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The Captain's Log 2014, Game 12: "Ascension"

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Capt Ron chronicles the Texans' latest win over the Titans, the rise of a young star in DeAndre Hopkins, and the continuation of J.J. Watt's MVP campaign.

Talk to the hand...
Talk to the hand...
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Captain's Log Supplemental

The Texans blew out a bad team and it was fun to watch.  Given the history between these two franchises, it leaves us with a little more spring in our step to win so convincingly.  There were good things happening in all three phases, including strong performances from:  J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Arian Foster, Johnathan Joseph, D.J. Swearinger and (finally) Xavier Su'a-Filo.

With last week's loss to the Bengals, the numbers are stacked against the Texans making the playoffs without some help.  They will likely have to win the remaining four games, which means they need to clean up some mistakes and fire on all cylinders when they face the Colts and Ravens.  They also need to not look past the Jaguars, who the Texans face twice in the next four weeks.  I have a lot of content in this week's edition, so let's get to it.

GO TEXANS!!!

Summary of Key Stats


TEXANS TITANS
First Downs 24 19
Net Rushing Yards 99 83
Net Passing Yards 358 237
Total Net Yards 457 320
Passing ATT-COMP-INT 24 - 33 - 0 19 - 31 - 3
Third Down Efficiency 11/17 (64%) 3/9 (33%)
Touchdowns 6 3
Field Goals (made/attempted) 1 / 2 0 / 0
Fumbles / Lost 1 / 1 1 / 1
Turnovers (lost) 1 4
Penalties (QTY / Yards) 5 - 40 6 - 66
Sacks (defense) 3 0
Interceptions (defense) 3 0
Fumbles Recovered (defense) 1 1
Time of Possession 33:16 26:44
Red Zone Efficiency 4/5 (80%) 0/1 (0%)
Goal To Go Efficiency 4/4 (100%) 0/0 (0%)
Points From Turnovers 14 7
FINAL SCORE 45 21

Around the AFC South...

The Colts improved to 8-4 on the season by defeating the 3-9 team from Washington by a score of 49-27 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

NFL.com reports:

Andrew Luck threw a career-high five touchdown passes Sunday and topped the 300-yard mark for a franchise-record 10th time this season, leading the Indianapolis Colts past the Washington Redskins 49-27.

Luck was 19 of 27 for 370 yards and had TD passes of 30, 3, 48, 73 and 79 yards. He broke Peyton Manning's mark for most 300-yard games in one season and joined Manning and Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks to top 4,000 yards in two of their first three seasons.

He did all that while Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall pick behind Luck in 2012, watched from the sideline. Griffin's replacement, Colt McCoy, was 31 of 47 for a career-best 392 yards and three TDs, also a career high.

The 2-10 Titans limp home after being shellacked 45-21 in Houston.  They will next host the 3-9 New York Giants.

The 2-10 Jaguars picked up their second win of the season by defeating the Giants 25-24 in Jacksonville.  Their second-half comeback included two defensive scores; a single-game franchise record.  They host the Houston Texans next week.

Sick Bay

"I'm a doctor, not a human calculator!"

INJURY UPDATES THIS WEEK:

Kareem Jackson (knee) is looking more likely to return for the next game against the Jags.

Ryan Mallett (pectoral muscle) was officially placed on injured-reserve.

Jadeveon Clowney (knee) adds another missed game for the season. He is on his way to meet with Dr. Andrews to have his knee examined for a second opinion. At this point, we won't really know what Clowney can do for the Texans until next year...

Which reminds me of this Matt Weston concept shirt that we still need to produce at some point:

Movie Quote (name it):

"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king."

[interrupting]

"Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

Bravo Zulu - DeAndre Hopkins and Ryan Fitzpatrick

100px-bravo_flag 100px-zulu_flag

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

DeAndre Hopkins' performance in this game demonstrated that he is the number-one receiving option for the Texans.  It may be hard for us fans to accept the fact that veteran Andre Johnson is slowly fading into the shadows at the end of a Hall of Fame worthy career, but it is more than obvious at this point.  That being said, I do sincerely hope we see #80 with more big plays and big games before he retires.  I also hope that he retires without playing for any other NFL teams.

Hopkins has clearly ascended as the best wide receiver on this roster, and one of the best in the NFL.  He finished the day with 9 receptions for 238 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He basically shattered his personal best single game record of 117 receiving yards from last year's game against the Titans.

As reported on The Mothership, coach O'Brien was full of praise for Hopkins:

"He is one of the top receivers in the league," head coach Bill O'Brien said after the game. "He is a really good player; he is a dynamic player. He gets better and better every time we go out there."

Ryan Fitzpatrick had a record setting day as well; The Mothership summarized it best:

Fitzpatrick was a sterling 24-of-33 passing for 358 yards. He found six different receivers on the day, and five of them caught touchdowns. He also wasn't sacked, despite going down five times in Week 8 against the same Tennessee defense.

This is the type of performance that helped earn him the nickname "Fitzmagic."  We'll have to hope he can do it four more consecutive times, because any regression toward the mean would likely be fatal for any playoff dreams.


Honorable Mention

J.J. Watt had another incredible performance of stacking up the thunder for NFL MVP consideration, no matter how unlikely that may be for a non-quarterback. He finished the game with 2 sacks, including a strip-sack forced fumble with a fumble recovery, 3 tackles, 12 quarterback hurries, and 1 receiving touchdown.

