If you've been reading these posts for the past few seasons, you've undoubtedly picked up on my affinity for the lateHunter S. Thompson. As cliched as it may be these days, I still consider Dr. Gonzo to be one of my five favorite American authors of any era.
Perhaps that's why, as I spent much of yesterday thinking about the Monday Night loss, a quote from The Rum Diary kept running through my head:
I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I felt that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actor, kidding ourselves on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between those two poles - a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other - that kept me going.
It wasn't that I even expected Houston to win on Monday. I just expected . . . something better than that? I expected Matt Schaub not to get baited into late end-zone throws to Kevin Walter, while Arian Foster stood wide open with an above-average chance to score on the play:
I expected the Houston defense to realize far earlier than they did that Tom Brady likes to throw to the tight end in the red zone and, just perhaps, there should never be a play where Houston defenders are trying to figure out who has responsibility for Aaron Hernandez on a play from the 4-yard line:
I expected . . . hell, you get the picture. I expected the Texans to make a decent showing that, while ultimately falling short by 10-13 points, showed that this team is among the cream of the NFL. I got nothing of the sort, of course. Instead, there as a first quarter and most of a second quarter that had me sending drunken, disconsolate texts to Tim about how the 2012 Texans were not a team that could win the Super Bowl. Ultimately, I punched Santa Claus, more out of sadness than anger, I think.
By Tuesday morning, though, I'd backed off that position for the most part. As Rivers said in an email, "You can't really take anything new away from this game, can you? This game already happened in Week 6 against the same personnel." And, for the most part, he's right. We know that the Texans cannot matchup against any team that will spread the field with four WRs/TEs, happily take the six- and eight-yard passes until something opens deep, and force the Texans to abandon the running game to play catch-up through the air.
We know this, and we've known it for a while now.
That being the case, this game can't really change much of what you thought about the Texans prior to it, can it? If you had them penciled in for the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl, at most this game might make you add a caveat of "provided they don't have to play New England prior to that." But the optimism about the team should still be there . . . unless you are buying the sense that Monday foreshadowed an impending doom.
It's the tension between those two poles that keeps us going, I guess. Res ipsa loquitur . . . let the good times roll.
Games played by Arian Foster in his NFL career.
Total yards from scrimmage and TDs, respectively, for Foster in 48 games.
For The Sake Of Comparison, Through 48 Games.
Barry Sanders: 5,580; 48.
Marcus Allen: 5,481; 48.
Thurman Thomas: 5,099; 29.
Eric Dickerson: 6,088; 48.
LaDainian Tomlinson: 6,145; 42.
Chris Johnson: 5,655; 38.
Emmitt Smith: 5,034; 43.
Walter Payton: 5,357; 40.
Marshall Faulk: 4,508; 33.
Clinton Portis: 5,763; 38.
Number of running backs who began their career in 2009 or later who have more rushing yards than Arian Foster. LeSean McCoy is second with 3,776 to Foster's 4,245.
Procedural Errors On 34th St.
Speaking to my mom on the phone over the weekend, she mentioned in passing that she was watching Miracle On 34th St. I launched into a rant about how stupid that movie was, because, apparently, I'm under the impression that my family wants me to critique their small-talk.
Anyway, I realized after I hung up that I'd actually written about this movie before, and it was timely enough that I should reprint it here on the chance that some of you might see that film in the next two weeks.
Blah, blah, blah Macy's hires a dude who looks like Santa Claus and calls himself "Kris Kringle" when the store's usual Santa is too drunk to let kids sit on his lap without launching into a thirty-minute rant about how his ex-wife was a evil harridan. Or something like that.
Anyway, Ol' Man Kringle keeps telling people that, by golly, he IS Santa Claus! He repeats this bit of lunacy enough that people start to wonder about the fella. Macy's manager, apparently unimpressed that business in the store is fantastic thanks in part to Kringle, wants to fire him because she's convinced that he's thiiiis close to snapping and killing everyone in the store.
