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The Sky Isn't Falling, It's Just Another Satellite

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Drew Brees scans the field to identify Kareem Jackson and the location of his next completion.
Drew Brees scans the field to identify Kareem Jackson and the location of his next completion.

Well, there goes the 16-0 season. 

Now that we've all had a few days to reflect on the past weekend's game, hopefully everybody has had a chance to relax and appreciate that one bad fourth quarter does not a season make.

Perhaps Matt Schaub isn't the worst quarterback in the history of mankind.  Sure, he threw a big interception late in the game, but he's also a major reason why the team was in position to win.  If you fault him for that, you have to credit him for the gorgeous touchdown to James Casey.  Maybe he's not the source of all that is bad in the world, like the economy and this

And yes, Mario Williams registered only a single measly tackle and no sacks, but let's not go overboard and label him a bust.  I mean, I realize that we would have been better off drafting Melvin Oliver number one, but as far as mistakes go, can't we at lest agree that this mistake was worse?

I'm not here to be Little Miss Sunshine (which is a totally underrated movie) -- there is plenty of blame to go around for that horrible fourth quarter -- but let's try to take an honest look at the good and bad of Sunday's game.

Because of my ADD, we're going to do this in bullet form.
  • It seems to me that most of the blame is being directed at the offense's performance (or lack thereof) in the red-zone.  While I'm not letting them off the hook, that's essentially saying, "If only the offense could have put up 47 points," which kind of seems to be ignoring the planetoid nose tackle in the room (if only).  The biggest thing that happened during that fourth quarter is that Drew Brees -- who apparently started calling his own plays in the fourth quarter -- realized that he could just throw underneath Kareem Jackson (and the other DBs to a lesser extent) at will, and the Texans defense was unable to adjust.
  • With a few plays aside, the defensive line was unable to make life uncomfortable for Drew Brees.  I didn't track this specifically, but I seem to recall Mario getting a large number of double teams before his knee injury, which means Connor Barwin likely had a lot of one-on-one opportunities.  I haven't yet re-watched the game, though, so I can't say that for certain.  A lot of credit here has to go to the Saints offensive line and to Drew Brees, who was able to shift around enough to avoid the pressure when it was there.  Still, I'd much rather be giving that credit to the Texans' line.
  • The red-zone offense was weak and it's hard to say if it was play calling or execution.  Kubiak says the plays were there to be made, but it appears that the offense was just uncomfortable.  There was one particular play in the second quarter where the Texans were coming off a time out on 3rd and 9 from the 9 and were completely out of synch.  Again, it's hard to say if that's on Kubiak, the receivers, or Schaub, but it's inexcusable when you just had a timeout. 
  • That said, the offense did score 33 points.  That is more production than in any game last year except three:  two 34 point outputs in Week 1 against Indianapolis and Week 17 against Jacksonville, and one 35 point output in Week 6 against Kansas City.  In 2009, the team had three 34 point games, which were the only times they had more output than they did on Sunday.  To say that another way, the 2009 and 2010 Texans, who were ranked second and eleventh in DVOA respectively, only ever put up more points six times combined and never exceeded Sunday's output by more than two points. 
  • On the other hand, the New Orleans Saints have put up 34 points and 30 points in their first two weeks this year against defenses that were ranked second and sixth respectively in defensive DVOA last season.  They had a bit of a down year last year, but this same offense put up over 40 points five times during their Super Bowl campaign of 2009.  This doesn't excuse our defensive performance any more than the previous bullet excuses our red-zone performance, but I just put it here to try to provide some context.
  • I was surprised to see that Advanced NFL Stats had Andre Johnson with a -0.10 win probability added and -1.3 expected points added.  Clearly, he didn't have a bad game, so what gives?  It seems that this is due to Andre's 53% catch rate and 50% success rate (success rate calculates how often he got the necessary yardage).  You have to be careful when applying these stats to receivers because they're so dependent on other players.  For example, Andre is hurt by the last play, the interception, and the play I mentioned earlier coming out of the timeout (which I'm inclined to put on Schaub because he threw the ball when none of the receivers looked ready for a pass), even though he's not really at fault for those plays.  Furthermore, Andre was limited to two catches in the second half.  It seems like New Orleans locked in on Andre and dared anyone else to beat them.  Outside of James Casey and a fluky play to Kevin Walter, nobody stepped up.
  • Speaking of that fluky play, when it happened, I immediately thought to myself that if the Texans win because of that play, people would be coming out of the woodwork saying that they got lucky.  Seeing as this team has lost games due to the Rosencopter and Q-Tip, I'll be damned if I ever apologize for winning on a lucky play.  In fact, I'd say we're due (screw you, Gambler's Fallacy!).  
  • While some will say that we really miss Arian Foster in the red zone, I think the area where we miss him even more is in the passing game.  Ben Tate is just not as reliable catching the ball out of the backfield.  Arian also has an incredible ability to make the first guy tackle air, thus giving him much bigger plays.  It's a part of his game that was completely overlooked last year.  I heard some fantasy head go off recently about how he expects Chris Johnson to still be a top 10 running back, but Arian Foster won't be in the top 15 because of Ben Tate.  I think this element is what gets Foster back on the field the majority of the time and makes him incredibly valuable in both a fantasy and real football sense.
  • Lastly, how about that James Casey?  It's no surprise to Texans fans that he finally showed what he can do in the passing game.  I wouldn't expect 100 yard receiving games each week, but his presence alone now will force defenses to have to cover him, thus making match-ups with other receivers that much more difficult.  When Foster comes back, the Texans will have four players (Andre, OD, Casey, and Foster) that are among the best receivers at their respective position. 

I think that's enough for now.  Ultimately, the team is still damn good (we know that), the offense is still very productive (we know that too), fault for this loss cannot go to one person (we should know that), and the defense is neither as good as they looked in the first two weeks nor as bad as they looked last week (we damn well should know that too).

There are a lot of areas this team needs to improve on, and this last weekend was as good an indication of that as any.  A few weeks ago, we saw predictions that ranged from 9-7 to 13-3, but one thing that all those weeks have in common is that they result in at least a few weekends that end badly. 

Hopefully this becomes one of only a few.

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