The Glass is Overflowing

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September 9, 2007
The Glass is Overflowing

by Mike Kerns

All week, there’s been a buzz around the city of Houston. A buzz of optimism. A feeling of the glass being half full. And for the first time in awhile, it was about the Houston Texans. I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised, and skeptical, when I saw that Houston was favored to win their first game of the 2007 campaign. Lets be honest here: When is the last time our Texans weren’t the dogs going into an season opener?

Even though I did predict the Texans to win the game, I still had that creeping feeling in my heart. That usual feeling of preparing to shake my head in disbelief and disappointment. If you’re a fan of this team, you know the feeling well. I don’t think of myself as a pessimist. Not in the least. I’m just a realist. So, you can imagine the relief of raising my eyebrows and nodding in approval as new quarterback Matt Schaub took a knee on the last play of an impressive 20-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener.

After a three and out, a long drive that ended with an interception in the end zone, and a Kris Brown field goal, Schaub decided to get the ball to his playmaker. With 6:13 remaining in the first half, the new guy launched a long ball to Pro Bowler Andre Johnson for a 77-yard touchdown that electrified Reliant Stadium and seemed to have the same effect on the sluggish Texans defense. A defense that was ranked in the NFL’s top 10 last year… if you exclude the first three games of the season. A defense that has been harshly criticized this preseason. The brunt of that criticism landing squarely on the uninspiring play of the 2006 #1 overall pick, Mario Williams.

When the Chiefs were moving the ball down the field with ease on their first possession, you had that feeling of "Here we go again." The most expensive defensive line in the league was making the Chiefs offensive line look like that of the Cowboys dynasty of the 90’s. But after a dropped pass and a badly missed field goal by Chiefs young kicker Justin Medlock, the defense played a different game the rest of the way. Especially Williams.

Early in the second half is when it began. After a ferocious hit, Kris Wilson fumbled the ball and it was immediately jumped on by Williams who then decided to show-off some of that combine speed that earned him his esteemed draft status. He rumbled 38 yards for a touchdown and now has more scores than Reggie Bush this season. The play was quickly challenged by Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards but the ruling on the field stood.

For an encore, he sacked Chiefs Quarterback Damon Huard for a loss of 7 yards on the next possession. But he still didn’t stop there, as he brought down the confused Huard again on their next possession. Mario ended the day with four tackles, two sacks, one assist, and a touchdown. Not bad numbers for a #1 overall pick.

But the defense wasn’t provided by Mario alone. Dunta Robinson and Travis Johnson both had interceptions and the defense forced three fumbles, recovering two. DeMeco Ryans did his usual and led the team in tackles with seven. ND Kalu also jumped on the sack bandwagon with a devouring one of his own late in the fourth. Chiefs superstar running back Larry Johnson was held to just 43 yards on the ground. Twenty-year old rookie, and first round draft pick, Amobi Okoye had only one tackle and jumped offsides once. Not quite a stellar debut.

While the offense left a little to be desired, it was certainly no slouch. The long Schaub-to-Johnson touchdown toss aside, there were several drives that stalled in Chiefs territory. Kris Brown was perfect with two field goals and Ahman Green showed flashes of his former greatness, rushing for 73 yards on 16 touches.

Meanwhile, Schaub showed the people of Houston what it’s like to have a quarterback with poise and leadership, throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown. But the biggest beast of the Houston offense was Johnson. While it’s no surprise, Andre had a monster game by gaining 142 yards on seven receptions to go along with a touchdown. Think he likes his new quarterback?

While not a performance that is going to make the big boys of the AFC tremble, Houston fans have to be excited. For the first time in the franchise’s existence, it appears Houston has a legitimate football team. With both the Colts and Titans winning in week one, there’s now a three-way atop the division – I think the fans and the players will take it.

Next week, the team crosses over to the NFC to take on the Carolina Panthers. Where, of course, the big story is if David Carr, now with the Panthers, will be able to find his way onto the field and exact some revenge against his former team. I wouldn’t count on it, but crazier things can, and always will, happen.

What Went Right?

Establishing The Run After hearing all week about how many yards Larry Johnson would end with, freaking Ron Dayne almost matched his numbers. Ahman Green and Dayne combined for 106 yards on the ground, opening up the playaction for Matt Schaub. Green was especially impressive in his Texans’ debut. While some commented in Post Patterns that he didn’t seem to have that "burst," he showed me something by always fighting for that last extra yard or two. Then, with Houston needing to eat some clock, the former Heisman winner Dayne just ran the ball down their throats in the fourth quarter. It was good to see some good old-fashioned smashmouth football.

