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Post-Game Breakdown: Consistently Inconsistent

Today's loss to the Browns may serve as the reality check even the most optimistic Houston fan (myself included) needed.  That is to say, maybe our renewed giddiness was a bit premature.  This was, after all, a 6-10 team last year.  For all of the flashes of promise your Houston Texans have shown this season, the fact remains that winning on the road in the NFL is tough.  And beating a winning team on the road is even tougher.  If we had forgotten that, we should remember it now.  

This isn't to say I'm not still bullish on the current regime, the vast majority of the roster, and the coaching staff.  I am.  I firmly believe that the best of Texans football is yet to come, and we've seen spurts of it this season.  And we're going to see further progress during the next five (5) weeks.  Just the same, we're going to see the growing pains of a team learning to win.  That's what we saw today.  The Texans made mistakes.  They got outplayed, and there's surely a case to be made that the staff got outcoached.  Both the team and the coaches are going to learn from this, and they'll rebound.  As disappointing as today's game was, the season ain't over.  If the Texans can regroup and pull out a win in Nashville next Sunday, things won't look nearly as bleak, with home dates against Tampa Bay, Denver, and Jacksonville to follow.  I guess what I'm trying to say's all going to work out.  If we made it through a two (2) win season, we can weather the intermittent valleys now.  Thoughts on today's game:

  1.  Owen Daniels is a helluva TE.  He does, however, need to learn to hang on to the *&^@!ing ball.  As Solis noted here, his fumble in the third quarter was the turning point of the game.  The entire complexion of the contest changes if the Texans tie the game at 17 or cut the lead to 4 on that drive.  As well as the offense was moving the ball there, it was backbreaking to come out of it without any points.
  2.  Apostrophe Davis played really, really well in his return to his old stomping grounds.  The more I see of him in the fully operational offense, the more I think he's got the ability to be a four (4) catch, forty (40) yard contributor most weeks.
  3.  Kevin Walter continues to make a difference in the middle of the field.  We can criticize Kubes all we want for a lot of his decisions and/or management, but his stubborn insistence that K-Dub was a legitimate No. 2 WR should not be one of them.
  4.  Speaking of criticism:  The Browns assigned rookie CB Brandon McDonald to cover All-Universe WR Andre Johnson for much of the day.  You'd think this would result in McDonald getting picked on like he was Petey Faggins, right?  Nope.  'Dre was a non-factor all day, and McDonald did an excellent job for the few passes that were thrown his way.  McDonald's apparent prowess aside, I find it highly troubling that Houston's No. 1 offensive weapon was rendered invisible by the second-worst passing defense in the league.  It seemed like 'Dre couldn't even get a look, much less a reception.
  5.  Have Kubiak and Sherman decided that Jacoby Jones' highest and best use on offense is as a decoy?  Or strictly as a tool on the reverse?  Because there sure doesn't seem to be any rush to actually use his speed downfield.
  6.  Man...Jacoby was so freaking close to taking that first punt back to the house.
  7.  Ron Dayne continues to chug along at a solid clip.  Given the success he had this afternoon, I was puzzled as to why the offensive scheme abandoned him for series at a time in the second half (even before the deficit ballooned to 17 points).  He may not be a twenty-five (25) carry per game RB, but I thought the sixteen (16) carries he received were about four (4) too few, particularly when the Houston defense was gasping for air on the sideline.  One more thing about Dayne--I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the UNBELIEVABLE job he did in picking up the blitz.  I don't think you can do it any better than he did it this afternoon.
  8.  They say that you've done your job as an offensive lineman when no one knows your name.  Well, the names of Eric Winston and Chester Pitts are known to every Houston fan today.  After rarely jumping for the first half of the season, Winston has moved early more than anyone the past few weeks.  And hate to say that one holding penalty significantly impacted the game, but his completely unnecessary hold that brought back Dayne's twelve-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter hurt.  A LOT.
  9.  Matt Schaub looked so damn great in the first quarter, and so damn subpar after that.  One of his two picks was simply horrific; the other was the result of a deflection off Joel Dreessen that was either due to (a) great defensive play or (b) defensive holding.  Schaub also got away with a few throws that were just asking to be picked, whether due to him not seeing a defender or him throwing into double or triple coverage.  And for the first time all season, I thought Schaub was too slow to throw it away, which led to one of the two (2) sacks and/or risky incompletions.  As bad as the Cleveland defense played up until today, I thought Schaub would have a field day.  Nope.  Instead, he too often looked overmatched.  Have to get that fixed before Haynesworth (if he returns) & Co., fellas.
  10.  Matt Turk stunk today.  
  11.  Kris Brown didn't look good either, though one (1) bad game after a season's worth of excellence gets you a mulligan here.
  12.  When Jamal Lewis gashes you for 134 yards and spends the better part of the second half rolling ahead at nine (9) yards a carry, it's not a good day.  Despite those statistics, the Texans' run defense performed admirably, frequently stuffing the Browns on 3rd and short, particularly in the first half and early second half.  They were simply dominated in the later third and entire fourth quarter, which I think was due in large part to fatigue, courtesy of the offense's complete failure to get anything going.
  13.  I thought the Browns would have a big day through the air; it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.  Nearly half of Derek Anderson's 253 yards came via Kellen Winslow, Jr.  While I remain disturbed that Richard Smith looked like he refused to adjust to Winslow, the fact is that he's a match-up nightmare regardless of what you do.  He's too fast for linebackers, and he's too big for most defensive backs.  Sort of like Owen Daniels, except without the allergic reaction to pigskin.
  14.  All I want for Christmas is the incorporation of the blitz into the defensive game plan each week.  As usual, Richard Smith refused to send anyone other than the front four for 98% of the game.  When he did, however, send a linebacker or two...
  15.  Super Mario got another sack and forced a fumble (that was recovered by Cleveland).  Staying on Mario--if you still doubt his impact, make it a point to watch what he deals with every snap.  I've reached a point where tackles could shoot him in the chest with a bazooka without a flag being thrown, and it wouldn't surprise me.
  16.  DeMeco Ryans better be in Hololulu come February, and today wasn't even anywhere close to his best game.
  17.  Danny Clark hits people.  Hard.  In the mouth.  Ask Joshua Cribbs.
  18.  Amobi Okoye looked more active today than he has the past couple of weeks.  Is he getting his second wind and running through the rookie wall?
  19.  Was anyone else disgusted by how much Travis Johnson was running his mouth?  After the Browns had the game well in hand?  Did Jamal Lewis say something about Tr. Johnson's mother or something?  If not, he'd probably be wise to save the sassmouth for a time when he actually stops the opposing player BEFORE he picks up seven yards.
  20.  Will Demps does not appear to like to tackle low.  I question that strategy, especially when hitting high still results in being dragged an additional eight (8) yards.
  21.  Fred Bennett got used a few times (as any young DB will), but his improvement each game is noticeable.  His INT of Anderson (not to mention the subsequent return) was huge, and it would have been even bigger if the Houston offense hadn't been so anemic today.  He's got another five (5) games to further cement his status as a starting CB on the 2008 team.
  22.  Fake Game Balls:  Offense--Ron Dayne.  Defense--Fred Bennett.  Special Teams--J.J. Moses.  What's that?  He's not on the team anymore?  Oh...then...Jacoby Jones, for almost breaking a punt return.
Your Houston Texans travel to Tennessee this week to take on the struggling minions of Bud Adams.  Let's hope that Kubes has the squad ready to play four (4) quarters instead of one (1) this time.