Hurt in the ‘Nick of Time?

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September 27, 2004
Hurt in the ‘Nick of Time?

by Ric Sweeney

A win is a win, no matter what, so the Houstons deserve to bask in the glow of Sunday’s come-from behind victory against the Chiefs. No, it wasn’t pretty, but both sides of the ball made big plays when it mattered and I don’t care if Kansas City is 0-3 or 0-33, walking out of Arrowhead Stadium with a "W" in tow is impressive.

In fact, it would appear the only mark from Sunday was the loss of running back Domanick Davis, who left the game in the first half with a bum wheel. But in truth — and this is just between the two of us, right? — Davis’ injury, especially if he misses a game or two, may end up being the best thing to ever happen to this franchise.

Because here’s the sobering reality, and you can argue with me if you want, but I feel somewhat strongly about this: Davis is not a gamebreaker.

Look, no one appreciates Davis more than me. He attacks the line of scrimmage, squeezes through his holes with a pop and constantly moves forward, chewing up yardage and dragging defenders in his wake. He’s a cannonball and will be a contributor on a winning team, no doubt about it.

But there’s not a single team in this league that fears Domanick Davis.

Just look at what Detroit did last week. Davis touched the ball 35 times and it lead to 16 points and a loss. Do you think teams would be content to let Jamal Lewis touch the ball 35 times in a game? And now that Davis has shown a propensity for putting the ball on the turf with alarming regularity, teams are going to be content to let him grind up yards between the 20’s, then stuff him hard in the red zone. He has exactly one run of more than 30 yards in his career – what’s scary about a guy that can easily be contained?

If you look at Davis’ four career 100-yard games, the Texans are a combined 1-3. No, the losses weren’t his fault, but how often did the Broncos lose last year when Clinton Portis hung a hundy? So far this year, Davis has totaled 330 yards in two defeats. On Sunday, Houston won with Davis rushing for 12 yards on 10 carries and no touchdowns

I don’t know about you, but when I think back to the Texans’ 10-franchise wins, you know what stands out? Big pass plays. Corey Bradford’s big scores against Dallas and Miami; Andre Johnson’s 46-yard touchdown against the Bills; his terrific 37-yard catch yesterday against Kansas City.

The Texans’ true gamebreakers are the wide receivers, and teams know it. That’s why they’re blitzing the hell out of David Carr and doing everything they can to deny him the long ball, which likely explains why Davis is open underneath so often. Because Carr has proven, if given time, he and his cadre of receivers can make things happen.

Yesterday, with Davis out and Jonathan Wells the only alternative, the Texans were forced to go up top. Four 20+ yard pass plays later, Houston sneaks out with a win in one of the NFL’s toughest venues. Coincidence?

Robert Stack and the Unsolved Mysteries crew is en route to try and figure out why offensive coordinator Chris Palmer doesn’t exploit this more often. Is it because teams effectively shut down anything beyond 15 yards and force the still passive Texans to take what’s given? Or did he maybe draft Domanick Davis in his fantasy league?

And for the record, I don’t buy the notion that Palmer plays it too conservatively, or that head coach Dom Capers keeps him in a Gimp-like box in an effort to keep things safe and boring. Houston takes chances. They’ve gone for touchdowns when field goals would have tied games, they’ve tossed laterals on punt returns to set-up game-winning field goals, they’ve turned their backs into quarterbacks and yesterday, called for a fake punt trailing by seven with the ball on their side of the field.

Are those the marks of a conservative approach?

So what’s the problem? I don’t know, and may never know unless Davis misses time and Carr is at long last given a chance to drive this offense. Wasn’t that the idea when they made him the first-ever pick in franchise history?

Since that fateful April day, they’ve paid Carr a gajillion dollars to be the NFL’s youngest, richest caretaker. But it’s becoming clear that this team will only go as far as Carr takes it, that his arm and his ability need to deliver passes to the true gamebreakers (Johnson, Bradford, Jabar Gaffney and Derrick Armstrong) for this team to score points and win games.

Ric Sweeney ain’t talkin’ ’bout love, just like he told you before… yeah before. Domanick Davis Domanick Davis Home

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