September 20, 2004
by Keith Weiland
Read it and weep: The Texans are still winless. Forget about this team trying to win two games in a row. At this rate, David Carr is going to earn a double take from Crystal Gayle before this team ever wins back-to-back games.
It’s not that the Texans have simply lost two games to open the season that has made this start so pathetic. It’s the sloppy manner in which they’ve done so that makes me want to kick in the TiVo (and I really love my TiVo).
The 0-2 start to the season against such NFL outhouses as the Chargers and Lions is why it’s laughable when Corey Bradford showboats with a backpedal into the endzone while he’s still losing the game. Oh, and Domanick Davis is as comfortable with his hands around a pigskin as Kermit the Frog.
Take away Davis’ four lost fumbles in two games – please – and the offense does look good between the twenties. They have sprung open some nice gains on the ground, and Carr has thrown for 542 yards, the second most yardage he has totaled during his career in back-to-back games. But when it has counted most – on third downs and inside the red zone – this team breaks down.
So, for two years now, the coaching staff has cruised on a free pass, able to blow off losses like the ones against the Chargers and Lions by simply pointing to the poor execution of their young and inexperienced players.
But the Texans are still winless, and arguably, they have lost both games despite having the better overall talent on the field. Yes, the Texans are still young and inexperienced, with their average age and NFL tenure being just 26.5 and 5.1 years, respectively, but the Chargers’ and Lions’ average ages are even less than that.
It’s too much of a fan’s knee-jerk reaction to begin questioning individual play calls since they all fit together like patchwork quilt, but we are now two games into this season, so this is an appropriate time to start an interrogation.
Why did the offense fail to challenge the Lion secondary more than it did on Sunday? Yes, I see the yardage Carr accumulated through the air, but 11 of his 23 completions were to Davis. The Lions’ secondary was depleted so their defensive strategy was to let Carr throw the ball to Davis, not his wide receivers, all he wanted. And like a good boy, Carr went to Davis ELEVEN FREAKING TIMES!
Oh, and did I mention yet that Davis caught eleven passes? That sounds like a great day for Davis, and well, it doesn’t suck, but those passes should have challenged a weakened Lion secondary downfield. Is it a surprise that when Carr finally found Andre Johnson, Johnson found the endzone? I think not.
Those eleven passes put Davis on a (yes, early) pace to catch 128 passes this season. That kind of offense is how the Chargers earned the first overall pick in last April’s draft. Is now a good time then to plug our draft profiles in The War Room?
Considering how much tighter the league is calling penalties for pass interference and illegal contact after five yards this season, why not take a few more calculated chances downfield, especially when the most talented player on the roster, Johnson, is a wide receiver?
I mean, remember back to the expansion season when the Texans’ best chances for a score came when Carr lobbed a deep ball to Corey Bradford, hoping that the guy covering him would be stupid enough to get caught for an interference flag?
Perhaps Carr is to blame for being too cautious, but the offense has done this enough times to show that it is the game plan to attack the defense in dinks and dunks. Sadly, the longer the Texan offense has the football, the more chances it has to stall a drive before hitting pay dirt, or worse, to allow Davis to drop the football into the dirt.
The second-guessing isn’t all for the offense, either. Vic Fangio’s defense has allowed 55 points to a pair of teams that boast Drew Brees and Joey Harrington as their leaders, a couple of guys not easily mistakened for Brett Favre and John Elway. The front seven is healthy, yet both of those quarterbacks were touched less than anyone over the age of twelve at Michael Jackson’s house. The defense is slow in zone coverage and weak in pass rush. What a great combination.
So is the system too complicated? Maybe. The players spend more time reacting to what they see instead of forcing the action in front of them.
Tough for the coaching staff to place much of the blame for the loss to the Lions on youthful exuberance as the two former Pro Bowlers, Aaron Glenn and Gary Walker, had forgettable games. Walker’s penalty for roughing Harrington wiped out a momentum-changing interception by Kailee Wong in the first half while Glenn started showing his age in giving up a pair of touchdowns to a rookie receiver.
So Dom Capers and his coaching staff can accuse poor execution all they want, but when their team loses games against inferior talent, the onus falls upon them. And when it’s time for Bob McNair and the front office to make their post-season evaluations of the coaching staff, this kind of sloppy play won’t earn them many more second chances.
Keith Weiland would like to apologize to his TiVo for making the poor bastard sit through the first seven hours of the Texans’ 2004 season. Sorry lil’ buddy. The next Family Guy episode is on me.
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