Wetsward Bound

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October 26, 2007
Wetsward Bound
by Jimmy Mohr

Following their heartbreaking loss to the Titans, a road trip out West this weekend to sunny California didn’t sound all that bad. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has thrown a wrench into providing any sort of peaceful getaway for the Texans. Raging wildfires in Southern California have left the time and definitive location for this week’s game against the Chargers in flux. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders has stated that Qualcomm Stadium will be available for Sunday’s 3:05 scheduled kickoff, but he deferred to the NFL as to when the game would actually be played. Due to poor air quality in the area, holding the game on Monday night has come into play. Regardless of when or where they face the Chargers this weekend Gary Kubiak’s team is in desperate need of a victory.

Following last week’s thrilling 38-36 last second loss to the Titans, the Texans have now lost four of their last five games to fall under .500 for the first time this season. Opponents have averaged 30 points per game during that span, but not all of the points can be blamed on the defense. After committing six turnovers last Sunday, the Texans have committed 15 turnovers over their last five games dropping their turnover margin to a distasteful -5. San Diego’s hard hitting defense trails only the Vikings in turnovers forced per game (2.3) placing a premium on Houston taking care of the football this week.

Defensively, Richard Smith’s unit should be happy with how they performed last week under the circumstances. The Titans scored only 12 points off of the Texans 6 turnovers and the defense surrendered a total of only 77 yards on those six drives. Two areas where they need to improve are in stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback. They have allowed a 100-yard rusher for three consecutive weeks and they have only a single sack in each of those games. With the Chargers Pro Bowl C Nick Hardwick out with a foot injury, look for the Texans to exploit the middle of their offensive line.

San Diego is coached by Norv Turner who is in his first year as the Chargers head man and owns an unimpressive 61-85-1 career record. He replaced the embattled Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 2006 campaign ended with a first round playoff loss to the Patriots. With 20 returning starters from last year’s team many experts believed the Chargers would challenge for the AFC crown, but after struggling to a 1-3 start many started to wonder if the Chargers would even qualify for the playoffs. They seem to have righted the ship having won two games in a row by a combined score of 69-17.

Where the Chargers have faltered most this year is on offense. They finished last year as the 4th ranked offensive unit with 365 yards per game, but have fallen to 13th in ’07 with 334.5 yards per game. The decrease is most evident in their running game behind Fantasy Football stud LaDainian Tomlinson. LT has only two 100-yard rushing games on the year after accomplishing the feat 10 times last season and he only has 6 rushing touchdowns (28 in 2006). Unfortunately for the Texans, it appears that the running game could be on the rebound. Tomlinson had his best game of the season in rushing for 198 yards and four TD’s against the Raiders two weeks ago

What to Expect

The Texans have the football… Offensively, it would be difficult for the Texans to perform worse than they did for the first two and a half quarters last Sunday. The ground game is an absolute atrocity and there seems little that Gary Kubiak can do to change its continuous downward spiral. After gaining only 39 yards on the ground last week, they now own the 31st ranked running game in the league and rank last in yards per carry with 3.1. The Chargers run defense allows only 84.5 yards per game which will likely equate to another week of ineptitude in the Texans backfield.

Kubiak will likely have to wait until this weekend to select his starting QB. His decision will hinge on how well Matt Schaub has healed from the hip, back and ankle injuries he sustained last Sunday. San Diego is 25th against the pass allowing 239.7 yards per game which provides the offense at least a glimmer of hope for moving the football.

A sprained knee will keep Andre Johnson on the sideline for another week, but he could return next week for the Raiders game. In his absence, Kevin Walter and Andre Davis have stepped up and combined for 51 receptions, 802 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Jacoby Jones working his way back into the lineup, the Texans receiving corps is holding its own while AJ works to get his knee healthy.

The Chargers have the football…
The Chargers are blessed with one of the best running backs in NFL history. Native Texan LaDanian Thomlison is in his seventh year in the league and is only 297 yards shy of 10,000 for his career. He struggled during the first three games of ’07 averaging less than 3 yards per carry and scoring only a single touchdown, but much to the delight of LT’s fantasy football owners he has turned it on as of late. Over his last three games he has averaging 132 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns. He is also a receiving threat out of the backfield ranking second on the team with 25 receptions.

QB Phillip Rivers received good news during the bye week when the Chargers acquired WR Chris Chambers from Miami. His arrival will give the Chargers offense a much needed boost at the wide-out position considering his 31 receptions on the year are two more than the top two Chargers wide receivers, Vincent Jackson (20 receptions) and Craig Davis (9 receptions). Even with a new “go-to” receiver in the line-up, Rivers #1 target is TE Antonio Gates. The 6’-4”, 260 pound Gates leads the team in receptions (43), receiving yards (547) and touchdowns (3) and has posted three 100-yards receiving games in ’07. He is extremely difficult to cover with a linebacker and too big for one of the safeties to handle. The Texans defense will have to try and limit his impact this week.

