Must Win Baby

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October 5, 2007
Must Win Baby by Jimmy Mohr

How quickly fortunes can change in today’s National Football League. Just two weeks removed from being the talk of Houston, the Texans have since dropped two in a row, including last Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the previously winless Falcons. Penalties, turnovers and a non-existent running game has the ’07 team looking more like the team that went 6-10 last year. Fortunately, the scheduling Gods have gift-wrapped another team without a victory for the Texans in the Miami Dolphins, who will head into Reliant Stadium this Sunday toting a 0-4 record.

The number one issue facing Gary Kubiak right now is repairing the running game. Their highest individual rushing total is 73 yards by Ahman Green in week 1, and as a team, they’re averaging a paltry 3.3 yards per carry on the season. With Green’s status in doubt for Sunday’s game, Ron Dayne will likely start for the second week in a row. Considered more of a power runner, Dayne has been anything but, to say the least. Of the 45 NFL running backs with 100 or more rushing yards on the season, Dayne’s 3 yards per carry average ranks dead last. Miami allowed the Raiders to run roughshod over them to the tune of 299 yards last week; if Dayne can’t get untracked against the Dolphins, the Texans are dead until Green returns.

Richard Smith’s defensive unit is best described as having dual personalities. They are doing a solid job against the run, allowing only 80 yards per game (6th in NFL), but their pass defense (21st in NFL) leaves plenty to be desired. In the secondary, CB DeMarcus Faggins is in jeopardy of losing his job after committing four penalties in the first half alone against the Falcons. Rookie Fred Bennett, who has been recovering from a hamstring injury, is expected to see more playing time if he’s healthy.

The pass rush has also been an Achilles heel in the past two games. Aside from rookie DT Amobi Okoye (team-high four sacks, three in the past two games), the remainder of the talented front line has done little to live up to their first round money. Last week, Joey Harrington was allowed far too long to throw and as a result, he picked apart the Texans’ secondary. Miami has done a good job of protecting the quarterback this year (7 sacks allowed) which could force the Texans into blitzing more often.

Miami head coach Cam Cameron is in his first season as an NFL head coach after serving as San Diego’s OC for the previous five seasons. The first move he made after arriving in Miami was to rid the team of Dante Culpepper and acquire QB Trent Green, who’s a proven veteran familiar with Cameron’s downfield passing style of offense. Thru the first quarter of the season, the move has not exactly worked out as planned. Green has a 72.9 QB rating (24th in NFL) and has thrown 7 INT’s in 139 attempts. To make matters worse, Culpepper, who is now with the Raiders, came into Dolphins Stadium last week and led his new team to a 34-17 victory.

The Dolphins defense should look familiar to Texans fans as Dom Capers serves as their defensive coordinator. His defense is 2nd in the league in passing yards allowed, but that is more of a byproduct of ranking dead last when it comes to thwarting the run (199 allowed per game). They are also the least effective on third down, allowing opponents to move the chains on 29 of their 56 chances (51.8%). As if it couldn’t get any worse, the Dolphins will be without their two leading tacklers in LB’s Zach Thomas and Channing Crowder this Sunday.

What to Expect

The Texans have the football…
As the running game goes, so does the rest of Gary Kubiak’s offense. Ron Dayne has been horrible as Ahman Green’s replacement and has really tied the hands of his head coach. Last week, Dayne was successful only one time in five tries on 3rd down with less than 3 yards to go for a first down. Kubiak was forced to abandon the running game in short yardage situations and the offense fared no better. This week, Kubes has guaranteed that come hell or high water, the running game will be used in short yardage situations. Considering Miami gave up 299 yards on the ground last week, it shouldn’t be asking too much of him.

Enough credit can’t be given to Matt Schaub and his healthy receivers. WR Andre Davis has come up huge two weeks in a row contributing 9 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown. TE Owen Daniels has tossed in 12 catches for 125 yards over the same span. The Texans have announced that Jerome Mathis and/or Jacoby Jones may be healthy enough to go on Sunday. If neither of them suit up, expect Kubiak to stick with three wide receivers and four tight ends for the second consecutive week.

The Dolphins have the football…
Cam Cameron is looking for RB Ronnie Brown to be his “LT” in Miami and his performance has been nothing short of the Chargers great in recent weeks. In the last two games, Brown has rushed for 246 yards on 38 attempts and added 12 receptions for 172 yards. He has accounted for 42.7% of the team’s total yardage and four of their eight touchdowns on the season. He has been especially dangerous as a receiver. His 20 receptions on the season are only three shy of WR Chris Chambers for the team lead.