Mr. Macy --- who, you know, doesn't have the jingle bells to tell the manager that, if she fires Kringle, she will also be fired --- sends S dot Claus to a psychiatrist to get him checked out. In the course of his interview, the shrink irritates the old man (look, the manager was kind of right!) and Kringle whacks him on the head with his cane. Kringle is arrested, and a court hearing is held to determine if he's crazy.
HERE is where the whole thing drives me nuts. Kringle's defense at the hearing is that he is Santa Claus, and you can't very well be nuts for claiming to be who you really are. Of course, he offers no actual evidence of this: I suppose social security cards and government issued IDs are hard to come by at the North Pole. Instead, a bunch of witnesses are presented, all of whom admit that, yes, this guy who was hired because he resembled Santa Claus sure does resemble Santa Claus. Great.
Just when you think the judge is about to provide the only voice of sanity in this whole movie and declare that Mr. Kringle should be locked away with everyone else who thinks he or she is a fictional character, some mailmen come in with a bunch of undeliverable letters to "Santa Claus c/o North Pole." The judge sees the dead letters, and he figures that, since kids would never do something so bizarre as write a wish list to a fictional character that their parents made up, Kringle MUST BE Santa Claus. Case dismissed!
Two problems with this: (a) If Kringle is NOT crazy, then that means he was completely sane when he bashed the doctor in the head with a cane (non-candy variety). So, um, there should probably be some charges and whatnot, followed by some jail time, etc. (b) The judge knows there's no such thing as Santa, because there's no such thing as Santa, yet he ruled that the shrink-whacking nutjob on the stand who claims to be Santa was sane simply because there are some letters that the post office couldn't deliver. Because they were addressed to someone who does not exist.
Sacks needed by J.J. Watt in 2012 to tie Tim Harris (1989 GB), DeMarcus Ware (2011 DAL), and (currently) Aldon Smith for 9th all-time on the single-season list.
Sacks needed by J.J. Watt in 2012 to tie Lawrence Taylor's best season (1986) and surpass anything ever done by a member of the Dallas Cowboys or Tennessee Titans.
Sacks by Whitney Mercilus in 2012, passing Amobi Okoye (5.5) and tying Brooks Reed for the most by a Texans' rookie in franchise history. He needs 4.5 more to pass Antwan Peek and move into 10th all-time for the franchise.
Additional sacks by Mario Williams in 2012 that I need to win my bet with Tim. Currently, Mario sits at 10.5 -- 3.5 off his best season as a pro -- and unless he's going to sit out two of the last three games, I need him to average 2.5/game against Seattle, Miami, and the New York Jets, or else I'll be paying $50 to the charity of Tim's choosing.
As Long As We're Already Tangentially Discussing Hunter S. Thompson.
My five favorite HST quotes.
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman.
Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives . . . and to the "good life", whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.
Take it from me, there's nothing like a job well done. Except the quiet enveloping darkness at the bottom of a bottle of Jim Beam after a job done any way at all.
The Rum Diary
A man can live on his wits and his balls for only so long.
Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century
There is a huge body of evidence to support the notion that me and the police were put on this earth to do extremely different things and never to mingle professionally with each other, except at official functions, when we all wear ties and drink heavily and whoop it up like the natural, good-humored wild boys that we know in our hearts that we are.
The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time
I felt a little guilty about jangling the poor bugger's brains with that evil fantasy. But what the hell? Anybody who wanders around the world saying, "Hell yes, I'm from Texas," deserves whatever happens to him.
Yards per punt return by Keshawn Martin in 2012, the second-highest such total in team history behind Avion Black's 13.4 in 2002. Which sounds, like, decent . . . until you realize that Houston is 31st in special teams DVOA, and even the punt return DVOA (1.4) is merely a blip on an otherwise wholly shittacular unit. (The Texans' kicking DVOA is -16.9, which is not only the worst in the league, it's the only double-digit negative kicking DVOA in the league.)
