Not Healed in Land of Teal

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November 7, 2005
Not Healed in Land of Teal

by Charles Spooner

In times of trouble, the Jacksonville Jaguars have always been there for the Houston Texans. Be it the their first road and division victory in 2002, a stirring come from behind win in 2003, or the franchise’s initial shutout last season, the Jaguars have been the cure for what ailed the Texans. But with playmakers Domanick Davis and Jerome Mathis nursing injuries, the Texans needed stronger medicine than the Jaguars could provide as Houston dropped a close one in Jacksonville, 21-14.

The game’s first quarter was marred with penalties and general sloppy play. The first four possessions in the game ended in punts. Both of Chad Stanley’s punts had Jacksonville starting inside their own 15-yard line. But a late first quarter punt by the Jaguars’ Chris Hanson forced the Texans to begin their third possession of the game deep in the in their own territory at the 12-yard line.

Not a problem, as the Texans eased their way down the field, highlighted by a nifty scramble and dump pass on third down for 20 yards by quarterback David Carr to Jonathan Wells, at starting running back for Davis. The Texans got the early lead for the second week in a row, as wide receiver Corey Bradford took a pass on the right sideline and weaved his way to a 31-yard touchdown reception.

Injuries to the centers Drew Hodgdon and Todd Washington on consecutive plays in the second quarter led to a shuffle along the offensive line. The new deal had left guard Steve McKinney moving to center, Chester Pitts from left tackle to left guard, and the 2004 starter Seth Wand back at left tackle. Not surprisingly, Carr suffered the first of his six sacks on the day.

On defense, it was shades of the last season’s day after Christmas shutout, as Jacksonville’s offense was stymied in the second quarter. The Texans held the Jaguars to 29 yards of offense in the period, giving quarterback Byron Leftwich heavy doses of pressure up the middle and confusing zone coverages. The half extended the Texans’ streak of holding the Jaguars without a touchdown ten quarters. And, for the first time this season, the Texans led at halftime, 7-0.

Houston’s chances in the game looked even better when Jacksonville star running back Fred Taylor left the game for good due to injury in the second half’s opening series. But the Texans’ initial possession looked eerily similar to those early season disasters. The Jags picked up back-to-back sacks, with Carr fumbling after the latter. It would be the game’s only turnover, and it set up Jacksonville’s offense inside the Texans’ 30-yard line.

The Jaguars attempted to return the favor, as linebacker Jason Babin punched the ball loose on a short catch-and-run by Taylor’s backup, rookie Alvin Pearman. Head coach Jack Del Rio challenged the call on the field, and the fumble was reversed. Two plays later, Leftwich hit wide receiver Ernest Wilford running free in the secondary to even the game.

The Texans offense bounced back with offensive coordinator Joe Pendry smartly mixing the run with the pass (7 rushes, 6–6 passing). After attempting to draw the Jaguar defense offside on a fourth-and-one from the Jacksonville 7-yard line, head coach Dom Capers decides to go for the first down. Wells makes the move pay off, finding the end zone behind the blocks of Todd Wade and Milford Brown to regain the lead, 14-7.

On the next series, new starter Ernest Wilford came up with receptions of 39 and 26 yards to put the Jaguars into Texans territory. The Jaguars moved inside the ten-yard line and caught the Texans defense with a quarterback draw. The slow-footed Leftwich leisurely strolled into the end zone to knot the score at 14-14.

The Texans had their chance at keeping the Jaguars from taking the lead, but the tide turned when DaShon Polk stripped the ball from rookie running back Derrick Wimbush. Phillip Buchanon recovered the loose ball, but a rare defensive holding penalty on a rushing play by nose tackle Seth Payne nullified the turnover. Greg Jones then rumbled 12 yards to paydirt as Jacksonville takes their first lead of the game.

With a chance still to tie the game, Carr found Andre Johnson on a big third down conversion for 18 yards, and the Texans moved inside midfield on another Carr-to-Johnson connection for 10 yards. The Jaguars surprised the Texans with a blitz on third-and-4, as middle linebacker Mike Peterson sacks and strips Carr at the 42-yard line. Carr recovered, but the Texans are forced to use their final timeout on fourth down with 54 seconds left in regulation.

The Texans came out of the timeout with Johnson running a crossing route and Corey Bradford on a fly pattern deep down the left sideline. Carr read the free safety and went to Bradford, who had a step on former Texan Kenny Wright. Corey cradled the pass inside the 10-yard line, but the ball fell through his arms as he attempted to bring it into his body. The drop gave the Texans a 1-7 record midway through the 2005 season.

