Unlike some emotionally unstable fans, I am not jumping to slit my wrist after the loss to the Saints. I think we were capable of winning that game, and of course I am disappointed, but I am not one to turn to the razor until we are mathematically eliminated. The only thing that is paramount to me though is this: They have to find a way to beat the good teams in a close game. I know we have been giving the Texans props for hanging with a championship caliber team, but the bottom line is, hanging with a good team, but not overcoming them, is starting to become too common. Forget the media taking Houston seriously, I think the players are going to need to beat a good team to gain the confidence in themselves that they will need to push through the schedule this year. I think the loss to the Saints came down to these basic things:
1. Red zone efficiency. You can't settle for multiple field goals in the red zone against a team like New Orleans who can strike back in a split second. 6 point leads are not enough against an offense like that.
2. The defense did not make the late game adjustment and allowed themselves to get worn out. We basically got Tom Brady'd. It looked like Miami out there from Week 1. The defense was excellent in the first half, but the Saints made the halftime adjustment and starting attacking the slot corner and the safety/LB mismatch on Jimmy Graham. It was the right formula, and we didn't adjust to it.
3. Lack of a pass rush. For the second week in a row, I felt the pass rush was nearly non-existent. Drew Brees had too much time to throw, and a QB of his skill will pick you apart with that much time. As much as I love the ninja, Antonio Smith should not be leading our team in sacks.
4. Matt Schaub's usual bonehead INT came at the worst time possible. Overall, Matt played a good game, better statline than Brees in fact, but at least once a game Matt will get flustered and try to force it to Andre Johnson when he is not in a decent position and not open. This time he did it when we least could afford it, in the 4th quarter, trying to build on a fragile lead that the Saints were pressing to take back. This put the momentum back in the Saints' corner.
The good thing is these are all correctable. These mistakes aren't from a lack of talent, or not having the proper personnel on either side of the ball. These are mental/scheme mistakes that the Texans can learn from and correct. So no need to start filling the bathtub with bleach just yet.
It is fairly clear to me that the second half of our schedule is much easier than the first. The upcoming 4 game stretch is tough, and while the Texans could lose to the better teams here and still make a playoff run after the bye week, I think the team needs to go 3-1 in this run and take down either Pittsburgh or Baltimore. They need to start beating the better teams in the league.
If any of you watched the Raiders' first 3 games, I think you will reach the same conclusion I have: This is not a bad team. They are basically one play from being 3-0, and they just beat up on the Jets. As much as I hate to say it for the BESFs, Matt Hasselbeck has played well and the tits are our biggest threat in the division. That game is going to be big. Then you throw in both of the powerhouses from the AFC North, and this 4 game run is a really tough one. So while none of these games will necessarily be "must win," "biggest game in franchise history" kind of games, I think coming out of this stretch we will know if the team has the mettle to be one of the better teams in the AFC this year.