Taking One on the Chin

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August 28, 2004
Taking One on the Chin

by Keith Weiland

The Texans traveled to Denver hoping to put behind them last week’s drubbing at the hands of the Steelers. While they were able to show some life on offense in the first half, a lackluster performance in the second half put Houston on its heels with a 31-17 defeat.

While neither team likely wanted to show too much on the field given that these two teams will meet again on November 7 when it will count in the regular season standings, Domanick Davis did show enough on seven carries to make the offense look formidable, if not ferociously promising.

Davis, in his first action of the preseason, ran for 49 yards in his three series of work. He also caught a pair of passes for another 20 yards. His counterpart in the running attack, Tony Hollings, showed that he is the zag to Davis’ zig, gaining 79 yards on his 13 carries.

Davis ran for 28 of those yards on the team’s initial drive, setting up a 27-yard touchdown run by Hollings giving the Texans an early 7-0 lead.

David Carr continued his consistent and efficient preseason, connecting on 8 of his 13 passes, including the strike to Derick Armstrong in the second quarter which gave his team a 14-7 lead. Carr’s offense moved the ball effectively on a staunchy first-team Bronco defense that had yet to give up a score in its two previous preseason games.

On defense meanwhile, the Texans were missing several key players, including outside linebackers Jason Babin and Antwan Peek, plus defensive linemen Gary Walker and Seth Payne. Those absences gave the Denver offense ample opportunity to find open receivers. Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer took advantage of the missing pass rush and poor outside containment often, including his 1-yard bootleg into the endzone to make the halftime score 14-13 in favor of the Texans.

Carr turned things over to Tony Banks and the rest of the Texans backups on offense for the second half, and the results were less impressive. The only points mustered by the reserves came off the foot of kicker Kris Brown, as his 26-yard field goal made the score 19-17 in favor of Denver.

The second-team defense faltered next, giving up a pair of field goals to stretch the deficit to 25-17. Backup quarterback Danny Kannell then pump faked to allow receiver Triandos Luke get separation on cornerback Jason Bell, completing a 74-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed to make the final score 31-17 in favor of the Broncos.

Next up, the Texans return home to Reliant Stadium to battle the Buccaneers.

What Went Right?

Domanick Davis and the Rushing Offense Davis was the needed sparkplug for the Texan offense. Though he only played in three series, Davis was electric with the football in his hand, reading his zone blocks to perfection and carrying 7 times for 49 yards. He also caught a dump-off pass from Carr, which he sprung into a big 24-yard gain. His return also relegated Tony Hollings into a backup role, and offering a change of pace is something Hollings really excels at providing. Hollings gained 79 yards on 13 carries, highlighted by his 27-yard scoot for a score.

Derick Armstrong and Corey Bradford Minus top receiver Andre Johnson due to a death in his family, the Texans needed Bradford and Armstrong to play a more active role in the first-team offense. Both responded to the challenge, each making key receptions in the first half. Bradford caught two balls for 59 yards. His first showed some quick hands, while his second, a 47-yarder, showed off his big play ability. Armstrong made three catches for 34 yards, including the team’s second touchdown in which he made a great dive at the pylon. Armstrong also showed some ability to run after the catch late in the first half, scrambling to the sideline after a 13-yard catch to save a time out.

Aggressive Play Calling Davis’ return is enough to make any offensive coordinator look like a genius, but Chris Palmer did show off his confidence in his third-year quarterback early in the game. Carr threw often on first down, unwrapping a gameplan in which the Texans passed first to set up big gains later on the ground. It was a formula that worked well against the Broncos, and perhaps it is a sign of things to come in the regular season.

What Went Wrong?

Tony Banks Banks was error-prone and uninspiring in relief of Carr. Taking over with a one-point lead, Banks missed an opportunity to score when he overthrew WR Sloan Thomas in the end zone, then later threw behind FB Jarrod Baxter short of the goalline. Early in the fourth quarter, he grossly underthrew his intended target and was intercepted. Banks completed just 50 percent of his passes for 50 yards.

Pass Rush Missing in Action The Texans didn’t play four of their key players on defense, and the effects on the already suspect pass rush were obvouis. No Gary Walker, Seth Payne, Jason Babin, and Antwan Peek meant that QB Jake Plummer could snake all he wanted in the pocket. That was bad news for CB Dunta Robinson, as the rookie was challenged repeatedly and exposed often for his lack of experience covering the likes of Broncos veteran WR Rod Davis. It also meant the defense had a hard time forcing fourth downs, as the Broncos converted five of their seven third down opportunities in the first half.

Chester Pitts It was an uncommon off-night for Pitts as a pass blocker. He drew the assignment against Denver’s Trevor Pryce, and Pitts was beaten twice on his left side, allowing Pryce to notch two sacks of Carr. The second of the two sacks was most harmful, as it essentially killed a two-minute drill opportunity for the offense to move into field goal range and extend their slim lead late in the first half.

Key Play Of The Game

The fourth quarter of a preseason contest may produce a key play of the game, but the guys still on the field at that point are likely to be fighting for spots on the practice squad at best.

Such is the case for reserve wide receiver Chris Taylor, a Texas A&M product at or near the bottom of the depth chart. With 7:33 left to play and only down by five points, Taylor found himself on the field, his number called in the huddle for a big reverse up the left sideline.

Taking the handoff a few yards deep of the line of scrimmage at the Texans’s 41-yard line, Taylor whipped around to the 46-yard line where he was held up by Broncos linebacker Cornelius Anthony. Determined to make a play on some game film, Anthony ripped the ball from Taylor and returned the fumble 37 yards to the Texans’ 9-yard line.

The Broncos only managed a field goal off the turnover, but the eight-point margin was more than enough to protect a lead against a pack of ineffective Texan reserves on offense.

Preseason Week 3 Jason Bell is helped by the medical staff after giving up a TD reception. Final Score Houston Texans 17 Denver Broncos 31 Lookin’ Good

David Carr
For the third time in three tries this preseason, Carr had another solid performance. Completing 8 of 13 passes for 114 yards and a TD, he has been consistent and poised. Most importantly, Carr has yet to make a foolish decision with the football, throwing zero interceptions to date.

Oh, my eyes!

Jason Bell
Spectacular in special teams coverage, Bell seems to often make a spectacle of himself in pass coverage. Bell was beaten on a pump fake late in the fourth quarter, allowing WR Triandos Luke to scamper away with a 74-yd TD pass from Danny Kannell. As if that wasn’t painful enough, Luke’s heel kicked Bell in the chin on the way down, making the whole incident a bloody mess.

2004 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.14 Dallas 18-0 08.21 at Pittsburgh 3-38 08.27 at Denver 17-31 09.02 Tampa Bay 9-17 Regular Season 09.12 San Diego 20-27 09.19 at Detroit 16-28 09.26 at Kansas City 24-21 10.03 Oakland 30-17 10.10 Minnesota 28-34 10.17 at Tennessee 20-10 10.24 BYE — 10.31 Jacksonville 20-6 11.07 at Denver 13-31 11.14 at Indianapolis 14-49 11.21 Green Bay 13-16 11.28 Tennessee 31-21 12.05 at New York Jets 7-29 12.12 Indianapolis 14-23 12.19 at Chicago 24-5 12.26 at Jacksonville 21-0 01.02 Cleveland 14-22   Overall Record 7-9