What is unfathomable is that he still manages to excel despite the ridiculous amount of holding he receives from offensive linemen.  Several times in this game, he was flat out tackled from behind without the officials penalizing the opponent.  These Twitter posts highlight it well:


When I watched the "All-22," there must be no less than a dozen plays like that.  I simply don't understand NFL rules for holding anymore.  That being said, Watt is still able to get things done:


Stories From The Brig

I won't go too hard on the guys since they won the game.  There are a few things worth noting though:

Whitney Mercilus had a late-hit in the back of the quarterback that negated an Andre Hal interception.  That is the lack of discipline that can lose games for your team.  Mercilus has shown some great improvement this season, but this was not a good decision.

The defense gave up touchdowns in "garbage time," and that just makes me crazy.  They need to finish off their opponent without playing sloppy or careless.  The bottom line is that the Texans are playing aggressive football, and we love it!  They just need to clean up some of these things that will cost them games against better opponents.

In summary, I am pointing out areas for improvement, which is how good teams become great teams.  That's far better than the "stories from the brig" examples of the 2013 season.

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

(This may be long, but it's well worth it):

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Who goes there?"

King Arthur: "It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Pull the other one!"

King Arthur: "I am, and this is my trusty servant Patsy. We have ridden the length and breadth of the land in search of knights who will join me in my court at Camelot. I must speak with your lord and master."

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "What? Ridden on a horse?"

King Arthur: "Yes!"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "You're using coconuts!"

King Arthur: "What?"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together."

King Arthur: "So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered this land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through..."

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Where'd you get the coconuts?"

King Arthur: "We found them."

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Found them? In Mercia? The coconut's tropical!"

King Arthur: "What do you mean?"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Well, this is a temperate zone."

King Arthur: "The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?"

King Arthur: "Not at all. They could be carried."

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "What? A swallow carrying a coconut?"

King Arthur: "It could grip it by the husk!"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut."

King Arthur: "Well, it doesn't matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?"

First soldier with a keen interest in birds: "Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?"

King Arthur: "Please!!!"


Ship's Galley

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

Pork Tamales

This is a great time of year to get the family cooking together, and extra hands are welcomed when assembling homemade tamales.  They travel well for tailgating, or visiting a game-watching party, and you can freeze them for up to a month.  This is a recipe from Alton Brown of Food Network that I modified.  I changed the jalapeno to serrano, and added orange juice and dark porter beer to the final cooking process to give the meat a richer flavor.  I also steam tamales instead of boiling them as his source recipe indicated.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup chili powder*
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin seed
2 pounds pork butt (shoulder) meat, untrimmed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 bottle Real Ale Coffee Porter (or similar dark porter beer)
4 to 5 dozen dried corn husks
2 pounds yellow cornmeal, approximately 6 cups
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
7 1/2 ounces lard, approximately 1 cup
3 to 4 cups reserved cooking liquid

*I highly recommend creating your own mix of chili powder using fresh ground peppers from Mild Bills or another reputable source.


DIRECTIONS:
For the meat filling: For the wrappers: For the cornmeal dough: For the meat filling:

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, kosher salt, paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and cumin. Divide the mixture in half and reserve 1 half for later use.

Cut the pork butt into 6 even pieces about the size of your fist, and place into a 6 to 8-quart saucepan. You can often buy pre-cut "carnitas" portions of pork butt at your local grocery. Add half of the spice mixture and enough water, 3 to 3 1/2 quarts, to completely cover the meat. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meat is very tender and falling apart, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid to a cutting board. Leave the cooking liquid in the pot. Both meat and liquid need to cool slightly before making dough and handling. Remove any large pieces of fat and shred the meat into small pieces, pulling apart with your hands or using 2 forks.

Place a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Once shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are semi-translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and remaining half of the spice mixture and continue to cook for another minute. Add the meat, orange juice and beer. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

FOR THE WRAPPERS:

While the meat is cooking, place the husks in a large bowl or container and submerge completely in hot water. Soak the husks until they are soft and pliable, at least 45 minutes and up to 2 hours.

FOR THE DOUGH:

Place the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and combine. Add the lard and using your hands, knead together until the lard is well incorporated into the dry mixture. Gradually add enough of the reserved cooking liquid, 3 to 4 cups to create a dough that is like thick mashed potatoes. The dough should be moist but not wet. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set aside until ready to use.

TO ASSEMBLE THE TAMALES:

Remove a corn husks from the water and pat dry to remove excess water. Working in batches of 6, lay the husks on a towel and spread about 2 tablespoons of the dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk to within 1/2-inch of the edges. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture in a line down the center of the dough. Roll the husk so the dough surrounds the meat, then fold the bottom under to finish creating the tamale. Repeat until all husks, dough and filling are used. Tie the tamales, around the center, individually or in groups of 3, with kitchen twine or using shredded strands of excess corn husks. I usually peel the smaller husks into strands to use for tying. As you finish wrapping and tying them, stand the finished tamales open-end up in a steamer.

TO COOK THE TAMALES:

With the tamales standing upright in the steamer, cover the top of them with additional corn husks to help seal in the steam. If you have a large steaming pot, you can also use a layer of corn husks to separate multiple layers of tamales.

Steam the tamales for 1 ½ hours. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes with the lid off the steamer. This helps them to set up more firmly. Then plate them for immediate consumption, or place them in zip-lock bags to be eaten later.  You can also freeze them at this point, and enjoy them for up to a month by microwaving or re-steaming to heat.

*****

On The Horizon...

The 6-6 Texans travel to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars on Sunday.  A win there would bring great momentum toward a franchise-first victory on the road in Indianapolis the following week.

Last week's Captain's Log:  Game 11 v. Bengals