Paper Thin

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September 24, 2004
Paper Thin

by Ric Sweeney

In 2002, we were willing to forgive nearly anything, especially after Houston’s shocking, it still puts a smile on my face and makes things down below feel warm win against the Cowboys. Last year, Houston flirted with and promised big things, beating Miami and Carolina and taking New England, Indianapolis and Tennessee down to the wire. Again, we forgave, we forgot and we turned our attention to this fall. This was supposed to be the fall. And then we got the schedule last spring and lookey what we have here – it seemed highly probable that the Texans could enter their October home date with the Vikings standing at a franchise-best 3-1.

Instead, the Texans are staring down the barrel of 1-5.

It gets worse. After a bye week, Houston hosts Jacksonville, then goes on the road twice against Denver and Indianapolis, welcomes Green Bay and Tennessee, then heads to the Big Apple to play the Jets before returning home to face the Colts again. You never know how things are going to go in today’s NFL, but that’s a tough stretch of games, people. Here’s a team that has no clue how to win, being given a chance to learn on the job with an easy early schedule, squandering that opportunity. That’s going to leave a mark.

And even if we can now concede that our expectations this fall were a little out of whack, and that maybe we shouldn’t have made hotel reservations Jacksonville, the lack of progress is bothersome.

The storyline from Detroit – penalties, sacks, turnovers, a special teams breakdown – sounds like a late October game from two years ago. Why is Chester Pitts, a third-year starter drafted in the second round, still committing numerous penalties, one of which followed a big gain to the Lions’ 18-yard line, stiffing momentum and handing David Carr and company a 1st-and-15? Why does Domanick Davis have more fumbles (four) than touchdowns (2)? Carr was sacked five times and threw two interceptions – why is this still happening in 2004?!?!

And if you ask me – which, you haven’t, but, well, you’re reading this, so… – those (and may others) are questions Dom Capers is going to have to start answering. I know he’s aware of the problems – unless he’s taking drink orders for the plane ride home, the guy takes more notes during the game than a virgin on a Rolling Stones concert tour. I know Capers doesn’t wear a helmet and he’s not committing the turnovers and penalties himself, but a lack of execution at this point and time has to be placed at the foot of the head coach. Take it from someone who sat through the Jerry Glanville Era. The Texans did not look ready last week against the Chargers, and even if you feel compelled to scratch it up to an aberration – how in h-e-double hockey sticks do you explain their performance against the Lions?

They looked uninspired, disorganized and beaten. The pass protection was awful, the pass rush was non-existent and just when you think maybe, just maybe… there goes Eddie Drummond down the sidelines untouched, sticking a 99-yard fork in Houston’s chances, and possibly their season. It was so egregious, I’m actually going to pull a Keith on everyone: a Drummond hasn’t treated a Texan that rudely since Arnold locked Sam in the closet during the 7th season of Diff’rent Strokes. What?

The lack of execution and metal mistakes are even more maddening when you look at what the Texans have accomplished statistically to this point.

Their offense is ranked 10th overall in the NFL; the defense 11th. Carr has the 4th best QB rating in the AFC, leads the league in yards per catch and is second in total passing yards. Davis has more total yards than any other player in the AFC and Andre Johnson is averaging 20.6 yards per catch, placing him among the top four.

On paper, the Texans have jumped out to an impressive start to the season. On paper, they should be 2-0.

The problem with paper is that games are not decided on it in the NFL. If you ever find yourself… say, six years old again and playing, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in the school playground, then good ol’ paper can be your buddy, your pal. But in this league, paper can be a cold, sobering kick to the lower regions.

Because like my marriage certificate, the novel I’ll never finish, my surefire plan to erase (once and for all, of course) my mounting debt, milestones on paper are worth nothing.

So until Capers can quell the mental mistakes that continue to plague this team, Carr, Davis and Johnson will never have the chance to elevate their game where it matters most: on the field of play.

Ric Sweeney is what Willis was talking about.

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