Okay, I was non-existent for this week's live game blog and it was with good reason, I was fulfilling my commitment to the USAFR. Now, be being the true fan that I am, I had my better half record it and didn't watch what happened until after the game had long been decided. That's not to say that I didn't have an idea of what happened - a chance meeting with my unit's only other proclaimed Texans fan pretty much clued me in - his expression told me all I needed to know...
So with the power of DVR, I watched the game twice... first time building a buzz, and the next stinking drunk. Now, the funny thing is that I didn't start taking game notes until the second game. The following is based on what I saw with my two bloodshot eyes.
It all starts with Matt Schaub. In all honesty, the new number eight looked as bad as the old number eight. He didn't have the super choppy feet and the quirky delivery, but he was definitely rattled. On the first series, the line gave him a nice pocket and he screwed up two throws in a row. Maybe it was the prospect of facing his nemesis in Haynesworth, or maybe it was the pressure to live up to the team's expectations - either way, the opening series set the tone for the game and it was piss poor. The blame is squarely on Matt's shoulders.
But Schaub wasn't the only one on offense who screwed the pooch. As the game went on, there were blown assignments and poor decision making in the blocking game that cost the team points. Take the play where Haynesworth sacked Schaub: It's third and twelve and they send Taylor into the flat. The tight end releases straight up the field, giving Matt five targets. The Titans showed blitz, but dropped back into zone coverage, rushing only four. The Texans had a five on four advantage to counter the Titans' pass rush. The Titans moved Albert to the right DE slot and move KVB to the middle. For some unfathomable reason, Chris Myers joins Chester Pitts, who has already turned KVB around at the point of attack, all the while leaving the rookie Duane Brown to fend off a bull-rushing Fat Albert by himself. Albert barrels through Brown, the pocket collapses from the outside in, and there goes any hope at building momentum.
Hey AJ, it's called Stickum. You're awesome, but two drops in the end zone?
Now what really killed me about the offense were the play calls at critical points in the game. By taking points off the board over and over again on 4th down in the red zone, they left this team without a sense of accomplishment. Do they not remember the game where Rob Bironas beat us with eight field goals? It's called chipping away at the lead. From early on, I remember that the conventional wisdom stated that you never take points off the board, and that's exactly what they did. It did more than cost us the game; it set this team back mentally. A 31 to 12 beatdown is a 31 to 12 beatdown, no matter how or when the points were scored. And that one is on Kubiak and whoever else thought it was a good idea to keep going for it on fourth down instead of putting points on the board.
If the offensive line was blowing assignments, they must have learned it from the defense. You talk about playing out of position. First Tennessee TD was due in large part to two missed tackles--one by C.C. Brown and one huge whiff by Zac Diles.
The Texans managed to get Tennessee into a third and ten from the middle of the red zone, but one poor tackle was the difference between a big red zone stop and a momentum building touchdown. Chris Johnson was swung out to the flat and Diles was a step slow to react. Although Diles met CJ at the LOS, he wasn't in position to make a clean tackle. CJ darted for nine yards and gave the Titans a good look at it. The Fish goes for it on fourth down and a simple misdirection gets both Okam and Bentley to cheat and crash to the left, leaving a huge hole for LenDale to bounce into. Titans go up 7 to 3 and never look back.
Diles was also the culprit on the Bo Scaife TD. He bit terribly on the play action and scrambled to get back into the play that his coming right at him. Scaife released right passed him as he opts to chase down Collins instead of covering the TE. The result is an easy pitch and catch for a TD. Diles had better step it up or he's going to find himself exclusively on kickoff coverage. Mix in another missed tackle on Chris Johnson that let him squirt out for 14 and it's safe to say that Diles had the worst game of his brief career as a Texan.
But the one huge mistake that stuck in my mind came on the Kerry Collins 3rd and 1 - 17 yard scramble. Safety Brandon Harrison was brought into the box pre-snap on a 3rd and 1. He was set up behind Mario, but in front of the linebackers, presumably to stop an outside run. When the ball was snapped, Mario was immediately engaged by the tight end and for some reason that defies logic, Harrison decided to join Mario and also engaged the tight end... problem is - HE'S A FUCKING SAFETY. Collins saw a huge lane to run through and all Harrison could do was turn around and watch the QB amble right through his zone. If you have the game recorded, and want to see it, it's right around the 3:00 mark of the first quarter. It was bad.
Now before I choke down a bottle of downers, I'd like to remind everyone that it is still early in the season. The chance for this team to start moving in the right direction is still out there. Two bad games don't make for a season, and I'm not ready to see this team throw in the towel.
I think we saw some shimmers of hope with the abilities of Slaton. He has a solid skill set to go with his good initial burst. Once he gets better acclimated to the NFL, we should see him make better decisions. His willingness to run inside is great, but he has to keep in mind that when the defense crashes the middle, he needs to bounce it outside. That being said, it was his first start and he did really well. Keep it up, rook. I still think we need to get a downhill runner to compliment Slaton, but I have a feeling that will come somewhere down the line.
We still have two of the best defensive players on the planet. Their supporting cast has been atrocious at times, and mediocre at others. If this team hopes to contend any time in the near future, they have to build around those two players. They have to bring in a hard hitting, ball-hawking safety and continue to find someone who can get a push from the inside of that line.
Although I called him out earlier for biting on the misdirection, I would definitely like to see more of Okam and less of Zgonina. Okam's a huge body who demanded double teams on more than one occasion. Like Slaton and Brown, he's finally getting his feet wet. With his aptitude, it won't be long before he becomes a bigger part of this line.
So there you have it. The feeling is a lot different from last year when we shot out of the gate 2-0. With losses comes frustration, and with frustration comes panic. As fans, we can do all the panicking we want, but the team would be better served to have a short memory and get ready for the next one, because it's not going to get any easier.