2012 marks my twenty-seventh season of considering myself a fan of Michigan football. Counting the games played so far this season, that's 328 games. In that fandom, I've experienced 235 wins, 89 losses, and 4 ties; 3 Rose Bowl wins and 5 Rose Bowl losses; 1 Sugar Bowl win; and 1 National Championship.
I mention all of that as context for this: in my twenty-six-plus years of watching the Maize and Blue, there has been exactly one kicker that I didn't actively despise with every fiber of my being. Other than that, I've had a constant, unwavering desire to take all Michigan kickers, shove them into a large burlap sack, and beat the sack with a cricket bat until all movement has ceased. I've quite literally cringed every single time Michigan's special teams trotted onto the field for a field goal attempt (and, some years, even when they were attempting extra points), and I always assume that every kick over 25 yards is going to miss.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the burlap-sack store. Back in January, Fat Kicker drilled a 37-yard kick to win a Sugar Bowl that Michigan had no business winning. Then he rolled into the 2012 season and kept making kicks -- 25/25 on XPs, 10/12 on FGs, with the only misses coming from 40+. Most recently, just this past Saturday, Michigan's kickers combined to go 4-4 on FGs, providing the only Michigan points in the first win over Michigan State in more than 1800 days. As Fat Kicker drilled the game-winner from 38 yards, I found myself thinking that there's zero chance Michigan would have won that game in that manner under Rich Rodriguez or Lloyd Carr or Gary Moeller. They might have won it under Bo Schembechler, but that's in large part because Bo fared well against George Perles' MSU squads near the end of Bo's career.
The parallels between my experience on Saturday and what it feels like to be a Texans fan in 2012 are both obivous and hilarious (in an ironic way). Prior to last season, no Texans fan considered Houston's defense to be great. At best, there were seasons where it was just noticeably less terrible than the David Carr-piloted offense. It was a given that, to win more than a few games, the Texans were going to have to have a lot of offense and a lot of luck. And I absolutely agree with Tim that there's no way a Texans team prior to 2011 wins that game on Sunday. Not after the pounding they took the week before.
But now? Now the Texans have a very, very good defense that is led by the most dominant defensive player in the league. They have a secondary that does not cause night terrors in the fanbase. They are balanced and fun to watch and capable of beating any team in the league. Even better, they are 6-1 going into their bye, in sole possession of the best record in the AFC. At this rate, the potential for seeing my two favorite teams win bowl games in the Superdome in consecutive years seems very real.
I might not even worry too much if this year's game also comes down to a Houston field goal attempt.
Number of rushing TDs your Houston Texans have allowed in 2012.
Number of other NFL teams who can say they have not allowed a rushing TD in 2012.
Number of games in which the Baltimore Ravens have given up more than the 43 points that they allowed on Sunday: 46 v. Patriots in 1996, 45 v. Broncos in 1996, 45 v. Jaguars in 1998, and 44 v. the Colts in 2007.
Number of games in which the Ravens have been defeated by a larger margin than they were on Sunday: 37 points v. the Steelers in 1997 and 31 points v. the Steelers in 2007.
Connor Barwin's stats through seven games in 2011: 16 tackles (12 solo), 2 sacks, 2 PD, 0 FR, 9 QB hits
Connor Barwin's stats through seven games in 2012: 16 tackles (14 solo), 1 sack, 3 PD, 1 FR, 5 QB hits (and this number is deflated because of one QBH negated by someone else's penalty and one negated by a roughing call on Barwin)
Leave Word In The Dust Where I Lay.
Despite the fact that I have a huge phobia about the idea of knowing exactly when I am going to die, I spend an odd amount of time actually thinking about my own death. How many people would come to my funeral? Who would cry? Who would deliver the eulogy? How many people know me well enough to know that I would want them to be incredibly drunk during the service? Would it be weird if I recorded a video statement to be played at the funeral, in which I ended the clip by blaring "Stand Up & Get Crunk" and encouraging people to celebrate instead of sitting there all sad?
Speaking of music and my impending demise (whenever that may be), I also spend a good deal of time thinking about song lyrics that would make a great epitaph. I generally try to keep it to a single line from a song, however; it seems like putting more than one line is trying too hard and, worse, makes it more about the lyric than about what the lyric says about you. Off the top of my head, my Top Six are:
"Sonsabitches always bored me." --Guy Clark, L.A. Freeway
"This life is like to kill me, but it sure has been fun." --Hayes Carll, The Letter
"You could have done better, but I don't mind." --Bob Dylan, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
"Any manual labor I've done was purely by mistake." --Jimmy Buffett, It's My Job
"Them that don't know him won't like him, and them that do sometimes won't know how to take him." --Waylon Jennings, Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
"If I leave you, it doesn't mean I love you any less; keep me in your heart for a while." --Warren Zevon, Keep Me In Your Heart
Number of games in which the Texans have scored as many points as they did on Sunday. The previous high was 42 in week 16 of 2007 against the Jaguars.
Number of games in which the Texans had a larger margin of victory than the 30-point win on Sunday: last season's 41-7 win over the Titans.
Number of turnovers forced by the Texans' defense in 2012. At this point in 2011, they had forced 12. The offense currently has surrendered six turnovers, the same total as at this point in 2011.
Number of TDs allowed by the Texans' D through seven games in 2012. At this point in 2011, they had allowed . . . wait for it . . . 12.
Houston's special teams DVOA through six weeks in 2012. This is "good" for 30th in the NFL.
Answer to the question, "Has Joe Marciano been fired yet?"
Because God hates BFD.
Answer to the follow-up question, "Well, why the hell not?!"
Because BFD touches himself to teenage memories of Lillian Gish.
Answer to the follow-up to the follow-up.