Match-Ups to Watch

Amobi Okoye VS. C Cory Withrow
Withrow will be in the starting lineup for the first time this season with Pro Bowler Nick Hardwick sidelined for two weeks with a foot injury. Withrow has only 13 starts in his 8 year career the lat of which came in 2005 when he was with the Vikings. Okoye leads the Texans with four sacks, but has not recorded any in the past three games. The Chargers offensive line has only allowed 9 sacks this season, but they will have to prove they can pass protect without their leader on the field.

Texans O-line VS. LBs Shawne Merriman & Shaun Phillips
No matter how you spell the name, the two Shawn’s will wreak havoc in their opponent’s backfield. They are tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks apiece and both rank in the top five on the team in tackles. The Texans offensive line almost got Matt Schaub killed last week against a Titans team that averaged just over one sack per game. They would help themselves immensely if they opened up some holes and allowed the running game to get going early. If the ground game falters, the Chargers defense will be allowed to tee off on Schaub or Rosenfels.

Gary Kubiak VS. Norv Turner
Both of these men have backgrounds as offensive coordinators and each won a pair of Super Bowls while serving under that capacity. Turner in particular has been an utter failure as an NFL head coach compiling only 61 victories in his 9+ years at the helm. He has guided his team to the playoffs only once (Redskins in 1999) and his winning percentage is the worst all-time amongst coaches with 3 or more years of experience. If he fails in San Diego, it would seem unlikely that he would ever get another NFL head coaching job.

Three Keys to Victory

1. No Brainer Here…Stop LT
As LT goes, so go the Chargers. Their disappointing 3-3 record has a lot to do with his ineffectiveness during the first four weeks of the season. And it’s not like he has been stopped by great defenses. Denver’s 32nd ranked run defense that allows 176 yards per game held LT to 67 yards and 3.2 yards per carry two games ago. The problem is he is also a threat out of the backfield. If you stop him running the ball, then he can kill you just as easily as a receiver. In that same Broncos game he had 73 yards receiving on just 3 catches. He will have to be shadowed on every down.

2. Points from the Special Teams and/or Defense
Dear D/ST,

We desperately need your help. We can’t run the ball and it’s allowing the defense to tee off on Matt and Sage. In fact, Matt’s right leg was dangling by the skin after last week’s game, honest. What about the 29 points we scored in the fourth quarter you ask? It was a freaking miracle and there is no way we can ever pull that off again. We really need you to score a touchdown or two so that we don’t have to have Matt or Sage pull an Elway every week. By the way, we are so sorry for the six turnovers last week, but hey at least you kept them out of the end-zone and became a part of history.

The Offense

3. Open Some Holes for Ahman
The offensive line should be downright embarrassed. Sure, Ahman Green hasn’t exactly been Earl Campbell, but even #34 would have trouble finding holes in this line. Kubiak would like to work Casey Studdard in the lineup, but a lingering groin injury has kept him sidelined. So as it stands, Offensive Line coach John Benton is stuck with the existing personnel. The backfield may look a little different this week with Samkon Gado’s release and the signing of spell check killer Adimchinobe Echemandu from the practice squad.

Views on the Game

Bob says: Neither rain nor wind nor sleet nor burning forests can prevent the Chargers from kicking our asses. Chargers 31, Texans 12

Jimmy says: Unless Qualcomm burns down, there’s no way the Texans win in San Diego. Chargers 34, Texans 17

Keith says: Good karma due for the Californians. Chargers 23, Texans 20

Mike says: (pending…)

Ric says: The Chargers should be mightily distracted… Chargers 23, Texans 13

Warren says: A winning record is a distant memory. Chargers 27, Texans 23


2007 Regular Season Records
Bob 4-3; Jimmy 5-2; Keith 4-3; Mike 5-2; Ric 2-5; Warren 2-5 Week 8 at San Diego Chargers
2007 Record: (3-3)
10.28.07 | 3pm
San Diego, CA Texans Leaders Matt Schaub
135/197, 1,581 yds, 5/5 Ahman Green
62/232, 3.7 YPC, 1 TD Kevin Walter
33/435, 13.2 YPC, 1 TD Chargers Leaders Phillip Rivers
116/178, 1,312 yds, 7/ LaDainian Tomlinson
122/527, 4.3 YPC, 6 TD

Antonio Gates
43/547, 12.7 YPC, 3 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