There are obviously any number of ways to look at what happened on Sunday. If one wants snark there is more than enough in our “Hair of the Dog” article. I certainly own my portion of that. Here, I want to channel the spirit of Jack Webb from the old “Dragnet” series. We want to focus on the facts and only the facts.
In particular, when we focus on statistics we have to remember that sample size is crucial. Scientists often scoff at an N of one. Well, we now have a N of two. That being said, we will begin to see patterns if we look at the same numbers week in and week out. Those patterns tell us who the Houston Texans are as a team. They tell management what needs to happen to improve. We will focus on one new number today, but I will go back and fill in the blanks from week one. Like we did last time, we will focus on two things. First, we will look at the basic numbers and then we will focus on Davis Mills more specifically.
The Basic Numbers
Total Yards: 350 Broncos, 234 Texans
Total Plays: 62 Broncos, 56 Texans
Passing Yards: 201 Broncos, 154 Texans
Rushing Yards: 149 Broncos, 80 Texans
Yards Per Play: 5.6 Broncos, 4.2 Texans
Time of Possession: 32:33 Broncos, 27:27 Texans
Sacks: 3.0 Broncos, 3.0 Texans
Three and Outs: 1 Broncos, 4 Texans
Turnovers Forced: 1 Texans, 0 Broncos
Penalties: 8/94 Texans, 13/100 Broncos
So let’s start with the new number. We will start tracking three and outs regularly so we can get a running tally. It is both a sign of how ineffectual your offense and how dominant your defense is. The bolded numbers are the only two the Texans bested the Denver Broncos in and they are what we can affectionately call the “Culley Number.” In other words, if you make fewer mistakes than your opponent you should theoretically win the game.
As we have seen the first two weeks, the quality you bring to the other numbers actually matters. Culley is not completely wrong. Making fewer mistakes will keep you in the game and they definitely have done that two weeks in a row. Still, you have to actually do something to win the game.
We start with some positives. Lovie Smith said they would give it to Dameon Pierce more and that was true. He was rewarded with back to back 11 yard gains at one point. Pierce averaged better than 4.5 yards per carry to produce the most effective running since the Texans beat the Los Angeles Chargers last season. Still, it is puzzling how a team so committed to the run could see such a disproportionate number of passes two weeks in a row when they were playing one score games or were far ahead. That’s 38 passes and 18 runs in a game where your passing game wasn’t working, but you were also winning going into the fourth quarter.
To make good on the opening process, the Texans also lost the battle of three and outs in week one four to two. That gives them eight for the season against three for their opponents. Not coincidentally, they have gained a total of 157 yards on the ground as compared to their opponents’ 326. I’m not great at the mental math, but that is approximate a two to one margin. The fact that the three and outs are nearly the same can’t be a coincidence.
The Mills Factor
Again, we can focus on the numbers or we can flood the airwaves with snark. I try to imagine if someone were to come in and evaluate my performance at work. Some days are uglier than others. The same is true for professional athletes. I would hope that those that evaluate me treat me with some level of kindness and understanding. A lot of things go into these performances. Sometimes the defense is just better than you. Sometimes those around you don’t hold up their end of the bargain, Maybe the coaches just don’t put you in a position to win. Any and all of those of things are possible here.
Yards per Attempt: 4.7
ESPN QBR: 20.0
These numbers speak for themselves. There is not a whole lot of good going on right there. ESPN’s QBR is particularly telling, Going into Monday night’s games, they are saying that 80 percent of the starting quarterbacks were better than him. There’s really no way of getting around that. What we can say is that there are days when Aaron Rodgers looks like a shell-shocked rookie. Tom Brady has had bad days too. So, this one game doesn’t necessarily spell doom for Mills.
However, when we look at the first two weeks we see that the opposing quarterback had better QBRs than Mills. They each had more yards and more yards per attempt than Mills. Both threw interceptions when Mills did not. One could credibly claim that the Texans are purposefully being conservative to limit mistakes. That’s a fair point. However, if this trend continues it will be very hard to justify considering Mills a franchise quarterbacks. Franchise quarterbacks don’t get outplayed week in and week out.