The Texans travel to Indianapolis next week, looking for the first win against the Colts in franchise history. With a loss, the Texans could be eliminated from the AFC South race. Which outcome is more likely? As coach Dom Capers might say, this will be the start of an eight game season. A very long eight game season. What Went Right?

First Half Defense Seemed as if the clock turned back all the way to, well December of 2004. The Texans defense was able to confuse and harass Byron Leftwich to 56 passing yards in the opening half. The combination man/zone coverages designed by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio led to a 2-for-7 third down conversion ratio. Former Pro Bowl defensive end Gary Walker led a rushing defense that kept Fred Taylor from making a big play.

The Return of Andre Johnson The Texans’ lone Pro Bowl representative from the 2004 season had been out for four weeks with a calf injury. In the three games prior, Johnson had only averaged 3 receptions for 25 yards per game. Against the Jaguars, Andre gave every indication that he’s on his way back to Pro Bowl form by snatching 9 passes for 91 yards. Not coincidentally, AJ’s re-emergence led to David Carr’s best statistical passing game of the season. Welcome back.

In This Corner… Following the Texans’ last offensive play, David Carr could be seen in animated discussion with assistant coach Joe Pendry. Soon after, Gary Walker is shown giving Carr the what for and the two had to be separated by Junior Ioane and Corey Bradford. What’s so “right” about the top defensive end going after the quarterback? Hey, at least you know they still care. It would be easy for a 1-7 team to just glad-hand their way off the field, on the way to mailing in the rest of the season. Instead, they are showing some competitive juices. For now, it looks as if this team is still has a heartbeat, if not a shot at the playoffs. If only this passion had started eight games earlier…

What Went Wrong?

Second Half Defense Whatever adjustments Jacksonville offensive coordinator Carl Smith made at halftime, they all turned gold. After failing to get a first down on the opening series of the half, the Jaguars offense would not be stopped for the rest of the game. Jacksonville had answers for any defensive move the Texans made, as they had drives of 84 and 80 yards. While it did not seem the defense turned down their intensity (unless you think Marcus Coleman has shown intensity at any point this season), the Texans defenders were always a step behind. Whatever magic defensive coordinator Vic Fangio held over the Jaguars has been reversed.

Down Goes Drew Hard to believe that a rookie fifth round center leaving the game with a foot injury could have such an impact on a football game. Yet, there was a noticeable difference in the offense’s performance and the quarterback’s confidence after Drew Hodgdon left in the second quarter. Forcing Steve McKinney to center led to Chester Pitts shifting a spot to check the Jaguars best defender, Marcus Stroud. It did not matter who was across from left tackle Seth Wand, as he was no match for any Jacksonville defensive end. If Drew cannot go next week at Indianapolis, Capers and Pendry need to re-evaluate which lineman plays where. Either Pitts starts at left tackle across from All-World defensive end Dwight Freeney or put Tony Banks in at quarterback.

Greasy Palms The Texans were fortunate to be in this game late in the fourth quarter. Five times the ball left Texan hands and fell to the ground. Four times, Texans scooped up the ball. Three of the fumbles were by Carr. Repeat this performance against the high-powered Colts next week, and this could be the biggest blowout in the NFL this season.

Key Play Of The Game

It’s fourth-and-nine with 0:54 on the clock and zero timeouts. David Carr had two receivers in the pattern, Andre Johnson running a crossing route, right-to-left just below the first down marker. Corey Bradford was running a fly route, straight up the left sideline with former Texan sub Kenny Wright in hot pursuit. Johnson had a very good day going in his first game back from injury. But Andre looked a little winded after Carr had missed him a few plays. Bradford was having a big game himself, bouncing back from an atrocious day last week against the Browns.

The decision Carr had was the classic “Play to win, or play not to lose” dilemma. You know Dom Capers would have directed the shorter pass to Andre. If only he had a remote control for David’s arm, right? Carr went for the homerun, lofting a spiral that hit Corey’s hands inside the 10. Bradford had the pass. As he brought the ball to his chest, an invisible defender smacked the pass from the maligned wideout’s grasp. It had to be a phantom making that play. Just had to be. Jacksonville Ghosts 21, Houston Doomed 14.

Week 8 Recap Andre Johnson makes a leaping catch in front of former Texan Kenny Wright. Final Score Houston Texans 14 Jacksonville Jaguars 21 Lookin’ Good

Gary Walker
He can still dominate on the line. Can he now stay on the field?

Oh, my eyes!

Seth Wand
Being 6’7” 330 pounds doesn’t make you a football player.

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