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Game Charting Notes: Patriots-Texans, Week 17, First Half

(For those of you unfamiliar with this segment from From Mom's Basement, here is a brief explanation: I am a game charter for Football Outsiders.  Game charting entails a lot of data entry that is used by FO to create unique stats, such as number of blitzers, results for the main defender on a pass play, and broken tackles, among others.  Because of the incredible amount of detail involved in this, it usually takes about 2 1/2-3 hours to chart a single half.  Some plays will be wound and rewound 10 or more times to try and pick them completely apart.  The following are observations from the half I was assigned to (always a Texans game, asides from bye weeks).  Earlier weeks can be found here.)

- Connor Barwin had his best half of the year.  He notched a half-sack against Sebastian Volmer, who is no slouch in pass protection, and also broke up a sweep in the backfield by beating Matt Light to the outside.  As with most of the Houston defensive linemen, it'd be nice if he learned an inside move, but it's a good sign that he's been getting a consistent rush for the last part of the season.  Barwin still doesn't have a lot of experience playing defensive line, but his pass-rush talent is undeniable.  A full year of training camp should really help him, and if he can play the run a little more honest, he may be chomping at Antonio Smith's ankles next year.  With one of Mario Williams' best games of the season as well, this was one of the few times that the Texans defense actually got somewhat consistent pass pressure this year.  Well, asides from the play where Tom Brady had aeons to throw and somehow (*cough*Bernard Pollard*cough*) Randy Moss ended up wide open in the middle of the field.

- Despite the results, the only blitzes that Frank Bush called that actually ended up affecting the pressure are the zone blitzes.  Frank's other wild ideas are "Bring Cushing" or "Bring DeMeco".  The one zone blitz that I charted that qualified under FO's standards (the person dropping back has their hand down) led to a Mario Williams pressure and a throw away, and another one that didn't involve this (LB at the line of scrimmage dropping into coverage) was Cushing getting pressure and another throw away.

-As much as I love bigfatdrunk man-crush Glover Quin, I do think that if he wants to stay at corner, he's going to have to work on his side-to-side speed.  He only gave up 3 completions on 6 targets, all of which were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, but they ended up going for 12, 25, and 8 yards.  He was picked by the ref on one of these plays, but this isn't the first time that Quin has struggled with the underneath man on a double route this year.  I still think his tools translate better as a free safety, but I'm willing to give him a year to prove me wrong.  

-In a Patriots related note, I guess I have this mental image of them as a team that does a ton of 4-wide spread offense (primarily directed by Bill Simmons' griping), but they really were a lot more complex than that.  A lot of their spread packages are 2 TE's, which means they still have plenty of blockers, but they ran plenty of non-spread plays in the first half of this game.  They even ran a few unbalanced sets with 6 offensive lineman (Mark LeVoir, come on down!) up front in non-goal line situations.  Of course, these were ineffective, and probably a bit of this was "putting ideas in your playoff opponent's head", but they didn't seem too married to the pass.

-Why did Gary Kubiak elect not to run the ball on 3rd and goal in the second quarter?  I understand the Texans haven't had much of a run game all year, but this was one of the few games where their offensive line seemed to be getting adequate push up front.  On that drive alone, the Texans had gains of 13, 4, and 3.  On 2nd & 2, Arian Foster got them 1.  If Kubiak was going for it on fourth down anyway, might as well just run it on third instead of trying to force it to Vonta Leach on the play-action fake.  In hindsight it worked out anyway, but it seemed like he was stuck in the season long mindset instead of how the game was unfolding.  Then again, he also kept sending Kris Brown out there long after everyone in the stadium wanted him tarred and feathered.  At least he's consistent with his mindset, unlike some crazy guy who pulled his starting quarterback at the end of the second and put him back in after halftime.

-James Casey isn't going to get on the field more until he improves his blocking.  Or until he wears a jersey that says "Daniels" on it.  

-One of the silent killers of the season: while the offensive line takes plenty of (deserved) blame for the poor running game, Leach seems to slip under the radar because he once had an award named after him at a website whose name I'm struggling to remember.  Da Good, Da Bad, and DeMarcus Faggins?  Something like that.  Anyway, Leach blew at least two blocking assignments in this half.  If it came out tomorrow that he underwent surgery, I would not be the least bit surprised.  He didn't seem like the same player at all this year.

-The success of Foster pretty much rules out a selection of a running back in the top two rounds in my mind.  Not only does his addition mean that the Texans go into next year with two young backs with promise, but it also is another score for the Denver philosophy that solid running backs are completely replaceable and easy to pick up.  Foster continues to be incredibly hard to tackle and, as I've brought up before, reminds me of Domanick Davis in every way, shape, and form.  Right down to the jersey number.

-Controversial statement: Brian Russell was much better than John Busing has been.  I'm not campaigning for Russell's return or anything, it's just pretty telling of how bad Busing has been all year.

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