But what to make of Martin's apparent slight success in punt returns? It's totally a function of the danger of small sample sizes. He has 17 returns for 216 yards, right? Over half of those yards (113) came on two returns -- a 71-yarder against Jacksonville, where he was run down by the punter, and a 42-yarder against Tennessee, where he was caught by the punter. In the other 15 returns, he's mustered only 103 yards (6.7 ypr), which is slightly worse than what J.J. Moses did in 2003 (6.8). He also put up an amazing -- in a bad way -- 2 returns for 1 yard on Monday Night, when he debuted his "maybe I should run backward on punt returns" homage to Jacoby Jones.
Answer to the question, "Can you pinpoint why our Kickoff Return unit is so bad?" I'm even going to write a post about it at some point. That's what the kids call "foreshadowing."
Career passing yards as a Texan for Matthew Rutledge Schaub.
Passing yards that Schaub is on pace for in 2012, which would be his third-highest career total behind the 4,770 in 2009 and 4,370 in 2010. Considering the remaining opponents are not exactly stellar in terms of pass defense (IND - 29th in pass defense DVOA; MIN - 26th), it's seems exceedingly likely that the only thing that might stop him from his third career 4000-yard season is resting in week 17 if the division and playoff seeding are already wrapped up.
Note 1, Note 2, Note 3 . . .
You can't have watched television in the last month and not encountered the commercial for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 starring LeBron James. It dawned on me the other day why they went that route for a spokesperson: you need someone that size to make this picture look even remotely normal.
I've got no problem with large phones; the Galaxy S3 that I own and love is anything but small. But the Note 2 is only a comfortable one-handed phone if you are LeBron James. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it's worth noting before you shell out for one.
Days, as of this writing, since Jim Irsay lied to me.
Days until I'll elaborate on why Jim Irsay is a lying liar.
Random '90s Rap Video.
Fun With Juxtaposition.
QB1: 54.9% Comp, 3792 pass yards (7.1 yds/att), 18 TD, 18 INT, -3.4% DVOA, 159 DYAR
QB2: 66.4% Comp, 2902 pass yards (8.3 yds/att), 18 TD, 4 INT, 17.3% DVOA, 669 DYAR
QB3: 63.0% Comp, 2492 pass yards (7.6 yds/att), 20 TD, 9 INT, 10.6% DVOA, 662 DYAR
QB4: 60.0% Comp, 4051 pass yards (7.8 yds/att), 21 TD, 17 INT, 0.8% DVOA, 404 DYAR
The first three QBs, of course, are Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson. The fourth is Cam Newton in 2011.
And before anyone busts out the excuse that Luck has worse receivers to throw to than the other two QBs do, that's only partially true. Wilson is reaping the benefits of Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, but Indy's top two WRs (Reggie Wayne, T.Y Hilton) and top TE (Dwayne Allen) are basically fungible with Washington's (Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Logan Paulsen).
It's Not Luck. Todd?
"Ah," you say, "but I'm not worried about that comparison you just posted, because Luck's numbers are similar to what Peyton Manning did as a rookie!" Which is sorta true, Mr. Fake Person I Just Created As A Rhetorical Device. In terms of raw stats, Manning's rookie year was 56.7% Comp, 3739 pass yards (6.8 yds/att), 26 TD, 28 INT.
But here's the rub. Or, more accurately, here are the rubs. First, Manning's advanced metrics were better: 7.7% DVOA (18th the league, compared to 21st for Luck in 2012) and 696 DYAR (12th, versus 20th for Luck).
Secondly, just comparing Manning and Luck head-to-head misses context. Relative to the NFL in 1998, Manning threw far more TDs than the average QB (average was 19.4) and INTs (average was 12). Relative to 2012, Luck is below the average QB's TD total (21.9) and just slightly above the average INT total (17). Manning led the league in pass attempts in 1998 with 575; Luck is going to surpass that number by 40-50 attempts and won't lead the league (and might finish as low as fifth).
Thirdly, Manning accomplished his feat at a time when rookie QBs barely ever saw the field, and not only was he was far and away the best rookie out of his class, he was one of the best QBs in the league that year as far as stacking up the raw stats. Manning was third in the league in passing yards and fifth in TDs; Luck is 8th and 16th, respectively.
