Banks on the Money

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November 2, 2003
Banks on the Money

by Ric Sweeney

Perhaps it took the Texans a while to warm up to having someone other than David Carr under center.

Whatever the reason, after an unproductive first half, Tony Banks, starting in place of the injured Carr, led Houston to two touchdowns as the Texans upset the Carolina Panthers, 14-10 and won for the first time with someone other than Carr at quarterback. The win moved Houston to 3-5 on the year.

Banks and the Texans came out firing after an awful first half. Led by Domanick Davis, who rushed 5 times for 51 yards on the drive, including a 17-yard gallop on 3rd-and-8, Houston moved down the field and evened the score at 7 on Stacey Mack’s 1-yard plunge. The 13-play march covered 73 yards, seven more than Houston managed in the game’s first two quarters. Banks converted two third downs on throws to Andre Johnson and Billy Miller.

The Panthers scored on the opening drive of the first half, as they too were led by a back named Davis. Stephen, the NFC’s leading rusher, picked up 20 yards on 8 carries and Jake Delhomme finished things off, completing consecutive passes to Kris Mangum and Steve Smith, the later from 24 yards which gave Carolina the early lead, 7-0.

Things would stay that way the remainder of the half, thanks in large part to two Texan touchdowns (correctly) overturned by replay. The first came early in the second quarter when Steve Foley recovered at the Panther 1 what was first ruled a fumble after a 53-yard Chad Stanley punt appeared to glance off of Carolina return man Steve Smith. But a quick review overturned the ruling on the field.

Later, a Davis fumble was scooped and carried into the end zone by Aaron Glenn, but a review also conclusively showed Davis was, in fact, down prior to the turnover.

After Houston tied the score at 7 in the third quarter, Carolina moved to the Texan 2 before Davis was hit for a 3-yard loss and Delhomme threw two in completions, including a drop by Jermaine Wiggins in the end zone, forcing the Panthers to settle for a 23-yard field goal from John Kasay, pushing the lead to three, 10-7.

Houston roared back. After a Miller penalty forced a third and 18, Banks hit Johnson for 35 yards after picking a bad snap up off the ground. Perched at the Carolina 28, Houston ran four times in a row, including a 3-yard sprint by Mack to convert another third down before Banks split two defenders and found Miller, who bobbled Banks’ laser before tumbling into the end zone for the go-ahead score from 20 yards out with 9:36 remaining.

Down 14-10, Carolina tried to answer, driving to the Texan 38 when Smith, after picking up 7 yards on an end-around, kicked Jerry Deloach in the back after the play had ended, costing the Panthers a down and 15 yards. Backed up to the 46, the team was forced to punt. Smith nearly made up for it on the game’s final play, taking a lateral 32 yards to the Texan 30 before getting tackled.

What Went Right?

After Carolina marched with ease down field on the game’s opening drive, the Houston defense forced an interception, punt, punt, field goal and punt on the Panthers’ five remaining possessions, holding Davis to 43 second half yards after he racked up 107 in the first. A lot of that was due to the offense’s adjustments at the intermission. Of Banks’ 154 yards passing, 121 came during a second half in which he engineered two long scoring drives. Keeping his offense on the field and the clock moving meant keeping a tired Texan defense and a hot Davis on the sidelines for much of the second half.

Billy Miller
As the understudy to David Carr, Banks knows where to go when he has to make a completion. Of Miller’s four receptions, all of which came in the second half, three came at the game’s most critical moments. Miller’s second catch of the third quarter came on a 3rd-and-9 and put the Texans on the Carolina three-yard line to set up the first score. His next catch was for the go-ahead touchdown, a beautiful, bobbling reception on a ball Banks let go of early. His final catch of the game came on a crucial 3rd-and-12 that gave the Texans a first down at the two minute warning.

Eric Brown
His de-cleating tackle of Stephen Davis in the first half is going to find its way onto Texan highlight reels many times over. As memorable as it was, what might get lost over time is how involved Brown was against Carolina in supporting a beleaguered run defense, racking up a game-leading eight tackles.

What Went Wrong?

Pass Rush
Aye, big surprise finding this up here on top. Missing Seth Payne and Gary Walker, not to mention Charlie Clemons, the front seven couldn’t even tell you what cologne Jake Delhomme wore on Sunday. Even when defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called for a blitz, the Panthers seemed to sense it was coming and avoided disaster. Without a pass rush, the defense is over-exposing its other weakness, such as the…

Pass Defense
The Panthers found creases in the middle of the Texans’ zones all afternoon. Jamie Sharper was slow to cover his man entering his zone, and the safeties were oftentimes unable to provide the type of deep support expected by the guys underneath. Had the Panthers fielded better talent at tight end (note Jermaine Wiggins’ back-breaking drop in the end zone forcing the Panthers to kick a field goal), the outcome might have gone the other way.

Mental Mistakes
A holding call on a wide receiver (Jabar Gaffney) and two false starts by a tight end (one by Jabari Holloway and one by Miller) aren’t penalties normally accounted for by an offensive gameplan. The holding calls on center Steve McKinney and even the false start by Chester Pitts are somewhat excusable given the talent on Carolina’s defensive line, but toss in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Antwan Peek on the game’s opening kickoff, and head coach Dom Capers will have plenty to complain about during film sessions this week.

Key Play Of The Game

Trailing 10-7, the Texans seemed to be regressing after an impressive drive to start the second half. Davis was dumped for a 3-yard loss, forcing a 3rd-and-13 that quickly became a 3rd-and-18 when Miller was whistled for a false start. Not good news for a team ranked 29th on third down conversions.

But Banks picked a low snap up off the ground, looked to his left and found Andre Johnson for 35 yards to the Carolina 28, leading, five plays later, to the game-winning score.

Week 8 Review Billy Miller falls into the end zone for the game winner. Final Score Houston Texans 14 Carolina Panthers 10 Lookin’ Good

Tony Banks
After a pedestrian first half (3/6, for 29 yards), Banks came alive in the second half. He scrambled effectively, made terrific throws and led Houston on two, time-consuming, touchdown-yielding drives in the second half. Might we have a QB controversy…?

Oh, my eyes!

False Starts
Jabari Holloway has now been flagged three times in two weeks for false starts, and all told, Houston racked up four on Sunday. A team with this small a margin for error can’t afford to shoot itself in the foot with something so fundamental. And it’s been a year-long problem.

2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20   Overall Record 5-11