Well, that was something, wasn't it?
I mean ... wow. Like most of you, I assumed the Texans would win this game and I assumed that the defense would be noticeably better than what we'd grown used to seeing. Even so, I don't think too many people predicted that kind of performance from Mario Williams & Co. (Sure, Pancakes will eventually claim that he predicted it, but I don't count that.) It was, to be blunt, a good, old fashioned curbstomping of the highest order, and it came against a team that is much more accustomed to being the stomper rather than the stompee.
Don't get me wrong --- it's not that everything was perfect or that there's not room for improvement. However, when you beat the Indianapolis Colts 34-7 and you didn't even play your best game? Yeah, I'd say the "problems" that the Texans had today are not fatal. But I am getting ahead of myself, I guess. After all, following a win like that, it would be gauche to begin with anything other than the positives. So, after the jump, that's where we'll start.
-Mario Williams will clearly never be a good OLB in the NFL. He was so lost out there, he managed to only rack up 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and numerous pressures, and he forced Kerry Collins to simultaneously run backward 20 yards, evacuate his bowels, and throw the ball into the turf for an intentional grounding penalty. Other than that, Mario was absolutely invisible. We'd be lucky to get anything in trade for him, but we should probably try if that's all we're going to get from him each week.
-J.J. Watt (a/k.a "KillaWatt" a/k/a "Honey Badger" a/k/a "Mario Blanco") continued to remind us that he was a great draft pick. He was heads-up on his fumble recovery, coming away with the ball even as it was being kicked around by offensive linemen. He almost had a second fumble recovery, following Mario's second sack. He flew down the line and absolutely ended a screen pass to Joseph Addai. Oh, and he led the team in solo tackles.
-In the comments to this post, when asked which positions in Wade's defense had had the most success against Manning, I wrote, "Manning has been sacked by an OLB in these games 7 times, an ILB once, and a DE 5 times. Given where the Texans’ strengths lie, this seems like a good pattern." Antonio Smith apparently reads BRB and wanted to make me look good. Good lookin' out, holmes. (Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans --- you guys just left me hangin'. Not cool.)
-Speaking of the ILBs, while none of them wowed me, they (including Darryl Sharpton) did what this defense asks them to do. Cushing let himself get taken out of a play by the lead block on Addai's 13-yard run, but otherwise he seemed fine.
-James Casey's evolution into Human Swiss Army Knife continues. The motioned him out from FB to WR, from H-Back to WR, from H-Back to FB, and from FB to TE at various points. He also functioned well enough as a lead blocker. Oh, and, when he got the ball in his hands, he seemed to have great awareness of where the first-down marker was. I remain smitten.
-Johnathan Joseph, welcome to Houston. His defense of the near-TD to Pierre Garcon was beautiful and demonstrated a level of coverage skills that we haven't seen since ... uh ... yeah. The personal foul call on Danieal Manning at the end of that same play was so terribly ridiculous that it has been asked to host The View.
-Oh, yeah, as long as we're talking about Manning (the one without a balky neck), I should mention that special teams generally were MUCH better than I expected after watching the preseason. Manning's opening kick return of 46 yards that let Houston start at the 40 was nice, and Jacoby Jones' punt return TD showed flashes of his rookie year form, as he managed to tightrope the sideline and avoid being pushed out at the 2.
-Hey, look, Steve Slaton lives! And runs (kinda)! And apparently gained weight. (Seriously, dude looks like Hugene Seale's kid brother.) I agree with Rivers that any work Slaton gets in the next few is designed to increase whatever value he has as trade bait. He's never going to supplant Arian Foster or Ben Tate, and Derrick Ward is going to be 2a or 2b as long as he's healthy. So just think of any and all Slaton carries as the football equivalent of running your 1974 Plymouth Duster through a car wash before you take it to trade it in.
-Tate's final line: 24 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble lost. As long as he learns from the fumble and stops carrying the ball like his miming Jacoby Jones, you'd have to consider his first NFL game a smashing success. Not that he's going to replace Foster or anything, but he looks like he can be a very solid NFL RB. If nothing else, he spikes the ball with an aplomb that one rarely finds in a young player.
-Andre Johnson's final line: 7 catches for 95 yards and a TD. Because he's the consummate professional, however, I kind of suspect that the only play he cares about is the first pass that he tipped, causing it to be intercepted. You and I would feel like making a ridiculous catch of a tipped ball for a TD later in the game would make the earlier flub forgivable. And that, along with our lack of height/speed/strength/awesomeness is why you and I will never be HOF WRs.
Final (positive) quick-hits:
-Shaun Cody came up with a fumble recovery. I would point out that Mario would have had it had Cody missed, but credit where it's due --- Cody proved that a blind hog does, indeed, find an acorn every now and then.
-Earl Mitchell had a tackle of Addai for no gain and a 5-yard encroachment penalty. That was both one more tackle and one more penalty than Cody had.
-Your Houston Texans' defense just held the Indianapolis Colts to 236 yards of offense, 1 TD, and 1 of 9 on third down.
-Your Houston Texans' offense had 384 total yards, 3 TDs, and a 13:28 edge in time of possession.
-The front seven, as a unit, caused a ton of pressure. Lest ye think it doesn't matter unless you get sacks, consider that the secondary looked above average all day.
-Boomstick Hartmann played well, both in punting and kickoffs.
Now, for the less-than-pleasant stuff:
-Matt Schaub's first INT was not his fault, other than the fact that the throw was high. It was low enough that Johnson got both hands on it, though, and 99 times out of 100, 'Dre will pull that in. Schaub's second INT, however, was his once-per-game, WTF?! throw. Either he didn't see Gary Brackett (most likely) or he saw Brackett but thought he could force the ball in anyway (less likely), but neither excuse is completely satisfactory. However, the Texans won handily, so it's hard to get too worked up. Hopefully he'll make fewer of those throws as the season unfolds.
-Kevin Walter(s) broke his collarbone. He's out 10-12 weeks from what I'm reading. If there's a silver lining, it's that we finally get to see if Jacoby Jones is ever going to develop into a complete WR. If there's a downside, it's that the answer to the Jacoby question is probably no.
-Some people were miffed that the Texans did not continue to pile up points in the second half. While I admit that I really wanted to see 50 points, it's hard to get too worked up when they won by 27. Kubiak is just not the kind of coach that is going to come out throwing deep, leading 34-0 in the second half. For better or worse, that's just how he is.
Random final thoughts:
-Some Colts coach thought, "Hey, Dallas Clark can block Mario Williams one-on-one," then, after seeing how well that worked in the first quarter, decided to try it again. Cocaine is a helluva drug, I guess.
-The Colts' secondary smelled positively Frank Bush-ian out there. Eww. Smells like fail.
-Underrated play: Glover Quin's open-field tackle of Dallas Clark after Clark's amazing one-handed grab.
-Overrated play: Whatever Dan Dierdorf was gushing about in the fourth quarter. Reggie Wayne's grab, was it? Sorry, I was too busy giggling at the score to really care.
-Seriously, again, that personal foul on Manning was so stupid, JJ Abrams is writing a film adaptation about it.