I'm sorry I doubted your ability to play quarterback at an adequate level in the National Football League. Most make predictions, toot their own horn and catapult it in others' faces when they are correct. However, when they talk big and important and the opposite happens, sadly they are nowhere to be found. Their predictions turn into "I didn't mean it like that," or "That's not what I said," or "You misconstrued my words," instead of just owning up to their wrongness.
I'm not like most people. I will admit when I am wrong, and this time was a classic example of that. I presumed that everyone who wanted you to play you over Matt Schaub was a University of Houston homer. I failed to buy in because I lived outside of the Houston group-think. I believed that you would be more like Colt Brennan or Dan LeFevour--a quarterback who put up numbers in college because of the system, not because of talent and ability. As a result, I deduced you were nothing more than maybe a backup quarterback.
In the Kansas City game, I predicted you would be sacked 6-7 times, would start to play scared, and stop looking down the field. However, the opposite occurred. You made plays that would make Russell Wilson's face chemically react with delight, turning it to a fuzzy shade of pink. You escaped the pressure and scrambled for modest gains, turned negative plays into positives and even hit Andre Johnson deep while throwing across your body. You were supposed to continue the pick-six tradition, but you failed to even throw an interception. Before the game, I looked at the video and showed to the world that deep passes were open for a quarterback who could make those throws. The problem was I didn't know if you had the ability to make those deep throws. You quickly changed my mind on the second drive of the game when you tossed a touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins down the left sideline. It was a throw as magnificent as I've seen any quarterback make.
You attempted a pass to a wide open Garrett Graham on the first drive of the contest that was wondrous as well. If playing with Schaub these past six weeks hadn't corrupted Graham, that would have been another glorious touchdown. Against Kansas City, you completed 6 passes for 20+ yards, and three of those traveled further than 15 yards in the air. Matt Schaub only completed 9 passes where he threw the ball longer than fifteen yards all season. Case, you excelled at hitting your wide receivers in stride and at beating man coverage. This was seen in the 41-yard pass to DeVier Posey and the 27-yard pass to Garrett Graham. On both plays, you hit your man when he made his break, placed the ball perfectly and gave the receiver a chance to run for extra yards against man coverage.
It's a shame Arian Foster went down early and the run game suffered. If Houston had any consistency on the ground, you probably could have led the team to a comeback win. My reasoning is that on the last four drives of the game, Houston had only one rushing yard from Ben Tate. On first down, the offense had 1 total yard (on 5 attempts). The offense had 37 yards on second down, but if we remove your luscious 35 yard bomb to Hopkins, it amounts to 2 yards (0.4 Y/A). You were sacked on every third down in the fourth quarter for losses of 6, 10, and 15 yards. As a result, the offense was forced to punt three times in a one possession game.
The failure to complete the comeback isn't placed on your shoulders. The coaches continued to put you in an empty backfield against a big blitz. Consequently, the five offensive linemen you had protecting you couldn't block the six that were coming. So you held onto the ball as Tamba Hali rocked you. There might have been players open in the flat or on a hot route that most veteran quarterbacks could have found; in your first career start, you could do nothing but hold onto the ball. If you're interested, I will be writing a GATA! article covering exactly why the protection failed in the 4th quarter. Hopefully, Kubiak will implement some more spread plays after the bye and put you in more opportunities where you can succeed.
Lastly, even though the team lost 17-16, I want to thank you for making Texans football fun again. You actually enjoyed yourself on the field, running around like a stuntman aflame on the set of a Hollywood movie. Matt never smiles anymore. He only showed a look of contempt in the comeback wins against the Chargers and Titans. You have fun while you play and it has seeped into the rest of the team. Keenum, your attitude has affected the team like a yellow watercolor. In Weeks 2-6, everything was grayer than a 1950s television set as the team wallowed from game to game like a reeking dumpster monster. On Sunday, the sun came out from behind the infinite gray skies. Kubiak said the team needed a spark. You provided it.
Case, even if you probably aren't the future of the team at quarterback, at least you will provide the chance to improve the offense immensely this season. I can't wait to watch you dodge Robert Mathis and chunk the ball deep against the Colts on Sunday Night Football. You should start at quarterback for the rest of the season until Week 17, when Schaub should be given one last hoorah against the Titans. Hopefully you continue to play like you did on Sunday for the rest of the season and are given the opportunity to compete for next year's starting job against a rookie quarterback. Despite your play and the optimism, it all depends on if Kubiak foolishly goes running back to Schaub after the bye week. Make the most of your opportunity for the rest of the season. Have fun playing the game.