The frequently concussed Trent Green has two solid wide receivers to look for in Chambers and Marty Booker. Chambers leads the team in receptions (23) and receiving yards (323) and appears to have returned to his Pro Bowl form of ’05. He struggled last year with Joey Harrington and Culpepper splitting time under center, but seems to have found a rapport with Green. One significant piece missing from the Dolphins passing game is a formidable tight end. David Martin (6’4”, 265 lbs) was signed in the off-season as a free agent in hopes of becoming the go-to man in Cameron’s spread offense, much like Antonio Gates was in San Diego. His seven receptions on the year place him fifth on the team and an afterthought to opposing defenses.

Match-Ups to Watch

Bennett/Faggins VS. Chris Chambers
What NFL team in their right mind wouldn’t line Chambers up across from Bennett or Faggins and dare either of them to stop him? The fact that Chambers is 5’11”, 210 lbs and not known for being a speedster should help the Texans cause, but either of these Texans DB’s will need help from the guys up front. If Green is given as much time to throw as Harrington did last week, Cam Cameron may be the second coach in as many weeks to enjoy their first NFL Coaching victory at the expense of the Texans.

Amobi Okoye VS. Samson Satele
This match-up features two rookies, one a Nigerian, the other a Samoan. Satele was selected in the second round of the ’07 draft (60th overall) out of Hawaii and became the first Dolphin rookie to start at center on opening day in their history. Okoye is one half sack away from equaling Mario Williams’ total from his entire rookie season and has been the lone bright spot up front as of late.

DeMeco Ryans VS. Ronnie Brown
Ronnie Brown has been on fire of late and DeMeco Ryans is just the guy to put out the flames. He leads the team with 35 total tackles and recorded his first sack of the season last week. Brown is a dual threat out of the backfield and will have to be shadowed on every play. Ryans recorded his first sack last week and could see more opportunities to blitz the quarterback this week if the D-line continues to struggle.

Three Keys to Victory

1. Force turnovers
This could be on here every week, but since the defense has tallied a grand total of zero during their two-game losing skid, it’s required. The Dolphins are 30th in the NFL with a -6 turnover margin and have only three takeaways for the entire season. Last week, the Texans allowed the Falcons to triple their takeaway total for ’07 and allowed them to post their first victory. If they allow the Dolphins the same opportunities this week, the Texans will find themselves with a losing record for the first time all season.

2. Execute on 3rd Down
The Texans offense was pathetic on 3rd down last week. They converted a season low 38% of their third down attempts and misfired multiple times on third and short. The Dolphins have allowed their opponents to convert on third down over 50% of the time which has resulted in a six minute time of passion disparity in the other teams favor. The key for the Texans will be to get something out of their running game on first and/or second down. If they are forced to continuously throw the ball, they will run into the same issues as last week.

3. Field Position
This is where Kubiak’s battered offense needs some help. The return game will be huge this week and with Jerome Mathis and Jacoby Jones banged up, Dexter Wynn will need to step up his game. He had two punt returns last week that totaled a single yard, but managed a 29.3 average on kickoff returns.

The defense could provide a big boost here as well. Turnovers result in excellent field position more often than not and a shortened field for their banged up teammates on offense would be huge.

Views on the Game

Blake says: Okoye has tuna for lunch. Texans 20 Dolphins 6

Bob says: If last year’s Texans could beat Miami… Texans 23, Dolphins 17

Jimmy says: This team is too good to get beat by winless teams back-to-back. Texans 20, Dolphins 19

Keith says: Who’s practicing now, bitches?!! Texans 24, Dolphins 10

Mike says: Mario wont have to block a two point conversion this time. Texans 27 Dolphins 13

Ric says: I’m nervous – hold me. Dolphins 16, Texans 10

Roy says: Defensive struggle. Texans 14, Dolphins 13

Warren says: The Texans keep their perfect record against the Dolphins intact. Texans 27, Dolphins 20

2007 Regular Season Records
Blake 3-1; Bob 2-2; Jimmy 3-1; Keith 2-2;
Mike 2-2; Ric 1-3; Roy 2-2; Warren 1-3

Week 5 Miami Dolphins
2007 Record: (0-4)
10.07.07 | 12pm
Houston, TX Texans Leaders Matt Schaub
91/123, 1,005 yds, 5/3 Ahman Green
35/149, 4.3 YPC, 1 TD Andre Johnson
14/262, 18.7 YPC, 3 TD Dolphins Leaders Trent Green
84/139, 982 yds, 5/7 Ronnie Brown
60/311, 5.2 YPC, 3 TD

Chris Chambers
23/323, 14.0 YPC, 0 TD

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