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Tape Study: Texans 30, Redskins 27 -- Showdown At Play Action Creek (I)

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As far as the list of "scary things for Texans fans" goes, I'm now adding Kareem Jackson to the list as a probationary member. I'll lift him if and when it becomes clear that he's planning to not get beat deep by Joey Galloway anymore, but for now, I have to think that he's just the third best corner on the team.

A few times last season, I invoked the comparison of the Texans secondary to a scale. Adding Bernard Pollard to the team made a huge dent in the problems that the Texans have had in the run game, but placing him, John Busing, and Dunta Robinson in the lineup at the same time really made it hard for the team to play effective pass defense in their base formation. When Eugene Wilson was healthy, he somewhat solved that, but I don't think he's playing at the level he played at even one season ago at this point. As a result, they're back to square one: needing a consistently good pass rush to bail them out of drives while they helplessly straddle the line between "praying Frank Bush's zone coverage ever works" and "trying not to let the cornerbacks get too toasty". When that pass rush doesn't show up, you get problems like "the entire first three quarters of this game." 

I'm not sure Brian Cushing coming back solves that problem, either. The Texans had the offseason to come up with a CB or a S that would solidify things until the pups took their licks, and they didn't find one cost-efficient or young enough to fit their system. I know correlation doesn't equal causation, but for your information: The Texans forced Indianapolis into 0 points and Peyton Manning into 4.6 YPA with Connor Barwin on the field. Since he left, this defense has been pathetic. Yes Aaron Schobel, that is my plea to you to unretire. And for Rick Smith to find out if his phone can dial someone over the age of 29.

Behind the jump, with our 56K warning, we look at the big gainers the Texans gave up, poor pass blocking by a pterodactyl, praise Kevin Walter for things beyond catching, and question the offensive playcalling.

Deep Thoughts

The Texans defense didn't look bad at all against the run. Hell, Shaun Cody even blew up a play in the backfield. But when you give up four separate 20+ yard pass plays, that tends to be overlooked. Here are your first half deep balls (20 yard gains or 20+ yard attempts):

1) Mike Sellers rumbles free when Zac Diles gets picked by Santana Moss. It doesn't help that the Texans blitzed on this play.

2) Bernard Pollard is double-moved by Chris Cooley in a zone. Feel free not to watch the below video if you are of the opinion that Pollard is Jesus in cleats. 

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3) Galloway beats the entire team deep. I don't know if Jackson was the sole arsonist or if someone else helped him suck on this play, I'd imagine that it was just him, but it would be really nice if CBS could've given us a replay that showed more than the catch itself to be sure.

4) Sellers gets open deep on a route where Diles cost-efficiently guarded him to the best of his dollars, but dropped the ball. Diles: great in coverage when things are in front of him, not so much deep.

5) The Fred Davis catch, which was more brilliant play-design than a bad Texans play. Watch how he originally BLOCKS, then comes out completely unguarded. Think Kyle Shanahan knew that the Texans base defense has a tendency to bite on the first read?

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You might also not be surprised to learn that eight of the sixteen Redskins passes in the first half were off play-action. Or that all five of those plays I listed were off PA. The Scholar's Mate defense was exposed on Sunday: how much of that you want to attribute to the players themselves and how much of that you want to attribute to the Washington coaching staff is up to you. But they definitely knew Frank Bush.

(You'll notice I didn't show or mention Clinton Portis' block on Wilson. MDC took care of that for us.)

Dactyl Nest blown up by Lavos

I sort of recounted this in the postgame thread, but Schaub's interception early in the quarter came about because he really was left with no choice. The Texans came out with a very unusual three tight-end front on second down and nine, then they had all but one of those tight ends block, along with Foster. So they have nine guys in the pocket, two out to receive, Johnson runs a go route and Daniels runs inside. LaRon Landry comes off the edge and just runs right over Arian Foster.

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Schaub can either a) take the sack, b) throw the ball away for intentional grounding and pretty much guarantee the drive is over, or c) try and force it in and pray for the best. He picked C, and Foster and the play design are both to blame. You just can't allow a team to get pressure when you're blocking with eight guys. 

Otherwise, I have to give a lot of the credit for the first-half pass rush to Landry, who was excellent. Brisiel and Winston both missed blocks on him out of sheer shock. You'll often see a safety blitz and he'll run into an offensive lineman and that's it, but I can't recall seeing very many safeties come up with spin moves like this:

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I mean, what do you do about that? I'm sure safeties have done moves like that in the past but I'm willing to bet it's pretty rare. I'm willing to write off a bit of the pressure because of this, and Duane Brown did hold Brian Orakpo down pretty well in the first half. Foster struggled in pass protection though, and that has to be a bit disconcerting for his all-around back status.

A hastily written quip about hair picks

Kevin Walter, 11 balls, 11 catches. Excellent. We're ready to eat crow on that. Are we ready to acknowledge his route-running too though? Take a look at Jacoby Jones' touchdown:

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Jones got the catch, but why was he wide open? Walter's route-running dragged Jones' man clear across the field. This wasn't the only play in the first half where he successfully picked someone either. I don't want to call it an intangible, because we can quantify it, but that's something that doesn't show up in a players stat sheet that really matters. 

Basically: Andre Johnson is a beast. Andre Johnson delivered the knockout blow to the Redskins on fourth and ten. Kevin Walter did more, overall, to help the Texans win yesterday. 

"HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM AND THAT PROBLEM IS THAT WE CANT BE ORIGINAL WHEN IT COMES TO WRITING HOUSTON BASED HEADLINES" THE HEADLINE

There were quite a few complaints throughout the game threads about how little the Texans were actually running Arian Foster, including some from yours truly. Looking back at the play-by-play, only a few playcalls really bother me. A lot of the problem of getting Foster involved came from Foster simply not "staying on schedule," to use a Kubiak term. He was stuffed on first down a few times for minimal gain. 

1st & 10, HOU 25, 8:54 1Q: The Texans come out from the shadow of their own end zone (thanks Slaton) with a Walter play-action pass, then instead of letting the run game go to work, come out in a five wide set that nets a total of one yard on a quick out to David Anderson

1st & 10, HOU 44, 6:25 1Q: Foster and Slaton have combined for runs of ten, seven, and seven yards in the past three plays. The Texans push their luck with Slaton and get a two yard gain that throws them off schedule. I just don't trust Slaton enough at this point to let him take 1st & 10 carries.

Here's the other thing though: The Redskins, last year, according to FO, were the worst team in the NFL at defending screen passes. Arian Foster caught a fifty yard screen pass near the very end of the third quarter. The Redskins were aggressively blitzing (13 out of 21 plays). The Texans, seeing all these factors, decided to run a grand total of zero screens in the first half. In fact, the Texans didn't run any screens against Indianapolis either. They were the best screen team in the league last year, and now they barely even run the play? Mind boggling.