DOA on Opening Day

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September 12, 2005
DOA on Opening Day

by Charles Spooner

“We live for Sundays!” That’s what the Texans said many times over their offseason promos. But the Bills defense and a young quarterback in his first start made the Texans look like the living dead, as Buffalo trounced Houston 22-7 on opening day.

Bills’ second year quarterback J.P. Losman looked like a savvy veteran on the opening drive, hitting on his first five passes. Texans cornerback Phillip Buchanon seemed to be the target of Buffalo’s offensive game plan, getting abused by wide receiver Lee Evans for two big first downs. Losman’s only incompletion stalled the drive and Rian Lindell‘s 35-yard field goal gave the Bills a 3-0 lead.

The Texans’ initial drive had a familiar look to Texans fans. Two runs by Domanick for small yardage, followed by a sack of QB David Carr. Three and out, we know you too well. Losman picked up the assault on Buchanon with three completions on the next drive and moved the Bills into scoring position. Another red zone stop by Houston forced another Lindell field goal.

Turnovers by Carr and Davis led to two additional Lindell field goals and an early second quarter 12-0 Buffalo lead. The play that was concluded with Troy Vincent’s interception of David Carr was particularly entertaining in that it included penalties by two Texans offensive linemen (Todd Wade and Chester Pitts). Television sets across Houston were now endangered due to flying objects.

One of the most unsightly scoring drives in Texans’ history cut Buffalo’s lead to 12-7. Though Carr was only 2 of 6 passing, his legs (and three Bills’ penalties) led the Texans to the Buffalo one-yard line. On fourth-and-goal, Carr ran right and placed the ball over the right pylon (we think).

The Bills answered with a long drive of their own with Willis McGahee accounting for 54 yards of offense. The powering runs of McGahee setup an easy one-yard touchdown pass to the tackle eligible Jason Peters. Buffalo took a 19-7 lead, and a ton of momentum to the lockeroom at halftime.

Texans had chances to turn the game’s momentum in the second half. Corey Bradford dropped a 33-yard pass from Carr. That play would have setup the Texans inside the Bill’s 10-yard line. Another Carr pass was intercepted in the endzone by Troy Vincent. Antwan Peek had a J.P. Losman misfire in his sights inside the Buffalo 10-yard line, only to watch it, and the Texans chance at an upset, slip though his fingers.

Takeo Spikes’ fourth quarter strip of Carr led to Lindell’s fifth and final field goal of the day, and a 22-7 Bills advantage. The Texans following drive left a fourth-and three at the Texans’ 33-yard line. Texans head coach Dom Capers’ decision to punt down by 15 points in fourth quarter seemed to be a statement of submission. In reality it was just pragmatic, as no one watching on the sideline, in the stands, or via the tube thought the Texans could convert. Lawyer Milloy’s interception ended an impressive day (5 sacks, 5 turnovers, 120 yards of total offense allowed) by the Buffalo defense.

For those with a taste for the macabre, Pittsburgh is the Texans’ next opponent. After snacking on Tennessee’s Titans, the Steelers should bring a healthy appetite to Reliant next Sunday. And the Texans are the main course. Fava beans and Chianti are optional. What Went Right?

Defense Regroups in Second Half Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio made halftime adjustments that kept J.P. Losman off balance and the Bills out of the endzone. The major improvement came from giving more help to Philip (Don’t call me Showtime) Buchanon. Seth Payne turned a poor first half around with six total tackles.

Special Teams Not that special but not that noticeable, either. And that is a good thing as Buffalo had one of the premier special teams units in 2004. No big returns allowed. Only one penalty. It is at least one thing the Texans can build upon.

It’s Only One Game The ’72 Dolphins perfect season is safe. But, the Texans have not been eliminated from playoffs. No serious injuries (unless egos count). And Texans have bounced back from bad games before. Not buying what I’m selling? Neither am I.

What Went Wrong?

David Carr Lost His Mojo Seven games into the 2004 season, Carr was among the leaders in several passing categories. The Texans held a 4-3 record and were darkhorse playoff contenders without much of a running game and an inconsistent defense thanks in large part to David’s skills and leadership. Since then, the Texans are 3-7, and Carr has thrown 12 interceptions to only 7 touchdown passes. So, what went wrong? A total of 9 completions to teammates, three to the enemy. Only 70 yards passing to 45 yards lost in QB sacks. It seems Carr has completely lost belief in his offensive line, shows little trust in his receivers, and lacks confidence in the plays coming from the sideline. In the name of Andy Roddick, call a press conference and find this Mojo guy!

Coaching This is not about Palmer’s run-run-sack-punt offense. Nor Fangio’s refusal to blitz. Or Caper’s conservative approach in the fourth quarter. Just the lack of preparation the Texans displayed in the opening game of the season. How many times did you hear this mantra over the course of the summer? “We’re preparing for Buffalo.” Really? It is terrifying to consider at what might have happened at Ralph Wilson had Capers and Company not primed all offseason for this contest. A near rookie QB had the defense on their toes. Every Bill defender knew where Carr and his receivers would be on nearly every play. Capers seemed to waiting for that big play, like a 102-yard interception return that would make everything better. It never came and now the staff had only a week to gear up for their next foe. Time to start cramming.

Confidence Confidence is a powerful force when you have it. A devastating debility when it is lost. There was a swagger on opening night in 2002, when a young team shocked the world by the score of 19-10. It was nowhere to be found on the Texans sideline in this initial game of the season. The QB distrusts his teammates. The offensive coordinator has no faith in the QB. The defensive coordinator does not believe the players he has coached will execute the blitzes he has designed. And a head coach thinks that a fourth-and-three conversion by his offense is less likely than a miracle comeback with less than two minutes left on the clock. Maybe it was naiveté rather than confidence that filled the air that evening against the Dallas Cowboys. That innocence has been lost.

Key Play Of The Game

After four field goals in their four previous possessions, Buffalo was determined to find the endzone on their next trip in Houston territory. With a Texan goal line defense keyed totally to the runs of Willis McGahee, J.P. Losman deftly faked a handoff to his powerful back. Alone in the endzone (except for his teammate, TE Mark Campbell), massive tackle eligible Jason Peters waved frantically at his young QB. Losman lofted a high, soft pass that was snatched by the former Razorback. It was the only Bills touchdown of the game. The play was unconventional, aggressive, and entertaining. Things that the Texans are not.

Week 1 Recap David Carr dives just inside the pylon for the Texans’ only score of the game. Final Score Houston Texans 7 Buffalo Bills 22 Lookin’ Good

Dunta Robinson
Still throwing his smallish body against anything in an enemy uniform. A player that an organization can build around.

Oh, my eyes!

Jabar Gaffney
Jabar, please look for the ball. Gaffney’s on another blooper reel..

2005 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.13 Denver 14-20 08.20 Oakland 19-17 08.26 at Dallas 9-21 09.01 at Tampa Bay 14-38 Regular Season 09.11 at Buffalo 7-22 09.18 Pittsburgh 7-27 09.25 Bye   10.02 at Cincinnati 10-16 10.09 Tennessee 20-34 10.16 at Seattle 10-42 10.23 Indianapolis 20-38 10.30 Cleveland 19-16 11.06 at Jacksonville 14-21 11.13 at Indianapolis 17-31 11.20 Kansas City 17-45 11.27 St. Louis 27-33 12.04 at Baltimore 15-16 12.11 at Tennessee 10-13 12.18 Arizona 30-19 12.24 Jacksonville 20-38 01.01 at San Francisco 17-20   Overall Record 2-14