Texans 43, Jaguars 37: Four Red Flags, Four Silver Linings
Check out our photos of Sunday's hard-fought game against the Jaguars.
Photo by Marco Torres It's let's get crazy time
Arizona in 2009. Baltimore in 2010. Oakland in 2011.
This was that game for the Texans. The one they seemingly have every season where they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot with self-inflicted errors and stage a valiant comeback, only to find themselves in a hole one play too large.
This year, with the help of career days from Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, they finished that game. Even with an understandable letdown after the emotional Sunday night win in Chicago.
That's the optimistic outlook, of course.
The pessimist would say red flags are abundant. The Texans (9-1) needed a miraculous comeback and overtime to beat now 1-9 Jacksonville. The league's No. 2 ranked defense surrendered 37 points to a team directed by Chad Henne. The meltdown against Green Bay was excusable because of MVP Aaron Rodgers. This one? Not as easy to explain.
Which side is more realistic? Let's take a look.
1. The secondary. The same unit that looked flawless in Chicago appeared helpless against the Jaguars. Three pass plays of 60+ yards. Two touchdowns of 67 and 81 yards, one after a blown tackle (by Kareem Jackson) at the five-yard mark, and the other after Brice McCain and safety Danieal Manning collided and took themselves out of the play. It's now twice in five games that Wade Phillips' defense has been shredded against the pass.
"They caught us," said safety Glover Quin. "It seemed like every time we did something, they had the right play called."
2. The kicker. Indoors, anything of 50 yards and closer should be almost automatic. Shayne Graham missed two, including a 47-yarder that would've won it in regulation. Moreover, in the first half, Gary Kubiak opted to punt from the Jacksonville 36-yard line - an indication that he may not trust Graham's leg. Graham hasn't held a full-time kicking job since his postseason meltdown in January 2010 with Cincinnati. If the Texans need a long kick in a pressure situation, it's hard to trust Graham right now.
"You can't make them all," said Graham after the game. "You wish you could. It's not a great feeling, but that's over with and now we move on for the future."
3.) The pass rush. Has anyone seen Antonio Smith lately? The Houston defensive end has now gone three consecutive games without as much as a half-sack. On Sunday, his most notable contribution was a 15-yard personal foul in overtime that jumpstarted a Jacksonville scoring drive (field goal). While Smith has struggled, so has the rest of the Houston pass rush - with only J.J. Watt being somewhat of an exception.
"We needed to get a little more pressure and do what we did at the end of the game," said Watt. "Do what we did in the overtime period, get pressure, bat some balls."
Until overtime, the Texans were unable to generate much pressure on Henne without blitzing - and when that happened, it left holes in the secondary for the likes of Justin Blackmon. Things did turn around late, though, with Watt notching a critical fourth-quarter sack and the defense collectively knocking down several passes in overtime.
4.) The coach. This was not the 13-6 defensive slugfest we saw in Chicago. Unfortunately, it took a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for Kubiak to recognize that. While trailing or tied with a dynamic offense, Kubiak opted to punt from the Jacksonville 36, kick a field goal on 4th-and-inches inside the 10, run a draw on 3rd-and-17 (which ended in a fumble) and settle for a 40+ yard kick in the closing seconds with a shaky kicker. The final decision was particularly egregious, considering Schaub was set up at the Jacksonville 30 with a minute left, two timeouts and moving the ball at will. Instead, the Texans twice handed off to Arian Foster and took their chances with a lengthy kick.
Appropriately, it missed.
"I'll have to go back and look at every situation," said Kubiak, who was asked about the playcalling. "We tried to stay aggressive, but at the same time they made us be patient the way they played us. "
Those types of conservative decisions make sense in games like last week with a lights-out defense. It was obvious early on that this was a very different style of game, yet Kubiak stubbornly clung to a defensive posture until it was almost too late. Are he and the Texans capable of learning this lesson without actually losing? We'll soon find out.