Now that I'm done sending Keenum my love, let's talk about the defense. Like most games this season, the defense played well for most of the game, but the red zone defense and mental breakdowns continued to plague them. The Chiefs were able to move the ball on Houston with short passes to their speedy skill players that broke for big gains and through the run game. It wasn't a case of Kansas City taking advantage of opportunities the defense gave them because their scoring drives looked like this:
|Field Position||Plays||Yds||Time of Drive||Big Plays|
Smith- 8/9 76
34-16 Yd Pass to Bowe
|18 (TD)||11||82||5:29||21 Yd Pass to Bowe|
|13 (Downs)||10||86||5:38||21 Yd Pass to Charles
43 Yd Pass to McCluster
23 Yd Smith Run +15 Unnecessary
What we see is that Kansas City sustained long drives against Houston's defense. They moved the ball down the field against a defense that had allowed the least amount of yards in the league. It wasn't just a case of them taking advantage of what the defense gave them. Their touchdown drives, on average, started on their own (I'm going to include the long drive they were stopped on 4th down also) 11.66 yard line. Coming into this game, their touchdown drives, on average, started at their own 44. I went over this earlier this year, but again Houston has had troubles giving up long drives. In the NFL, there have been 13 scoring drives where the offense started inside their own five yard line. Houston has allowed four this season, most in the NFL and 30.7% of the league's scoring drives starting inside the five. The Texans have been doing a fantastic job at giving up long drives, turning the ball over, and throwing pick-sixes this season.
Even though the defense played well, the problem was simply they gave up numerous big plays against the Chiefs. Previously, the Chiefs had 19 plays for 20 yards or more, which tied them for 25th in the NFL. On defense, the Texans had allowed 15 plays of this variety, which put them 28th in the league. Despite the trends heading into this game, the Chiefs had four such big plays against Houston. The Chiefs scored 10 points on drives with big plays and would have scored on the other if the Texans didn't stop them on 4th down at the 1. What's troubling is that none of the pass plays went over 15 yards in the air; Alex Smith was 0/4 throwing the ball deep. Kansas City broke big plays by throwing short passes or screens, and Houston was unable to tackle the ball carrier. It was another case of sloppy play from a talented defense. My favorite of the bunch was the 43 yard screen pass to Dexter McCluster on 3rd and 21. Dwayne Bowe made a great block on the corner, and Ed Reed ran into his block and went over the top instead of taking the pursuit angle a middle school player would have made. Then D.J. Swearinger missed a tackle, Shiloh Keo missed a tackle, and McCluster was finally brought down when Brooks Reed chased him down. So much for #EdReedLeadership.
The other key trend that played out differently than expected was the turnover battle. Prior to the game, the Chiefs were first in the league in forcing turnovers with 18 and had the best turnover differential in the league. As I've said in the past, turnovers are one of those lucky stats that change year to year. The pick-sixes and turnovers were unsustainable. They should even out as the season goes on. It took seven weeks, but it finally happened. Houston won the turnover battle and forced two turnovers compared to Kansas City's one. The defense allowed an unusual number of yards, but they were able to stop points from being scored because they stole the ball from Kansas City. It's unfortunate the offense was unable to take advantage of the opportunities created and settled for a 21 yard field goal after a Charles fumble. The key is that they actually were able to create turnovers. Hopefully they continue to do so.
Another pattern that didn't make sense and needed to change was the red zone defense. Before last week's game, the Texans had allowed thirteen touchdowns and three field goals once the opponent entered Houston's twenty yard line. This amounts to a touchdown rate of 81.25%, last in the NFL. No team had failed to score against Houston in the red zone. Last Sunday, the same problems occurred as the Chiefs scored two touchdowns on their first two drives into the red zone. Then, miraculously, Houston had their first red zone stop on a goal line stand with 13:50 left in the 4th. If Kansas City scored, the game would have been over, but they were able to chase Alex Smith out of the pocket and force an incompletion. The Chiefs still had a touchdown percentage of 66.67%. Hey, it's a start. The defense played worse than the points allowed indicated, but the turnovers covered up some of their mistakes. Hopefully, the red zone defense improves and turnovers continue to increase as the rest of the season progresses.
Kubiak, Kubiak, Kubiak
If you ever played a game of Madden or read Bill Barnwell's Thank You for Not Coaching, you will understand what I'll be going over. In Sunday's game, Kubiak made a few coaching mistakes regarding time management, goal line offense and pass protection (this will be discussed in depth later this week). In the preview, I talked about how you have to score touchdowns, not field goals, to beat the Chiefs. Their defense is too damn good and their offense is too opportunistic to let you get away with field goals. On Sunday, the Texans kicked three field goals. Just like the Cowboys, they lost 17-16. They faced the following dilemmas on 4th down when they opted to kick the ball:
|4th and 15||48 Yds||0-0|
|4th and 3||21 Yds||10-14|
|4th and 1||47 Yds||16-17|
The biggest issue I had with the group of field goals was the second field goal. It was not because Kubiak chose to kick the ball. At this point in the game, they only had Greg Jones left to play running back and the chance of gaining a yard on fourth down was slim. They couldn't run the ball up the middle all game and they didn't have a lead blocker at this point. When Houston ran the ball on second down at the one yard line, they lost two yards because Jones can't lead through the hole and run the ball at the same time.
My problem was the play-calling. They ran a QB sneak on first down, ran it with Jones on 2nd, threw a fade to Hopkins on 3rd and then kicked a field goal. I didn't mind the QB sneak because it was surprising. However, I hated the Jones run. Houston couldn't run the ball up the middle at midfield, so why would they be able to without a lead blocker against the Chiefs' stout goal line defense? What they should have done was either spread the field out or run a play-action pass. When Jones was back there, everyone knew they were going to run the ball up the middle, and they lost two yards because of it. It was a predictable play and limited the offense's options on third down.
