Texans 37, Buccaneers 9: Five Things We Learned
Were it not for the heartbreak of the past ten years, week after week of uncompetitive football might get boring. As it is, the Texans and their legion of fans will take the wins however they come.
Photo by Marco Torres In the immortal words of Ian Dury: Reasons to be cheerful, part three.
The Texans cruised past Tampa Bay (4-5) on Sunday from the game's very first play, when Matt Schaub connected on a career long 80-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones. The win -- the fourth straight for Houston, all in blowout fashion -- sends the Texans to 7-3 entering their bye week, in firm control of first place in the AFC South and the conference's No. 1 overall seed.
The No. 1 seed would place the Texans just two games from the Super Bowl, both of which would come in the friendly confines of Reliant Stadium.
Of course, the Texans proved Sunday that home comfort isn't necessary. Facing a Tampa Bay team that had previously beaten the Saints and Falcons at home, the Texans methodically gashed the Buccaneers from the outset before finally breaking their will in the second half.
Here are five key takeaways from the latest Texan blowout.
5) Gary Kubiak is having a great season
All week long, analysts doubted whether Tampa Bay had the defensive line to stop the Texan run game, especially with Gerald McCoy suffering a season-ending injury and Albert Haynesworth being forced into major minutes. As such, the Texans figured they could catch Tampa's back seven overcompensating through playaction. On the first play of the game, Schaub faked a handoff to Arian Foster and found Jones all alone. Even though the pass was underthrown, Jones was so wide open that he was still able to make the catch and elude defenders for the score.
Later in the quarter -- with the Texans holding a 6-0 lead -- Schaub appeared to throw a disastrous interception when blitzed on third-and-goal. Aqib Talib dropped the ball moments later after a strip from Derrick Mason, but it was ruled a fumble on the field and media analysts didn't even question it. Fortunately, Kubiak and his staff did -- astutely observing that Talib had bobbled the ball even before Mason knocked it to the ground. The call was overturned, making it the second consecutive week for Kubiak to win a challenge. Neil Rackers made the ensuing field goal to put Houston up 9-0, and the game was never within a possession again.
4) The defense is no fluke
Sure, Wade Phillips's unit had the luxury of back-to-back games against doormats Jacksonville and Cleveland. Yes, the Buccaneers snapped Houston's franchise record three-game streak of holding opponents under 175 total yards. But this might've been their most impressive performance yet. Against a competent Tampa Bay offense that entered Sunday ranked No. 15 in the NFL, the Texans limited them to 231 yards and nine points. Even better, they sacked Josh Freeman four times, intercepted him three times, held him to 42 percent passing and forced a fumble. It started with pressure from the edges, where outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed wreaked havoc with 1.5 and 1.0 sacks, respectively. Through ten games, the Texans have the No. 1 ranked defensive unit in the NFL.
"There's a sense of confidence," said rookie end J.J. Watt, who had two tackles and a half-sack. "There's a hunger that we're never satisfied."