Number of players with longer active streaks of consecutive games with at least one reception than Andre Lamont Johnson. The list: Tony Gonzalez - 185, Larry Fitzgerald - 124, Reggie Wayne - 102, Wes Welker -102, and Anquan Boldin - 100. Dre sits at 93 straight. The all-time record is (predictably) Jerry Rice with (amazingly) 274.
I need to acknowledge a little bit of fantasticness from one of the BRBtards. Last week, many of the 2DH comments offered up Unfortunate Plot Summaries (UPS). There were several that were very good. But one . . . one of them was the most perfect UPS I've ever seen:
The answer, of course, is Brian's Song. If you don't realize how absolutely stellar WakePhil's summary is -- or, at the very least, realize why someone with my sense of humor would find it so perfect -- then I can only assume you haven't seen the movie. Or you're a humorless jackhole whose only redeeming quality is that you will someday die.
And, yes, the fact that Brian Piccolo attended Wake Forest makes this even better. Well done, Phil. Well done.
Rushing TDs for Arian Foster in 2012, the most in the NFL right now. The second-most rushing TDs right now? Robert Griffin III with 6. Three running backs (Ray Rice, Alfred Morris, and Shonn Greene) have 5.
Consecutive regular-season games in which Arian Foster has scored at least one TD (whether rushing or receiving). He has TDs in 15 of the last 16 games (including the playoffs), scoring a total of 24 TDs in that span. Oddly enough, the only game of the sixteen in which he didn't have a TD? The December 11, 2011 win over the Bengals that punched the Texans' playoff ticket for the first time.
Career games (including playoff games) for Arian Foster.
Career TDs (including playoff TDs) for Arian Foster.
Random '90s Rap Video.
Looking for a picture of J.J. Watt for the Pregame last week, I stumbled across this gem from the internet's collective memory. It's a fundraiser page from July 2007, in which a young J.J. Watt -- Wisconsin State High School Defensive Player of the Year -- is attempting to raise at least $1200 for charity. I love the way that this page could have been written by Watt yesterday and would probably read much the same as it does now.
Thanks to everyone's great support I have already reached my initial goal of raising $1,200. That is awesome. Thanks to those who have donated, it really means a lot. And just because we have reached our goal does not mean that we have to stop. There is still plenty of time left, and every dollar counts to the children in need. Thanks so much for everyones kindness and generosity!
PS - If anyone would like tickets to the 2007 High School All-Star game, please email me at Ptownathlete5@hotmail.com. I am going to try and get every donor that would like them a free pair of tickets. Thanks again!
Passes defended needed by J.J. Watt over the next 9 games to break the record for a defensive lineman -- 13, set by the little-known Reggie White in 1991. Watt's 10 PDs are more than all but one player in the NFL (CB Richard Sherman has 11).
Sacks needed by J.J. Watt over the next 9 games to break the franchise single-season record in that category.
Bizarre Statistical Anomaly.
Only two Texans players have had at least one sack, interception, interception-touchdown, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and fumble recovery for a TD: Petey Faggins and Benard Pollard.
One of the best parts of BBQ in America is the regional differences. Yet, sadly, many people are wholly unfamiliar with these regional styles. This season, the 2DH is going to feature a different BBQ region and a recipe from that region. This week: Northern Alabama.
For the most part, BBQ is Northern Alabama is similar to what you would find in central Tennessee -- an amalgam of dry-rubbed ribs and pulled pork, with distinct sauce influences from Memphis and from North Carolina. You can probably find someone in the area who does brisket properly, but the safer bet will almost always be to eschew brisket in lieu of pork once you're this far east of Texas.
There is one thing, however, that sets Northern Alabama apart and makes the area its own sort of miniature BBQ region. That thing is white sauce.
Originally created at Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur, AL, white sauce is a mayonnaise-based concoction that smoked chicken is dunked into immediately after coming off the pit. It also works as a fantastic binder for making chicken salad out of leftover BBQed chicken. It's good on a pulled pork sandwich if you either have no slaw on the sandwich or the slaw you are using doesn't have much mayo in it. I assume someone could put it on brisket, but that would only serve to mark that person as a likely serial killer, so it should be avoided.
I have seen white sauce as far south as Gulf Shores, AL, and nearly any BBQ place worth its salt in the northern half of Alabama will have some variety of the sauce, but it's almost impossible to find once you get out of Alabama (which you should do as quickly as possible as a general rule). What follows is my version of the sauce, created from combining a number of recipes and figuring out what I liked.
MDC's Alabama White Sauce
1 c. mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip!)
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. apple juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. creamy horseradish
1 tbsp. granulated garlic
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Use a bowl large enough to accommodate the sauce plus chicken. I like to smoke half chickens, then dunk them in the sauce straight off the pit. Discard any sauce used for dunking. Make a second batch (or separate part of this batch before dunking) if you want some extra to drizzle on the chicken prior to serving.
Variations: if you'd like the sauce a little thinner, increase vinegar or apple juice a tbsp at a time (depending on your preferred flavor). Salt can be adjusted to taste as well. I keep it low in this recipe to account for salt in the rub on the meat.
TXT MSGS of the Week.
So that was the best thing ever. I'm utterly shocked at the level of destruction. You called the blowout, though. Well done.
4 for 13? If Flacco is elite, Mark Sanchez is the Mexican Joe Montana.
Jacoby was just talking shit to Marciano on the sideline. And it is probably deserved. "Maybe you should've actually taught me to catch, bitch!"
 No, I haven't watched all 328 games -- though I've probably watched 2/3 of them -- but that's not the point, as any fan knows. Even if you don't see the game, you experience the win or loss on the macro level.
 Hayden Epstein, if you were curious.
 I refuse to commit his name to memory. Google informs me that Fat Kicker also answers to "Brendan Gibbons."