The 4th and 1 field goal that made the game 16-17 wasn't as bad as it can be made out to be. Tate was injured and running weakly at that point. However, with the way Randy Bullock had kicked this year, I think Houston would have had a better chance of picking up a yard than for Randy to knock down a 47 yarder. The decision didn't affect the game at all, but it will be interesting to see how Kubiak manages this situation in the future with a healthy stable of running backs.
Kubiak also did an Andy Reid-esque job managing the clock down the stretch. The first time was at the end of the first half when they were down 14-10 with :56 seconds left. Kubiak ran two draw plays with Tate and gained 18 yards. After they picked up a chunk of yards, Kubiak called a timeout with :13 seconds left. He let 43 seconds run off the clock on two plays and then thought it was time to go for the score. Additionally, he wasted as much time as possible before he ran his second play. Even though Phil Simms said," I would do exactly what Kubiak did 100 out of 100 times," he was incorrect. The problem was you kill all chances at scoring points by letting the clock tick by for that long. It doesn't matter how many yards you pick up on the first two plays if you're only going to have thirteen seconds left to work with. At that point, you can run one play before kicking a field goal no matter where you are on the field. Houston would have been better off kneeling and heading to the half, instead of risking Tate getting inured without having a backup running back. What actually happened was Keenum hit Lestar Jean for 10 and 11 yards, bringing Houston to KC's 41 with one second left. All they could do was toss up a Hail Mary. If Kubiak had the offense run the two draws quickly, they would have had 15 seconds or so at Kansas City's 41. Then Houston would have been able to run an extra play to get into field goal range. Instead they were left with one option--lob the ball into the end zone. In a low-scoring battle, every point is excruciatingly valuable and Kubiak left three on the table at the end of the half.
My last gripe with Kubiak was how he managed his last timeout at the end of the game. The Chiefs received the ball with 4:04 remaining. Houston had one timeout and the two minute warning to stop the clock. Kansas City handed the ball off to Charles for a gain of one yard and Kubiak promptly called a timeout. The goal is to get the ball back on the plus side of the two minute warning; to do that, you have to try and use your timeout on the set of downs when the Chiefs punt. Gary should have waited until he saw what Kansas City did on second down so he would know the chance the Chiefs had to pick up the first. The timeout is wasted if Kansas City picks up the first down on second down. The coach should use the timeout on second down. This is because you know the probability the opponent has to pick up a first on third down and you get the chance to get a free timeout if they pass and throw an incompletion. The timeout didn't prove disastrous, but the problem was the process not the outcome.
The Rams game left me feeling like a delirious, cackling, fecal-smothering madman. I had a hard time dealing with the fact that a team this talented continued to lose and hurt themselves with poor red zone defense, turnovers, and penalties. Then Case Keenum came out not giving a damn and slung the ball down the field with grace and beauty. To go from Matt Schaub checkdowns to Keenum bombs was like moving from the slums to a deluxe apartment in the sky. It made me remember why I love the game of football and this team.
At 2-5, the chance to win the division has crumbled apart faster than a Nature's Valley Granola Bar. The wild card is dependent on how Miami, Buffalo, Tennessee, San Diego, and New York play. However, I am looking forward to Keenum taking shots deep no matter how the rest of the season plays out. That is unless Gary starts Matt Schaub against the Colts and we see the return of Schaubiak.
Whatever happens, there will be multiple changes to the team after they bye week. They will do whatever it takes to try and take down Andrew Luck. Hopefully, Keenum continues to start and Kubiak implements more spread principles into the offense.
Quick Chiefs Thoughts:
- Alex Smith gives me Matt Schaub PTSD. He only dinks and dunks. It works because he has some of the fastest skill players in the league. Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster, Donnie Avery, and Jamaal Charles can all turn a 5 yard gain into a 40 yard one. The difference is Schaub lost the ability to throw deep and Alex Smith has never really been able to. Smith will age better because of this and probably won't have as disastrous of a downfall as Schaub. However, Smith's play is dependent on his skill players. If they start to lose their speed over the next few years, they will be in store for a 2013 Texans type of season.
- I thought Wade had the life drawing up blitz schemes for his defense, but Bob Sutton is living the dream.
- Jamaal Charles is the man. I love the spin move rejuvenation across the league. It's like I'm watching a real life version of Madden 2007.
- The Chiefs remind me of the 2008 Titans that went 13-3 and lost in the Divisional Round. The Titans that year had the best point differential, allowed the second least amount of points, ranked second in turnover differential (+14), had a great front 7, and like Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson was their big-play guy with dreads. Their downfall? Quarterback play. The Titans started Kerry Collins at quarterback and he struggled mightily against top defenses. They lost their only playoff game to the Ravens 13-10. Alex Smith is better than Collins, but he's the weakest part of their team. I predict the Chiefs will be one and done in the postseason, just like the 2008 Titans.
- I dig the turtleneck sweaters the Chiefs players wear in their roster pictures.