Big Win in Carr-olina

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September 16, 2007
Big Win in Carr-olina

by Mike Kerns

I wonder what was going through David Carr’s mind Sunday as he stood on the sideline and watched his old team take apart his new team, 34-21?

Perhaps he was wondering why Matt Schaub wasn’t getting sacked? Or how his team blew a 14-point early lead? Maybe he was mentally preparing for garbage time, when he normally excels. Nah, let’s be honest: he was thinking about how his hair looked so much better than Schaub’s…

Carr wasn’t the only one on the Carolina sideline scratching his head. Even the team owner looked like he was ready to throw himself out of his suite window as the Texans’ improved to 2-0. The victory was the largest comeback on the road in Texan franchise history.

The Houston offense started the game shaky for the second straight week. After a pretty lousy spot on a Schaub to Ron Dayne dump off on third down, the team was forced to punt. On Carolina’s first possession, Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith picked up where they left off in St. Louis last week with a quick touchdown. Following an Owen Daniels fumble, another Delhomme-to-Smith touchdown put Houston down two scores right out of the gate.

Once again that feeling of maybe we aren’t ready to play with the "Big Boys" began to creep into my thoughts. But that was before the Schaub-to-Andre Johnson tandem I went on about last week got rolling. They hooked up on a quick strike for 33 yards and then two plays later, hit on a 31-yard touchdown, putting Houston right back in the game, 14-7.

After they forced Carolina to punt, Schaub orchestrated another long, clock-consuming drive for the second week in a row. A 7-yard touchdown toss over the middle to Johnson knotted the game up after 15 plays, a gutsy 4th down conversion to Daniels, and an interception that was rihgtly overturned after a Gary Kubiak challenge. Just like that, we were back to even, 14-14.

The Houston defense then began to manhandle the Panthers offense. A three and out and a Kris Brown field goal later, the Texans were up at the half after 17 unanswered points.

The second half wasn’t nearly as close. The defense forced another three and out on the opening drive and the offense took over from there. Starting at their own 44, Schaub, Johnson and Ahman Green made it look easy as Green finished the drive off with a 13-yard touchdown run to put the Texans up ten, 24-14.

The Carolina crowd was not shy in letting their displeasure with the Panther defense known. The boos intensified when Nick Goings’ fumble on the ensuing kickoff was recovered in the end zone by Kevin Walter, icing the game, 31-14. Brown would add a late field goal.

Don’t let Jake Delhomme’s 307 passing yards fool you – Houston’s defense thoroughly dominated. DeAngleo Williams and DeShaun Foster were held to a combined total of only 53 yards rushing on 17 attempts and most of Delhomme’s yardage came on a late 74-yard touchdown pass to Smith after the game had long been decided.

Being double teamed all day didn’t keep Mario Williams from laying a hit on Williams that will surely make it onto Tom Jacksons "Jacked Up" segment this week. With so much focus on Williams, rookie Amobi Okoye had a big game with two sacks, four tackles and a forced fumble. Dunta Robinson got in on the hitting, too, dropping a bone crushing hit of his own that was replayed a few times to go along with an interception.

Von Hutchins was active with 11 tackles and DeMeco Ryans was second with 7. Except for the extra effort Smith gave on breaking about ten tackles for that 74-yard scamper, the defense was about as good as ever.

Unbelievably, for the first time in team history, Houston is 2-0 to begin the season. After this game, I think the message is out that this team could be for real. And we won’t have to wait long to see as Peyton Manning and the defending champion Colts come to Reliant Stadium next week sporting the same record; a game that will be for AFC South supremacy with the winner sitting alone atop the division.

Don’t think the Colts have forgotten what happened last time they came to Reliant. I know we haven’t. Next week, we will see just how good we really are. Just say it with me: 3-0…

What Went Right?

Don’t Call It a Comeback
This game had flashes of the Bills game last year that found us quickly down 14-0, only to comeback and take the lead. Only difference? We won this one. At the point where Texan teams of the past would have usually tucked their tails and given up, Schaub and Johnson lit it up. Connecting seven times for 120 yards, they continued their dominating play together. After 34 unanswered points, it went from a comeback to a laugher as Houston’s offense was in the driver’s seat for the majority of the game.

What Happened to Julius Peppers?
Before the game, most Texan fans would have been content if Julius Peppers had only recorded two sacks. They would have been ecstatic if he had been held to one. But if you had told them he would have none, most would have thought he didn’t play in the game at all. The much criticized Houston offensive line was close to perfect. Ephraim Salaam played out of his mind in keeping Peppers in check, holding him to just two tackles. Schaub was barely touched and I’m sure he’s going to be taking his offensive line out for dinner real soon.

Defense Wins Games
What else can I say about the Houston defense? It was so impressive that even the guys calling the game couldn’t say enough about them. For a rush happy team, Carolina was stuffed and held to a team total of 66 yards on the ground. They forced another two turnovers (plus one by the special teams) and kept Jake Delhomme under pressure for most of the game. Other than the Steve Smith catch late in the game, they didn’t give up any huge plays. For the second week in a row, the defense dominated.

What Went Wrong?

Slow Out Of The Gate
This is a team that’s truly beginning to believe in itself, but you can’t get down that much that early every week or you will surely run out of gas, especially if you’re playing the Colts. A faster start needs to be worked on.

Yellow Flags
The pointless penalties need to be cut down. Jerome Mathis had a great return to begin the game that was called back and an intentional grounding penalty in the red zone is inexcusable (even though we got hosed on that call). I’m probably nitpicking, though, as we had only five penalties for a total of 40 yards.

Secondary… Namely, DeMarcus Faggins
I don’t know who made the decision to not put our best cover guy on Steve Smith, but thankfully an adjustment was made. The way DeMarcus Faggins started on Smith, it looked like Smith would end the day with a 100 fantasy points. Lets face it, Faggins is an average CB and Smith is a top five WR. Richard Smith could’ve planned this match up better. Thankfully, Dunta Robinson took over for Faggins after the first quarter.

Key Play Of The Game

Down 14-7 with about ten minutes left in the first half, Houston was faced with a 4th and 4 on the Carolina 36. Rather than kick a field goal to pull within four, Gary Kubiak elected to go for it, and Schaub completed a ten-yard pass to TE Owen Daniels for the conversion.

You could feel the momentum begin to shift. They capped off the drive with a Schaub touchdown pass to Andre Johnson. From that moment forward, the team dominated. The first lopsided victory of many to come, we can hope.

Week 2 ND Kalu, Mario Williams and Shantee Orr congratulate Amobi Okoye on his first NFL sack. Final Score Houston Texans 34 Carolina Panthers 21 Texans Leaders Matt Schaub
22/28, 227 yds, 2/0 Ahman Green
15/51, 4.7 YPC, 1 TD Andre Johnson
7/120, 17.1 YPC, 2 TD Panthers Leaders Jake Delhomme
27/41, 307 yds, 3/1 DeShaun Foster
8/31, 3.9 YPC, 0 TD

Steve Smith
8/153, 19.1 YPC, 3 TD

Lookin’ Good

Matt Schaub
Anyone still in doubt that this guy is the real deal? David Carr doesn’t…

Oh, my eyes!

DeMarcus Faggins
It’s not his fault that he had to try and stop one of the best receivers in the game, but…

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