give us a full equation, but, for purposes of this nugget of silliness, I am going to assume the original equation is supposed to "equal" Dave & Buster's. So, working through our equation:

Fun x Awesome - Lame x Awesome = D&B

(Fun x Awesome) - (Lame x Awesome) = D&B

(Fun x Awesome) = D&B + (Lame x Awesome)

Fun = (D&B/Awesome) + Lame

That is, Fun equals dividing D&B by Awesome then adding Lameness.

Uh ... yeah.

3.

Number of Texans running backs who scored a rushing TD on Sunday. This was the first time in team history that three different RBs have scored rushing TDs in the same game. Rushing TDs by three different players have occurred in two games for the Texans: against Cleveland this season (Schaub, Ben Tate, Foster) and against the Broncos on December 13, 2007 (Rosenfels, Ron Dayne, Vonta Leach).

4.

Consecutive games in which the Texans' defense has held opponents under 100 yards rushing. In ten games this year, the Texans have allowed over 100 yards rushing in only four of them.

4.

Consecutive games in which the Texans' defense has held opponents under 200 yards passing. In ten games this year, the Texans have allowed over 200 yards passing in only two of them.

November 23, 2008.

The last time your Houston Texans forced at least four turnovers in a game as they did on Sunday. (They had five that day against the Browns.)

PSYCHE!

My daughter is almost four years old, and I've been forcing her to listen to random factoids about astronomy for almost four years. At this point, she actually asks questions about things she sees in the night sky, so that's kinda cool.

Anyway, Friday night, we had to make a run to Kroger. As we walked outside, she noticed a bright spot to the upper right of the moon.

Her: "What star is that?

Me: "That's not a star. That's Jupiter. It's a planet."

Her: /nodding

Flash forward thirty minutes. We're leaving Kroger, and we arrive at the car the same time the woman parked next to us arrives at hers. Sophia asks the woman, "Hey, do you see that bright star?" The woman, apparently not blind, responds, "Yes" and smiles at Sophia. Sophia then gets an evil grin and says, "That's not a star! It's Jupiter! A planet!"

The woman, not a fan of Sophia's ruse, stops smiling and gets in her car without another word.

I'm so proud of that kid sometimes.

Compare And Contrast.

Through their first seven starts:

Vince Young (3-4): 80-173 (46.2%), 5 TD pass, 7 INT, 12 sacks, 5 fumbles, 38 carries for 201 yards, 3 rush TDs.

Tim Tebow (4-3): 83-176 (47.2%), 10 TD pass, 4 INT, 20 sacks, 6 fumbles, 72 carries for 482 yards, 4 rush TDs.

Just keep this in mind --- and recall the myriad articles in 2006 and 2007 about how Vince Young was going to be a legit NFL QB --- every time you hear someone praise Tim Tebow as an NFL QB.

Pardon Me For A Moment While I Put This Hangover On Autopilot And Let Tennessee Do My Work For Me.

On Tuesday night, 21-year-old Erica Wilson of Rogersville, Tennessee and 32-year-old Jesse Brooks were arguing about their relationship status. Jesse had touched Erica suggestively and told her that he, quote, "wanted her." She told him that she, quote, "wanted a relationship and didn't want to be a BOOTY CALL." Ready for the TWIST? Erica and Jesse are . . . wait for it . . . FIRST COUSINS.

Well done, Tennessee.

[***]

Jesse allegedly pushed over Erica . . . she grabbed a pair of scissors and STABBED HIM in the face, neck, arms, and back. When the cops came to break things up, both of them smelled of alcohol . . . and they admitted they'd been drinking, quote, "significant amounts" of Everclear GRAIN ALCOHOL.

[Note: The punctuation of this story makes my eyes bleed, but the tale was too good to let that stop me from posting it. I would just add, however, that overuse of ALL CAPS and ellipses means that the terrorists have won.]

90.

Difference in points scored by the Houston Texans (132) and allowed by them (42) since the loss in Baltimore.

Unnecessary Archer Quote.

"Barry, does this make up for Framboise? It does, Other Barry. It sure does."

0.

Number of times prior to 2011 that the Texans have held opponents to fewer than 50 combined points over a four-game stretch. They've come close (i.e. fewer than 60 combined points allowed) four times:

  • 50 points allowed (2-2 record over that span) from weeks 14 through 17, 2004.
  • 52 points allowed (2-2) from weeks 12 through 15, 2002.
  • 56 points allowed (4-0) from weeks 12 through 15, 2008.
  • 59 points allowed (2-2) from weeks 7 though 10, 2006.

