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The Captain's Log 2014, Game 9: "Captain 'Meco"

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Capt Ron chronicles the Texans' latest loss to the Eagles and the uncertainty as the team enters the bye week.

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Thomas B. Shea

Captain's Log Supplemental

'Meco

I got last minute tickets to the game, and my wife asked me if she should wear her old DeMeco Ryans "Battle Red" jersey to the stadium.  I thought it would be pretty cool to show the colors in support of our team, and to pay respect to one of our greatest former players.  Then early in the fourth quarter, the unthinkable happened.  'Meco intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick, and then fumbled as he collapsed to the ground in obvious pain.

Throughout the years of attending almost all Texans home games, my wife and I have witnessed so many different events in that north end zone close to the home-field side.  There are many wonderful memories: J.J. Watt's "pick-6" in the inaugural playoff game against the Bengals, Andre Johnson's first playoff touchdown reception, and many others through the years.  That area of the field also holds some stark reminders of how violent this sport can be.  That's where Captain 'Meco ruptured his left Achilles tendon as a Texans player on October 17, 2010.  It's also the same field location where Connor Barwin (also a Texan at the time) suffered a horrific ankle dislocation just a few weeks earlier in the same 2010 season.

Fast forward to 2014.  Both Barwin and Ryans are back in that same north end zone as Eagles players.  When Ryans fell to the ground, it was Barwin I could see signalling that something was wrong with Ryans' left ankle.  My stomach sank.  I thought there was NO way it could be the same Achilles again.

Ryans was carted off the field to thunderous applause and standing ovation by the Houston fans.  It was later confirmed that Ryans did in fact rupture the same tendon and will miss the rest of this 2014 season.  At the age of 30, it is quite possible that DeMeco Ryans has played his last snap in the NFL.  This breaks my heart.  It was a mistake for the Texans to trade him away a few years ago, and it is sad that his career may have ended where it all began.  I dedicate this Captain's Log to one of the best players to ever wear Battle Red for the Houston Texans.

I salute you, Captain DeMeco Ryans!

Game Summary

There are too many issues to address in a single review.  We have the bye week upon us, and we can use that time to delve into the various elements that are causing this team to struggle and lose games.  It has been said that this is a team of "stars and scrubs," and I think that's a fair generalization of the Texans right now.  When you have a bunch of 7th-round picks and former practice squad free agents comprising the majority of your linebacker and secondary units, teams are going to put up points on your defense.  When you have an offensive line with more holes in it than a colander and a quarterback as incapable as Fitzpatrick, you are not going to score enough to win.

When Brian Cushing, Jadeveon Clowney, Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are not in the game, there are going to be areas to exploit in the Texans' defense.  Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez did so to great effect.  We did see some pretty good plays from some of these young defensive players, but they are not quite ready to supplant our starters.  Perhaps next year.  Why does it always have to be "next year" with this team?  When can fans in Houston finally say "THIS year" for the Texans?

Arian Foster's breakaway pass reception for a touchdown was really impressive.  He is the core "war horse" of this team, and I hope his groin heals quickly enough to be ready for Cleveland in two weeks.  I also hope that the coaches push the quarterbacks enough that we see a possible alternative under center soon.  I don't see how they can expect different results by staying with the current situation at quarterback.

We knew this would be a tough year to stomach.  It's another year of melting away Andre Johnson's career with a mediocre roster and without a real shot at winning anything meaningful in the postseason.  Nonetheless, we'll be here to document it, rant about the mistakes, and find the bright moments worth getting excited about.  After all, we are in rebuilding mode.  This won't be a quick turnaround until they get a quarterback and some solid depth on the roster.

Go Texans!

Summary of Key Stats


TEXANS EAGLES
First Downs 15 30
Net Rushing Yards 118 190
Net Passing Yards 182 293
Total Net Yards 300 483
Passing ATT-COMP-INT 13-27-1 25-35-3
Third Down Efficiency 5/13 (38%) 9/16 (56%)
Touchdowns 3 4
Field Goals (made/attempted) 0 / 1 1 / 1
Fumbles / Lost 1 / 0 1 / 1
Turnovers (lost) 2 4
Penalties (QTY / Yards) 9 - 54 7 - 55
Sacks (defense) 4 4
Interceptions (defense) 3 1
Fumbles Recovered (defense) 1 1
Time of Possession 27:47 32:13
Red Zone Efficiency 1/2 (50%) 3/3 (100%)
Goal To Go Efficiency 1/1 (100%) 3/3 (100%)
Points From Turnovers 21 0
FINAL SCORE 21 31


Around the AFC South...

