BATTLE-DRINK, Week 10: Randy Bullock Bullies Your Liver
We are at the mathematical halfway point of the Texans season, and the team sits at 2-6. It's funny how this weekly BATTLE-DRINK game, if you go back and look at each week, in an odd way sort of weaves the tapestry of the entire season. You can see how all the storylines and futility have evolved week to week just by reading the revolving squares each Friday.
Illustration by Monica Fuentes Full-size version at end of item.
Going all the way back to Week 1's board, you can see that the themes for the Chargers game were largely of the on-the-field/broadcast variety, a smattering of squares having to do with celebrations, statistics, on-air mentions and John McClain's Twitter feed.
As we head into Week 10 with the Texans taking on the Arizona Cardinals, all of a sudden we have squares devoted to Gary Kubiak's health, the jumbled running back roster, a quarterback non-controversy-that-some-people-are-trying-to-make-a-controversy, bullying in the Dolphins locker room, and John McClain's Twitter feed.
In other words, somewhere along the way the hope and renewal of the 0-0 record going into the season devolved into a multilayered 2-6 soap opera. The common ground for both?
BATTLE-DRINK will mess you up!
So here we go, into Week 10, and what appeared to be a manageable road win before the season (preseason line was Texans -3) now sees the Texans as a three-point underdog trying to keep their season on mathematical life support.
(Breaking Bad SPOILER ALERT in the next paragraph!)
So if the pundits are correct, this will mean another one of my favorite things seeing its tragic demise in the desert: first it was Hank Schrader and Sunday it could be the Texans' 2013 season.
All right, here's this week's BATTLE-DRINK overview:
B1: Arian Foster carry
B2: Ben Tate carry
B3: Ray Graham carry
B4: Dennis Johnson carry
B5: Deji Karim carry
The running back situation is only slightly less messy than last week. We know that Arian Foster is still sitting out practice, now with a back issue. That is messy. However, we know that Ben Tate will play despite the banged-up ribs, and we know that Dennis Johnson will be active again after a debut on Sunday night where he showed good burst on his eight carries (36 yards). Ray Graham and Deji Karim stay on the BATTLE-DRINK board in the event Foster is deactivated and one of them steps into the breach.
As an aside, where are we now on the "alert level" for Arian Foster's physical well-being? In college, he dealt with injuries his whole time at Tennessee, then he came to Houston in 2009 and hardly played at all his rookie season. In fact, he was active for just the final four games of the year. He was fully healthy for 2010, easily his best season, but since then has either missed significant time (three games starting the 2011 season, multiple games now this season) or looked sluggish and less explosive (most of 2012). Is it a crazy hypothesis to think that Arian Foster just might be injury-prone and that his only fully healthy, active season (2010) was a result of essentially taking almost all of 2009 off from physical contact? Probably a question for a doctor.
I1: Gary Kubiak mention
I2: Wade Phillips happy fist pump
Of course, the big story surrounding the Texans this week has been the health of Gary Kubiak and how the team will handle his absence this Sunday. On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was named interim head coach (a role that he has played two times before to some critical acclaim, in New Orleans in 1985 after his old man was fired, and in Atlanta in 2003 for Dan Reeves) for the time being, although it sounds like Kubiak should be back for the Oakland game on November 17, barring any setbacks, as reported by John McClain.
Now, with Kubiak out convalescing, this is an opportunity for us to perhaps learn some of the nuances of what goes on on a daily basis over at Kirby, things that Kubiak would normally keep shielded from us in the media. Things like play calling! To that end, I think this was my favorite Twitter revelation of the Wednesday media sessions:
Rick Dennison said that Gary Kubiak has been off and on letting him call some plays for a while now. #Texans— James Palmer (@JPalmerCSN) November 6, 2013
Word has it that Kubiak also lets Dennison drive sometimes, but just slow and in the driveway.
I3: Matt Schaub wearing-helmet shot
One tendency these days for fans and media both is for us to take something we are seeing transpire on the sidelines, and then fill in the blanks on the background and dialogue, even though we have no clue on either. We saw it earlier in the football season when everyone assumed that Johnny Manziel was "ignoring" an angry Kevin Sumlin on the sidelines after Manziel picked up a 15-yard penalty (Sumlin said that wasn't the case). This past Sunday, we all watched Matt Schaub stand by himself on the sidelines with his helmet on, blankly staring at the field. Here's how the breakdown on that image went:
FANS/MEDIA NARRATIVE: "Look at Schaub....all by himself...his teammates must hate him, he must hate his teammates, he must hate LIFE, he must hate Case Keenum, he's selfish, oh and why does he have his helmet on?!? LOSER!!"
POSSIBLE (Likely?) ACTUAL TRUTH: "Schaub was listening to the play calls through the helmet transmitter, was standing down at the end of the bench to get the best view of what was going on on the field, and he actually DID go interact with Keenum and the offense when they were on the sidelines."
For purposes of BATTLE-DRINK, it doesn't matter what Schaub's doing on the sideline. We just need the blank stare on our television screens.