Bonus facts about this: Three of the opponents in Houston's current four-game run were opponents in at least two of the previous sub-60-points stretches. Jacksonville was involved in 2004, 2006 (twice!), and 2008; Cleveland in 2004 and 2008; and Tennessee in 2006 and 2008.

28.

Margin of victory on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the third-highest margin of victory in Texans history behind the 34-point drubbing of Tennessee earlier this year and a 29-point defeat of the Bengals in 2008. Sunday was also the third game this season in which the Texans have outscored their opponent by at least 20 points, tying the 2009 team for the most such victories. 2009 and 2011 are the only seasons in which the Texans have had more than one win of 20 points or more; they had one in 2010, 2008, 2006, and 2004, and none in the other seasons.

DORF!

"When it rains, it sometimes comes down in a monsoon." --Dan Dierdorf during the Ravens-Seahawks game, butchering both the verbiage and the meaning of a well-known idiom while discussing Marshawn Lynch.

9.

Consecutive games in which the Texans' defense has snagged at least one interception. Dating back to last season, the defense has picked off a pass in 12 of the past 13 games, with the season opener against the Colts being the lone exception.

8.

With the win over Tampa Bay pushing the all-time series with them to 2-1 in favor of the Texans, Houston now has a winning record against eight NFL teams: Tampa Bay, Jacksonville (10-9), Miami (6-0), Kansas City (3-2), Oakland (5-2), Cleveland (4-3), Chicago (2-0), and Carolina (2-0).

Fun Facts About Matt Leinart (College Edition).

Career Numbers: 64.8% completion, 10,693 yards, 99 TD, 23 INT. (The TD total remains a Pac-12 record and the completion percentage is third best all-time in conference history.)

In 2005, Leinart led NCAA FBS quarterbacks in passing yards, passing completion, and passing attempts, and he was second in passing TDs.

Leinart led NCAA FBS quarterbacks in passing TDs in 2003 and 2004.

Quick Question.

If all scoring plays are reviewed by the replay official and are, therefore, not subject to a coach's challenge, then why is it "unsportsmanlike conduct" if a coach messes up and throws the flag? I mean, it doesn't delay the game any. More importantly, in any other situation, if a coach tries to challenge something that is not reviewable, the official just gives him back the flag, tells the coach that he can't challenge that call, and moves on. I cannot think of a single reason why accidentally challenging a scoring play should be a 15-yard penalty.

27.

Remaining number of catches Derrick Mason needs to make as a member of the Houston Texans before he costs the Texans a 7th Round draft pick. Which means that, as of right now, that heads-up prevention of Aqib Talib's goalline INT on Sunday cost the Texans nothing in the trade.

33:51.

Time of possession for your Houston Texans in 2011, best in the league.

11.

Turnover margin for the 2011 Houston Texans, best in the AFC and tied with the Packers for second-best in the league behind the 49ers 13.

31%.

Opponents' third-down success percentage against the Texans this season, tied with the Jets for best in the AFC. (That's per NFL.com. Technically, the Jets are at 31.3% while the Texans are at 31.4%, but whatever.)

Random '90s Rap Video.

Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer Inexplicable Decision Of The Week

[Author's note: It's a sad day in Two-Day Hangover Land. It seems that Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer has gotten married and changed the name on her public profile to the much more professional sounding, "Marijuana Sawyer-Clardy." Dang. Thankfully, we have a long memory around here, at least when it comes to stuff like this, so we'll just forge ahead and pretend like nothing has changed.]

Much like the decision to name your daughter "Marijuana Pepsi," the Atlanta Falcons' decision to try to run right up the middle on fourth down in overtime was baffling. Don't get me wrong: it was absolutely the right call to go for it in that situation, but running the most obvious play in the entire universe is probably not the best way to go about such things. A QB sneak --- remember, Matt Ryan is 6-5 --- would have made MUCH more sense. At the very least, if you are dead-set on running Michael Turner there, put an extra TE in the game rather than having Roddy White as the extra blocker on the strong side.

TXT MSGs Of The Week.

Rivers:

Dumpoff passes going nowhere might be my favorite part of this defense. After years of uncovered Frank Bush receptions, it just warms my icy heart.

DreKeem (following Kubiak's challenge of Talib's interception):

You know our defense probably would have just forced a safety anyway. Offense gets the ball back, scores. 9 points instead of 3? What a shitty challenge. :)

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