No Fun in the Sun

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September 19, 2005
No Fun in the Sun

by Charles Spooner

Dom Capers finally saw the team he’s dreamt of this Sunday at Reliant Stadium. On display was a balanced, ball control offense with a laser-armed, mobile quarterback capable of big plays and a stifling 3-4 defense featuring a withering zone blitz – a combination of two mistake-free units that were dominant on both sides of the ball. That team, however, was wearing the black and gold uniforms of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who dealt the Houston Texans a humbling 27-7 loss in their 2005 home opener.

The Steelers opened with a 61-yard drive, featuring the slashing runs of Willie Parker. Parker ran for 37 yards on 5 carries, but Pittsburgh was forced to settle for a 37-yard Jeff Reed field goal. It should be noted that long, time consuming drives ending in field goals are now considered “wins” for the Texans’ defense.

The Texans’ offense is nothing if not consistent. That stability came through in their opening series. Two Domanick Davis runs for short yardage, followed by a David Carr turnover. Steeler linebackers Clark Haggins and Jerry Porter combined on the fumble and recovery, setting up Pittsburgh deep in Texan territory. Two plays later, Pittsburgh vaulted to 10-0 lead when wide receiver Hines Ward beat Phillip (I’m a Playmaker) Buchanon on a short curl, and outraced the Texans’ secondary into the end zone.

After a Texan punt, Steeler second-year quarterback sensation, Ben Roethlisberger, engineered a 92-yard scoring drive. The big play was 36-yard sideline strike to receiver Cedric Wilson; a close play which should have been challenged as out of bounds by Capers. Ward again beat Buchanon on a 16-yard skinny post, giving the Steelers a 17-point lead early in the 2nd quarter.

The Texans followed with a nice drive to the Steeler 31-yard line, highlighted by a juggling 24-yard reception by Corey Bradford. From there, the Texans’ drive imploded, and Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu recorded the first of his three sacks on the day. One more long drive by Pittsburgh ended in a field goal, and the Steelers went into the half up 20-0.

Houston took the ball to open the second half and seemed to make adjustments against the Steeler defense. Carr hit five different receivers on the drive and converted a third-and-14 with a 20-yard scramble down the right sideline. Carr eventually found Davis on a 3-yard touchdown strike on a play that was so well designed and executed, the crowd was frozen in a Caper-esque “shock and awe” gape.

Reality returned soon as the Steelers quickly returned the favor. A boneheaded offside call against Jason Babin gave the Steelers a second chance at a third down conversion. Roethlisberger took advantage and found Wilson downfield for a 40-yard pickup. Despite a thundering slap on the rear by Buchanon, Parker strutted for a 10-yard TD run and gave the Steelers the final score of the game.

Bad news, horror fans. Part III of the Nightmare on Kirby will not be aired next Sunday. Check your local video stores for the newly released DVD, Bloodsuckers, featuring the spooky Peter Cushing. Or any Roseanne rerun. In two weeks, look for several new faces in the Texans starting lineup. New blood for the Bengals? Can’t hardly wait.

What Went Right?

#2 Wide Receiver Derek Armstrong made his case for inclusion in the starting lineup with a strong (by 2005 Texan standards) performance. Armstrong caught all three passes directed at him (one negated by penalty), and seems to be the only Texan wideout that is comfortable catching the ball over the middle. Whether Derek starts, or plays in the 3 or 4 WR sets, Armstrong needs to be on the field often in Cincinnati.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town And his name is Dunta Robinson. Robinson brought a smile to many Texan fans as he admonished Phillip Buchanon for his gutless effort on a Pittsburgh scoring drive. If Showtime was not humiliated by his play, maybe a dressing down by his fellow corner will do the trick. Good job, Officer Robinson. Some of us citizens are behind you all the way.

Coming to a Stadium Near You Good news. Bob McNair just sold the rights to the 2005 Houston Texans “highlights” to horror maven Wes Craven. The preliminary titled “Frankenstein Comes to Houston” will star Dom Capers as Dr. Frankenstein, a mad scientist whose previous creation was destroyed in 20th century Carolina. Chris Palmer is cast as Igor, the schizoid assistant who really wants to run and shoot (no he doesn’t, yes he does, no he doesn’t…). David Carr nabs the part of The Creature, an intriguing experiment that turns into a mechanical beast with uncontrollable hair. And the role of the village mob goes to the Houston Texans season ticket holders, who just want to burn down the organization and start over.

What Went Wrong?

The Tao of Chris Can an offense be both a feather and a fist? A soaring eagle and a raging bull? A supersonic jet and a menacing tank? Um… no. Not if it is in the uniform of the Houston Texans. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer had difficulty deciding between a wide open, 4-wide receiver assault or a 3-tight end, smash mouth attack. So, he went with both against the Steelers. Note to the Texans’ coaching staff: If you are so hung up on the team “executing” the game plan, pick an offense that they can get familiar with. Else your quarterback will continue to die the death of a thousand knives.

This is Tackle Football? Possibly the most embarrassing example of Houston Texans football was displayed by Phillip (Tackling is Not My Bag) Buchanon during a Pittsburgh third quarter scoring drive. Steelers’ fullback Dan Kreider took a swing pass to the Texans’ 10-yard line, only to be pushed out of bounds by Buchanon’s back. That’s right, P-Buch backed into a tackle. Phillip was not quite as physical on the following play, as Willie Parker received a love tap from Showtime on the way to a touchdown run. Hey P-Buch, the National Touch Football Championship will be in Orlando on January 15, 2006. You will be a natural. Honorable mention: Antwan Peek’s shadow dancing performance with Ben Roethlisberger. Andy Gibb would be proud.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me Brilliant idea. Put the northern team from Pittsburgh in their black jerseys, open the retractable roof, let in the scorching Houston heat, and then watch them melt. Unfortunately, “them” became the Houston fans who were sitting in the midday sun. Many ticket holders fled their seats for cover as field temperature reached 120 °F. Meanwhile, the Steelers were running around the field like Paris Hilton at spring break. So much for home field advantage.

Key Play Of The Game

After the Texans’ offense grabbed a bit of momentum to start the second half with a touchdown drive, the defense was poised to maintain the advantage. They forced a third-and-ten pass that was short of the first down. Oh my! Visions of last season’s near comeback against the Vikings danced in the delirious minds of sunstroke fans. Alas, a terrible yellow towel was found on the ground…courtesy of an offside by Jason (Ink is Your Friend) Babin. Given a second chance, Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger scanned the field, counted the letters in his last name (14!), pondered the pros and cons of motorcycle helmets, and hit wide receiver Cedric Wilson on a 40-yard, cross field rainbow. Whatever hot air left in the Texans’ balloon escaped, as the Steelers walked into the end zone three plays later and extended their lead to an insurmountable 27-7.

Week 2 Recap Steelers safety Troy Polamalu gets in David Carr’s face in the first quarter. Final Score Houston Texans 7 Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Lookin’ Good

Shantee Orr
In for Jason Babin in the fourth quarter, Orr chased down Big Ben and deflected a pass. That’s all I saw that could be described as good.

Oh, my eyes!

Jason Babin
Offside on a key third down stop. Zero solo tackles. Spend the bye week deciding whether you want to be an NFL linebacker or the painted lady on the carnival circuit.

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