Super Mario and the Houston Defense
Someone awoke the sleeping giant. After his 38-yard touchdown run, Mario Williams seemed to be a different player out there. He was more effective in the second half of this game than he was all preseason. It was nice to see him motivated for a change. The run defense was excellent in stopping Larry Johnson and the secondary was actually not too bad with Dunta Robinson delivering a few bone crushing hits, as usual. Morlon Greenwood was all over LJ all day. Let’s hope they can maintain that top 10 defense they showed the latter half of 2006 and keep forcing them turnovers!

Matt Schaub & Andre Johnson
I’m not ready to dub them the next Montana-to-Rice yet, but they could be playing toss and catch with each other in Hawaii come this February if today was any indication of how much chemistry they have. Schaub completed 16 passes; seven of them went to Andre for 142 yards. He divided the remaining 83 of his passing yards between five other players. There were so many plays that Schaub made in the pocket that you know would have been sacks or lost yardage last season. Also, after the first quarter interception, he didn’t go to the sideline and hang his head or pout. In fact, it didn’t seem to rattle him at all. His poise and presence in the pocket is something that Texans fans have hungered for for years. I said it when he was in Atlanta, the guy is going to be a star someday. Perhaps sooner, rather than later.

What Went Wrong?

Put The Ball in the End zone!
There is nothing more aggravating to me personally than a drive stalling in the red zone. An interception and two field goals that could have all been seven are quite frustrating. Some of the play calling was questionable on third downs, calling for running plays on a couple of third and longs. However, if they worked, I wouldn’t have anything to complain about, I figure. Running the ball straight up the gut isn’t going to get it done in that area of the field, in my opinion. Not with these backs.

Quit Giving The Ball Away!
Turnovers are a team’s worst nightmare. If you turn the ball over time and time again, it makes it tough for your defense and downright near impossible to win. The Schaub interception and an Andre Johnson fumble could’ve been much worse. Especially if we were playing with a team that had a really good offense. Get some grip on the ball.

Pass Protection, or Lack Thereof
Don’t misunderstand me: I felt the line did a decent job today. But that one sack by Danny Edwards in the 2nd quarter on Schaub will probably be featured on Tom Jackson’s "Jacked Up!" sometime later this week. On one drive in particular, McKinney was getting abused by Alfonso Boone, sacking Schaub once for a loss of 11 yards and then getting Ahman Green in the backfield on the very next play for a loss of 4. I realize that sacks are a part of the game. But us fans here in Houston have seen enough of them, have we not?

Key Play Of The Game

After stalling out on a couple of drives in the first 24 minutes of the game, Matt Schaub decided to introduce himself to the hometown crowd at Reliant. On a playaction, Schaub threw a beautiful pass to Andre Johnson that he took all the way to the house for a 77-yard touchdown, the longest of Johnson’s career.

The play didn’t just wake up the crowd, but the Houston defense as well. After the slow start, the unit was rejuvenated after the big play; a big play that hopefully is only the beginning of something big for Houston in the person of Matt Schaub.

Week 1 Mario Williams wraps up Chief QB Damon Huard for one of his two sacks. (AP Photo) Final Score Houston Texans 20 Kansas City Chiefs 3 Texans Leaders Matt Schaub
16/25, 225 yds; 1/1 Ahman Green
16/73 yds; 4.6 YPC; 0 TD Andre Johnson
7/142 yds; 20.3 YPC; 1 TD Chiefs Leaders Damon Huard
22/33, 162 yds; 0/2 Larry Johnson
10/43; 4.3 YPC; 0 TD

Sammie Parker
4/48; 12 YPC; 0 TD

Lookin’ Good

T.O. Minus the ‘Tude
Andre Johnson is on the fast road to becoming the top wide out in the game. Honorable mention to Mario Williams.

Oh, my eyes!

It’s Called a Fair Catch Jacoby Jones tried too hard to make a big play on punt returns, even running backwards a couple of times.

2007 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.11 Chicago 19-20 08.18 at Arizona 33-20 08.25 Dallas 28-16 08.30 at Tampa Bay 24-31 Regular Season 09.09 Kansas City 20-3 09.16 at Carolina 34-21 09.23 Indianapolis 24-30 09.30 at Atlanta 16-26 10.07 Miami 22-19  10.14 at Jacksonville 17-37 10.21 Tennessee  36-38 10.28 at San Diego   11.04 at Oakland   11.11 BYE  — 11.18 New Orleans   11.25 at Cleveland   12.02 at Tennessee   12.09 Tampa Bay   12.13 Denver   12.23 at Indianapolis   12.30 Jacksonville     Overall Record 3-4