Sunday Bloody Red Sunday

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October 30, 2003
Sunday Bloody Red Sunday
by "Lucky"

The Houston Texans are promoting this Sunday’s game against the surprising 6-1 Carolina Panthers as "Battle Red Day." The team will be in their alternate Battle Red-colored jerseys and the fans are encouraged to wear Battle Red paraphernalia. While the stands may look like a bad rash, the field should be a blood red mess as two ball control teams fight it out for 60 (or more) minutes.

Speaking of alternates, the Texans will break out their alternate quarterback, Tony Banks. Banks gets his first start as a Texan due to David Carr’s ankle injury. It’s Tony’s first start of any kind since week 17 of the 2001 season. So do the Texans become even more "Reliant" on the latest NFL Rookie of the Month, RB Domanick Davis? The Texans have averaged 150 yards per game on terra firma the past two weeks against the run-defenseless Jets and Colts. However, this week they meet a solid Carolina run defense (106 yards allowed/game) led by what may be the NFL’s best all-around defensive line. For the Texans to take advantage of the Panthers 26th rated pass defense, they’ll have to keep NFC sack leader, DE Mike Rucker, at bay.

Carolina RB Stephen Davis will rumble into Reliant Stadium as the NFC’s leading rusher, averaging almost 120 yards/game. This means gut check time for the embattled Texan defensive line, especially with Pro Bowl DT Gary Walker sidelined with a toe injury. The Carolina passing game, led by journeyman QB Jake Delhomme, is ranked 29th. The Texan defense is ranked 29th against the pass. If there is a Football God, he won’t allow a Panther pass.

Did I mention that this is Dom Capers’ first opportunity to exact a bloody revenge against the team he raised from expansion kittens? OK, there are only 4 Panthers left from Capers’ regime. And Dom will be facing a Carolina team that is reminiscent of the Luv Ya Blue Oilers in that they win with a power running game and a physical, bend-but-don’t-break defense. Like Oiler legend Bum Phillips, Panthers Head Coach John Fox employs a scheme that will minimize mistakes, keep the game close, and give his team a chance to win at the end. The plan is working as Carolina has won all of their road games in overtime. Sunday’s game should be bloody red close.

What to Expect

When the Texans have the ball… See Domanick. See Domanick run. Run Domanick, run. Oh yeah, Domanick can catch, too. It’s possible that Tony Banks could hook up with Andre Johnson (aka, The Forgotten Man). It’s more likely that Banks will cough up the rock (72 career fumbles). Want a trick play? How about a Tony Hollings option pass to jumbo TE Seth Wand in the red zone. You saw it here first.

When the Panthers have the ball… Davis left, Davis right, Davis up the middle. That’s Stephen Davis, who’s shooting for a 2,000 yard rushing season. It could happen and he needs 161 yards Sunday to get on pace. Delhomme is French for "Do not pass,: by the way. Well, that’s what my Cajun bookie told me. If Jake is forced to put the ball in the air, mighty mite Steve Smith is the best bet to catch it.

Match-Ups to Watch

Corey Bradford vs. Terry Cousins
The Panthers play zone much of the time, but at some point, Bradford will find himself in man coverage. Cousins is a feisty little CB, but he can’t stay with Corey on a deep post or fly pattern. Cousins is not afraid to jump a quick out, so Bradford needs to be more precise in his cuts. David Carr has stopped looking for Bradford it seems; maybe Banks can get Corey involved this week.

Eric Brown vs. Brad Hoover
The Texans will use SS Brown as the 8th man at the line of scrimmage in order to slow down the Carolina rush attack. Carolina FB Brad Hoover has developed into an excellent lead blocker for the Panthers and is not afraid to hit someone. Brown needs to utilize his superior quickness to avoid Hoover’s crushing blocks, and hit Stephen Davis before he gets to the hole.

Chad Stanley vs. Todd Sauerbrun
In a battle of field position, who are more important than the punters? Sauerbrun has given the Panthers just that all season with a 40.4 yard net average (2nd in the NFL). Stanley leads the league in most punts inside the 20 (18). Not to mention Chad’s role as an enforcer on special teams (remember his personal foul from last season?). Advantage Texans.

Three Keys to Victory

1. Grab an Early Lead
Ok, this hasn’t really worked the last couple of weeks., but the Texans weren’t facing Jake the Fake at QB, either. Getting a lead means less Stephen Davis, as well. It’s really the only chance the Texans have this week against Carolina. How do you grab the early lead? Throw the ball, Chris Palmer, throw the ball.

2. Be Aggressive on Offense
If the Texans walk to the line and see an 8 man defensive front, they are allowed to call an audible and change the play to a pass. I’m not kidding, I looked it up in the NFL rulebook. And if per chance the Texans can obtain a lead on the mighty Panthers, it’s also legal to call a pass play on 1st or 2nd down. While we’re at it, let’s put in a few plays that aren’t on film this week. Get nutty with it, Chris.

3. Rally Around Tony
Tony Banks is not David Carr. He’s laid back in the Warren Moon mold and doesn’t bring enough energy for the whole team. That’s where us fans come in. Make some noise, twirl those silly little red towels, be obnoxious. If Banks completes a handoff, give him a round of applause. If he completes a series without turning the ball over, breakout into a standing ovation. And if, I say if, Banks tosses a touchdown pass… chant, "Tony, Tony, Tony," etc. It’s good for Banks, good for the team, good for everyone.

Views on the Game Panthers   Bob says: I had this pegged as an upset until Carr got hurt. Still, it should be close. Panthers 17, Texans 13 Panthers   Dave says: No Carr, no Payne, no Walker. No chance. Panthers 20 Texans 17 Panthers   Keith says: Texans fare better with the big cats than Roy Horn, but another second half letdown is not just a Mirage. Panthers 20, Texans 17 Panthers   Ric says: Battle of the Red? More like Battle of the Boring. Panthers 13, Texans 10 Panthers   Warren says: The Texans need some big plays in what should otherwise be a battle of field position. Panthers 23, Texans 17

2003 Regular Season Records
Bob 6-1; Dave 5-2; Jimmy 4-3; Keith 5-2;
Ric 4-3; Warren 5-2

If you’d like to volunteer to write an upcoming GameDay Preview, let us know.

Week 8 Preview Carolina Panthers
2003 Record: (6-1)
11.02.03 | 12pm
Houston, TX Texan Leaders David Carr
122/204, 1483 yds., 6/8 Domanick Davis
87/409, 4.2 YPC, 2 TD Andre Johnson
35/495, 14.1 YPC, 2 TD Panther Leaders Jake Delhomme
108/189, 1201 yds, 7/5 Stephen Davis
163/839, 5.1 YPC, 5 TD

Steve Smith
38/485, 12.8 YPC, 3 TD

2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20   Overall Record 5-11