Passing for Perfect

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September 23, 2006
Passing for Perfect

by Bob Hulsey

No matter how well Roger Clemens performed in possibly his last game at Minute Maid Park, it wouldn’t have been the best pitching performance Houstonians saw on Sunday. Washington’s Mark Brunell completed his first 22 passes to set an NFL record on his way to a 31-15 romp over the Texans at Reliant Stadium.

As with the Eagles game of two weeks ago, the Texans broke out of the gate impressively, stopping the Redskins on three plays then marching smartly to an early 7-0 lead. The key play was a 53-yard bomb from David Carr to Andre Johnson, who had lined up in the slot and easily beat the safety coverage. A two-yard touchdown flip to Mark Bruener completed the four-play, 66-yard drive.

Clinton Portis, who was out the first two weeks as the Redskins lost, took a shovel pass from Brunell on a 3rd-and-six and sailed through the Texan defense for 74 yards to the Houston 13. His backup, Ladell Betts, soon took it over from nine yards out to tie the score. On their next possession, Brunell hit ex-Steeler Antwaan Randle-El on a short screen that he took for 23 yards and a 14-7 lead.

The Texans then had two drives that stalled just inside Redskin territory. Washington appeared to be inching their way towards a field goal try to close the half despite four holding penalties (two of them on one play) and a false start that would normally be a death knell to a typical drive, but the Houston defense (if you can call them that) kept letting them off the hook. After a completion to the Texan 30 left just nine ticks on the clock, Brunell had one timeout left and called a run to make the kick a little closer. Instead, Portis dashed through the Texans like a hot knife through butter for a 21-7 lead.

On their first try of the second half, the Redskins melted 8-1/2 minutes of clock on a 14-play drive. Houston almost got a turnover when Portis fumbled at the one-yard line, but replay reversed the call and allowed Portis to take the next handoff into the endzone for his second score of the day, 28-7.

The Texans worked a 36-yard drive, but Carr fumbled away the scoring chance. Brunell then hit Santana Moss on a short pass to break Rich Gannon’s record for consecutive completions. On his next throw, Travis Johnson swatted the pass back to earth, breaking up Brunell’s perfect game with just :23 left in the third quarter. For once, the defense stiffened and Washington settled for a 46-yard John Hall field goal.

Carr got some revenge on a 71-yard march, capped by a two-yard toss to Owen Daniels followed by a two-point conversion by Ron Dayne. That made it 31-15. Two last scoring attempts were thwarted by a personal foul penalty on a fumble return and Carr’s first interception of the year.

While Brunell will get the headlines, Portis racked up 164 total yards (he sat out the fourth quarter) and Betts added another 151 yards as his reserve, 124 of them on the ground.

The 0-3 Texans will try again next week against Daunte Culpepper and the struggling Miami Dolphins.

What Went Right?

Pass Offense David Carr followed up last week’s game with another solid performance (19-29-208-2TDs). Andre Johnson (11-152) had a big game and Eric Moulds added four catches. Carr suffered just one sack despite having two reserves on the offensive line forced into starting roles. This is one part of the team that is holding up its end.

Ron Dayne It would be nice to see how their running game would do if they actually had four quarters of meaningful football to gauge against. Dayne’s numbers (14-58 plus one 13-yd reception) aren’t going to make anyone add him to their fantasy roster just yet, but each week he seems to look more like the workhorse Kubiak wants back there.

Dunta Robinson The dude tackles as well as any defensive back in the NFL. Whether he goes low or high, he sticks that little body into the ballcarrier and takes him down. It’s just a shame he has to tackle so often (11 in this game).

What Went Wrong?

No Pressure Mark Brunell has no idea what any of the Texans ate before the game because they never got close enough for him to tell. The only time Brunell went down was a pat-a-cake shove by Thomas Johnson that was flagged for roughing and kept Brunell’s "no-misser" alive.

No Coverage Obviously, when a quarterback completes 22 passes in a row, it means the receivers are open all over the field. Getting carved up by Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning is no shame, but the pass defense was no better with the previously-inept Redskin offense taking them to school.

No Tackling As in the example in the "key play" below, it’s hard to imagine the defense looking worse if they had Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn as their safeties.

Key Play Of The Game

It was supposed to be a routine handoff to pick up a few yeards and line up a field goal try just before the half. Instead, Clinton Portis danced 30 yards straight up the middle of the field for a backbreaking touchdown that put the Skins up 21-7 marching into the locker room. On his way to paydirt, Portis glided past a series of Texan defenders who seemed unable to touch him, much less tackle him. Texan fans, who had tried to be supportive much of the game, booed their anger at the poor defensive effort.

Game 3 Recap Quarterback Mark Brunell throws himself into the NFL history books. Final Score Houston Texans 15 Washington Redskins 31 Lookin’ Good

Andre Johnson
We’ll even ignore his weekly dropped pass when he can grab 11 balls. His 53-yarder on the opening drive was the highlight of the day.

Oh, my eyes!

Thomas Johnson
Proving you can play with too many Johnsons, Ol’ 96 made two critical penalties. One was an unseen personal foul that wiped out a touchdown by Shantee Orr. Shantee’s never going to forgive him. The other was a "roughing" call that kept Brunell’s completion streak alive. Rich Gannon’s never going to forgive him.

2006 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.12 Kansas City 24-14 08.19 St. Louis 27-20 08.27 at Denver 14-17 08.31 Tampa Bay 16-13 Regular Season 09.10 Philadelphia 10-24 09.17 at Indianapolis 24-43 09.24 Washington 15-31 10.01 Miami 17-15 10.08 Bye 10.15 at Dallas 6-34 10.22 Jacksonville 27-7 10.29 at Tennessee 22-28 11.05 at NY Giants 10-14 11.12 at Jacksonville 13-10 11.19 Buffalo 21-24 11.26 at NY Jets 11-26 12.03 at Oakland 23-14 12.10 Tennessee 20-26 12.17 at New England 7-40 12.24 Indianapolis 27-24 12.31 Cleveland 14-6   Overall Record 6-10