The Colts are leading the division with a 5-3 record and play in New York against the 3-4 Giants on Monday Night Football tonight.  Then they'll enjoy their bye week before hosting the Patriots, who are 7-2 after defeating the Broncos.

The 2-6 Titans were on a bye and will head to face the 5-4 Baltimore Ravens next week.

The Jaguars lost to the Bengals 33-23 in Cincinnati, and will host the 6-3 Cowboys next week.  With a 1-8 record, they continue to threaten the 0-8 Raiders for the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.  Thankfully for the Texans, both of those teams drafted quarterbacks in 2014.

Sick Bay

"I'm a doctor, not a social media chaperone!"

INJURY UPDATES THIS WEEK:

OLB Jadeveon Clowney - illness

ILB Brian Cushing - knee

CB Kareem Jackson - knee

CB Johnathan Joseph - concussion

RB Arian Foster - groin

Movie Quote (name it):

"You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, 'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.' Don't be resigned to that. Break out!"

Bravo Zulu - Whitney Mercilus

100px-bravo_flag 100px-zulu_flag

(Bravo Zulu is a naval signal, conveyed by flag hoist or vocal, for "Well Done")

With 2 sacks in the game, a career-high 9 tackles (2 for a loss), and 3 hits on the quarterback, Mercilus has earned the top honors for the second time this season and for the fourth time in the last two years we have been running The Captain's Log.  In the absence of Jadeveon Clowney for most of this season, Mercilus is making a statement as the Texans decide whether to pick up the fifth year option on his rookie contract.

Honorable Mention

DE J.J. Watt continues to make his case for NFL MVP, as he had 1 1/2 sacks, 5 QB pressures, and 7 tackles.

CB Jumal Rolle impressed with 2 interceptions and 2 tackles while filling in for the Texans' starting corners who were both knocked out early in the game.  Rolle went undrafted in 2013 and Houston signed him off the Packers practice squad just four weeks ago.

WR DeAndre Hopkins finished the day with 6 receptions for 115 yards and 1 touchdown.  It would be incredible to see what he could do if the Texans could protect the quarterback, and if said quarterback could stretch the field more.

CB A.J. Bouye had an impressive interception return for a touchdown.  Aside from a few mistakes, he is looking like a potential starter in the future.

Stories From The Brig

Let's review the NINE penalties called on the Texans during this game:

  • RT Derek Newton - 2 false start penalties
  • LT Duane Brown - false start on 4th-down attempt
  • CB Andre Hal - illegal contact
  • FB Jay Prosch - illegal block on kick return
  • CB A.J. Bouye - defensive holding, and (questionable) illegal use of hands to the face
  • LG Ben Jones - holding
  • DB Josh Aubrey - illegal block on kick return

When a team plays inside a closed-roof stadium at home, there really are NO excuses for false start penalties.  Two of our veteran offensive tackles contributed to three false starts?  This alone highlights the lack of mental preparedness and discipline existing on this team.

The fact that the officials called illegal contact on Hal at least indicates that they understand the rule in principle, which states:

ILLEGAL CONTACT BEYOND FIVE-YARD ZONE

If the receiver attempts to evade the defender, the defender cannot chuck him, or extend an arm(s) to cut off or hook him, causing contact that redirects, restricts, or impedes the receiver in any way.

That's great!  That makes it perfectly clear, except the NFL then includes this arbitrary language that allows officials to have a completely subjective view on how to rule regarding "illegal contact" between defenders and receivers:

INCIDENTAL CONTACT BEYOND FIVE-YARD ZONE

Beyond the five-yard zone, incidental contact may exist between receiver and defender as long as it does not materially affect or significantly impede the receiver, creating a distinct advantage.

This loosely enables the officials to enforce very strictly on one play, perhaps in favor of one team or player, and then let some contact slide for other players and/or teams.  There were back-to-back plays during the Texans' final drive where DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson suffered from contact by a defender.  The official on the far side (visitor side, south end zone) didn't call pass interference or illegal contact in either of those incidents, and coach Bill O'Brien was so furious that I'm frankly impressed with his restraint in that he didn't effectively disembowel the head referee while raising the issue.  I am seriously disgusted with the horrible officiating that permeates the NFL across so many games each week.  I won't submit that the Texans lost this game due to bad officiating, but it didn't help them to recover either.

One Job!!!

