Sometimes the random nuggets of memory that are stored in my brain confuse me. I can't for the life of me remember the name of a company that I may end up doing business with, but I remember vividly one time in freshman year chemistry when a girl suggested that hot dogs were magnetic. The former is rather important to my every day life right now, while the latter has never provided me any value what so ever, and wasn't even that funny (although I've now used it for an opening paragraph, so I guess I have that going for me - which is nice).
One of those random memory nuggets (mmm... memory nugget...) is a line that a business professor in undergrad said about how to approach your boss when trying to recommend he/she read a particular news item. He said that you don't want to be abrasive and cocky and assume that your boss is unaware of current events for fear of coming off as a snobby jerk, but you also want to be fairly assertive and act like you know what you're talking about (Author's Note: Be forewarned that this may not in fact be valuable advice -- hence the disclaimer before this disclaimer).
He ultimately recommended going with the approach, "in case you missed this." He claimed that it was assertive enough without inadvertently putting your boss in position to have to acknowledge ignorance.
Also, in case you missed it, a pretty decent sized proportion of the civilized world feels that it's not that big a deal since we did the same thing last year and still sucked.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not the same thing. So, I kindly and politely ask you to please be a gentleman (or woman) and not miss it.Yes, it's true that the Texans have been in a similar position before. One year ago, the team with the awesome bull logo on the helmets beat the team with the ever-so-blah horseshoe on the helmet quite decisively in the first game of the season, only to go on to a 6-10 season while the shoe team won the division -- again.
And, yes, it's probably good advice to not start making hotel reservations in Indianapolis for the first weekend in February just yet (actually, if you can get the tickets, go ahead and book a room -- I'm betting they'll go quickly).
Still, while the overriding themes of the games are similar, the underlying context is quite different.
Last year, the Texans' victory can be summarized in two words: Arian Foster. Foster's day included 231 rushing yards on 33 carries (7.0 ypc) and three rushing touchdowns. It was record breaking, dominant, and pretty much the only thing the Texans had going.
Seriously, look at the rest of that game.
Schaub completed a measly 53% of his passes for 107 yards, which obviously meant sub-par days for the majority of the receiving corps. The defense, on the other hand, gave up 433 passing yards. Sure, Peyton Manning is a pretty decent quarterback, but he set a career high for completions and had the most passing yardage on opening day since 1933, so even by his standards that was a good day.
Schaub would bounce back and have a solid season, but the pass defense was a harbinger of things to come.
If you're reading this blog, you already know this story. The Texans went on to give up 403 yards to Donovan McNabb and the Redskins the following week, 284 to Romo the week after that, 245 to Bruce Gradkowski and the Raiders the week after that, and 297 to brother Manning the week after that, before holding Matt Cassel to a respectful 189. Of course that last one was really because the Chiefs stopped throwing once they realized they were going to rush to the tune of 228 yards. Cassel did, after all, complete 69% of his passes and throw for three touchdowns. Let's stop there. You've heard this bedtime story before.
This year, however, the Texans beat the Colts with an entire team effort. Schaub and the offense bounced back with a more typically strong performance, bad interceptions aside. The special teams definitely did their part with Jacoby Jones looking like his 2009 self and Danieal Manning reminding us all of the glory days of Andre' Davis. More importantly, though, the defense finally held up their end of the bargain.
I've heard some say that the fact that Collins was still learning the offense was a major contributing factor to the Texans' defensive dominance, and while that may be true to some extent, let me remind you that every starting quarterback that faced the Texans' defense in 2010 fared better than Collins did on Sunday, save two: Rusty Smith and Trent Edwards.
Among the future Hall of Famers who outperformed Collins were the aforementioned Bruce Gradkowski and Matt Cassel, Tim Tebow, and of course, Kerry Collins himself.
The 7 points given up by the Texans' defense were fewer than were given up in any game last season started by quarterbacks not named Rusty.
The 236 total yards surrendered were also lower than any game in 2010 minus the Rusty Smith outlier.
In fact, if you'll allow me to geek out for a second, if you take the total yards surrendered by the 2010 Texans and convert it to a probability distribution function, we can estimate that the 2010 version of the Texans' defense only had a 3.4% probability of holding an opponent to 236 yards or fewer. Performing the same exercise with points, and we see that they only had a 0.8% probability of holding a team to 7 points or fewer.
Actually, the only games in 2010 where the Texans held a team to fewer than 20 points were the Rusty Smith and Trent Edwards games (though Edwards and the Jaguars still hung 17 on us).
The simple fact of the matter is that setting aside the Peyton Manning and Kerry Collins issue, the 2010 Texans would likely still have given up more yards and points than the current model, and it's not even close.
This doesn't mean the Texans have the division wrapped up and we can all make plans to party in Mexico during the first round bye.
What it means is that when someone tells you that this game doesn't matter because they were in the same spot at this time last year, you can respond by saying, "No, the 2010 Texans were in that spot."
This year is different.