In short, Manning, for as much as I despise him, was an obvious outlier in terms of ability from the very start. Luck, as we've just covered above, is not even having the best season among rookie QBs this year.
Yes, Andrew Luck has had a very good rookie season. The late-game heroics are the stuff that ESPN and other talking heads dream about. (See, e.g., Tim Tebow, who in 2011 had one more 4Q comeback and the same number of game-winning drives as Luck has this year.) But banking on him to be the next Peyton Manning just because his raw stats are superficially similar to Peyton's is a much longer bet than people seem to realize right now.
I'm just gonna link to this, sans comment, for reasons that I will not explain.
UprootedTexan asked,"just out of curiosity, any chance of seeing a barbecued salmon recipe on a future 2DH?" I am nothing if not accommodating.
1 c. kosher salt
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. coarse ground black pepper
2 (very fresh) sides of salmon
First, run your hand over the salmon filet, making sure that absolutely every pin bone has been removed. Then double-check this.
Combine the dry ingredients in a glass bowl. Take a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (larger than one of the sides of salmon) and top it with Saran wrap. Put 1/3 of the spice mix on the Saran wrap, then place one of the salmon side, skin down, on the rub. Spread the second 1/3 of the spice mix on top of the salmon flesh, then place the second salmon side, flesh-side down, on top of it. Layer the third 1/3 of spice mix on the skin of the second salmon side. Wrap the entire salmon/spice party in foil and place it in a large casserole dish. Top with a brick or a heavy pan, and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
Remove the salmon from the fridge and rinse the spices off. Gently pat the water off the salmon, then place the salmon side on a rack or plate in a cool, dry place (not the fridge) until it is dry. The fish should be slightly leathery when dry.
Heat your smoker to 150-170, preferably using fruit wood or pecan. (Oak will work in a pinch.) Place the salmon sides, skin-side down, on the smoker and cook for 3 to 5 hours, until the internal temp is 150.
You can serve immediately or allow it to cool and serve at room temperature. You can actually even refrigerate and serve chilled. I prefer the room-temp approach. Serve with sturdy crackers or pita chips.
Bonus addition: serve with dipping or spreadable sauces including dijon mustard sauce and spicy Thai chili sauce. Oh, a sour cream and cilantro sauce also works well.
Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer Inexplicable Decision Of The Week.
[Author's note: It's a sad day in Two-Day Hangover Land. It seems that Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer has gotten married and changed the name on her public profile to the (relatively) more professional sounding, "Marijuana Sawyer-Clardy." Dang. Thankfully, we have a long memory around here, at least when it comes to stuff like this, so we'll just forge ahead and pretend like nothing has changed.]
Much like the decision to name your daughter "Marijuana Pepsi," Gary Kubiak's decision to punt on 4th & 1 when he was trailing by 21 was inexplicable. At that point, if you are going to punt, you might as well pull every single starter and avoid injury. Let Bryan Braman play QB if you must. Because you have absolutely given up any pretense of trying to win.
TXT MSGS Of The Week.
I actually switched phones today, because AT&T has at least one employee who doesn't deserve death by monkeys, so I don't have this week's texts. Consider those texts were a painful combination of anger and sadness, this isn't really a bad thing.
 The other four, if you're curious: Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, and Christopher Moore (who I consider to be the funniest novelist working today). I realize that Hemingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, and HST are not exactly original choices for a list of favorite writers, but so what? Great writing is great writing, and that's what matters.
 I say "for the most part" because I think you can take away some micro stuff, even if they game didn't change much on the macro level. For example, the Patriots did this without their best offensive receiving weapon, Rob Gronkowski. I shudder to think how the Texans would try to cover Gronk if they could barely slow Aaron Hernandez.
Other takeaways: Johnathan Joseph is not 100%, nor is he close to 100%. Brandon Harris is not an NFL-caliber CB3. The lack of Brian Cushing is becoming a huge, glaring hole that the Texans don't have the LB talent to hide against better teams.
 Not counting the Mayans' being right, a freak accident involving a Wiffle ball bat and a gerbil, or Albert Hayensworth's breaking the court-ordered 500-yard zone.