Kicker Randy Bullock missed on a 39-yard field goal attempt...at home...inside a closed-roof stadium...where the temperature and humidity were perfect.  There was no wind, rain, mud, snow, or other environmental challenge to deal with.  He is 15 of 18 on field goals this season, but there is simply NO excuse to miss a field goal of less than 40 yards under excellent conditions.

This Beard Experiment Needs to End

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is an absolute disaster for the Texans.  Why doesn't he even try to fake that he might be passing after handing the ball to a running back?  Every time he handed the ball off in this game, he immediately went into "observer" mode, even putting his hands on his hips and bouncing on the balls of his feet as he watched the running back disappear into the throng of defenders.  Seriously?!!

I realize the offensive line is less than optimal in pass protection, but the quarterback is "taking" sacks and missing open receivers.  If Fitz is going to ignore pre-snap blitz indications of the defense, stare down his receivers, ignore open receivers, hold the ball way too long resulting in a sack, throw the ball off-target, and so much other buffoonery, then why don't we put Ryan Mallett or Tom Savage in there?  What the hell would they do at this point that would be worse than what we are seeing?

Movie Quote II (a/k/a the hint):

"O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It's from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you're slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain."

Ship's Galley

Let's check in with the mess hall and see what's cooking...

The cool weather is teasing, and hearty dishes are a wonderful way to warm up friends and family.  I stumbled upon a great meal during my recent visit to London.  It was served by an English Inn that has been around for more than 700 years, and the name is Ye Olde Six Bells in Horley.  The chef responsible for the recipe is James Martin, a local celebrity in the London area.  After a bit of research, I found the recipe and have successfully recreated it several times.  It is easily in my top-5 of all time favorite meals, and I highly recommend you add this to your "must try" list.  I cooked this last Friday, and my guests were thrilled!

James Martin: Beef and Merlot Pie

"The quintessential country-pub pie!  Rich, tender, and aromatic with an inviting layer of crisp puff pastry glazed with egg yolk. Breaking through reveals slow-cooked beef with red onion and shallots in a full-bodied Merlot and redcurrant jelly gravy. It's so good, it doesn't need much more, so we serve with a medley of buttered peas, broad beans and green beans, and golden seasoned chips."

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 lb 4oz braising steak cut into 2-inch cubes

1 onion, finely diced

9 oz chestnut mushrooms, cut into four pieces

8 small whole round shallots, peeled

14oz carrots, peeled and cut into three

4 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

4 tbsp tomato purée

18 fl oz merlot

10½ fl oz hot reduced beef stock

1lb 2oz ready made puff pastry

1 free-range egg, beaten

PREPARATION

1.  For the pie, heat a casserole or a large ovenproof pan over a high heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the steak pieces in batches and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown on all sides, stirring regularly. Remove the cooked steak from the dish, transfer to a warm plate and set aside. Repeat the process with the remaining steak pieces, then set aside.

2.  Add the onion, mushrooms, whole shallots and carrots to the emptied casserole and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until just softened.

3.  Add the thyme, bay leaves and tomato purée and stir well to combine.

4.  Add the ale and stir well, scraping any sediment up from the bottom of the casserole using a wooden spoon.

5.  Return the browned steak pieces to the casserole, add the hot stock, stir well and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn down the heat, place a lid on the casserole and cook for 1½ hours, or until the beef is tender and the gravy has thickened.

6.  Once cooked, remove the pie filling from the dish and set aside to cool.

7.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  Place the beef and gravy mixture in a round ovenproof dish.

9.  Roll out the pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and cut the pastry into a circle slightly bigger than the pie dish.

10.  Brush a little water around the rim of the pie dish, then place the pastry over the filling and press the edges to seal the pastry to the dish.

11.  Brush the pie with a little beaten egg, then place the pie in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the pastry is pale golden-brown and has risen.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

1.  I seasoned the raw beef lightly with Montreal Steak Seasoning and then lightly coated the pieces with cornstarch to provide a good texture during the browning process.  This was a very good modification to the recipe.

2.  I like to use individually sized ramekins so that each person can enjoy the fun of bursting the crispy brown crust and savoring the rich-flavored treasure inside.

3.  You can make these ahead of time (up to step #10) and place in the refrigerator for up to a day or two wrapped in plastic to keep fresh.  When ready, follow step #11 and serve within 30 minutes to 1 hour of baking.

On The Horizon...

The 4-5 Texans head into the bye week with a ton of uncertainty about how to address the last half of the season.  After that, they travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

Last week's Captain's Log: Game 8 v. Titans