Undefeated Texans Still Have Room for Improvement
Running game struggling compared to last season
By Barrett Walton, 11:39AM, Sat. Oct. 6, 2012
The Houston Texans run game continues to look like an ugly step daughter compared to its glamour-model sister of last season. To the rest of the league, the Texans run game continues to dominate, but if youʼve followed this team closely, you know that there have been many yards left on the field through all four games this year.
The issue seems to be rhythm. Coach Gary Kubiak said that there was too much “bouncing” as both Arian Foster and Ben Tate are spending too much time thinking about where to go and less time getting there. They don't fully trust the reconfigured offensive line yet and it's causing them to create some bad habits that I know Kubiak wants to nip in the bud.
Houston lost starting right guard Antoine Caldwell to an ankle injury in Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans. Rookie Ben Jones stepped in for the rest of the game. Jones looks like a rookie out there. I know, I sung Ben Jones' praises last week and he still looks like a good rookie, but a rookie none-the-less. He got completely blown up on one play that almost got Foster killed and Matt Schaub could be seen yelling at him after another play. Caldwell's status is still unknown at press time due to the extra day off with their next game not being played until Monday night.
If Jones has to start then I would expect the running game to look more like last week's ugly step-daughter once again. The Texans will probably perform better against the Jets interior than they did against Tennessee who have two very good defensive tackles. Quality defensive interior line play definitely played a role in Houston's less than ideal run performance.
Jones getting extra playing time is a blessing in disguise though. Much like when Andre Johnson went down last year and the team learned how to win without him, learning to play perfect at right guard will come to Jones out of necessity because the team simply won't tolerate anything less than perfection from the zone game. Kubiak has always said that for this team to do what it's supposed to do, they have to be one of the top running teams in the league.
Houston is currently ranked ninth in rushing and that simply won't cut it. The running game has got to improve if this team's dominance is to continue. There was a moment in Sunday's game, early in the third quarter when you could feel things tightening up. After coming out to a 14-0 lead on their first two drives the Texans were flat. Following the second touchdown in the first quarter, the Texans had drives of three plays, seven plays, and three plays going into the half.
Coming out of the locker room in the second half, still leading 14-7, another poor decision by Trindon Holliday left Houston backed up inside their own 10-yard line. Yet another ugly three-and-out and boos started raining down from the stands. (While booing the best team in the league is a bit ridiculous, it says quite a bit about the expectations the fans have for this team.) More over, it says much about the expectations this team has of itself.
I often watch the sidelines through binoculars to get a feel for how the team is acting. Are they joking around and having fun during a blowout? Are they focused and looking at faxes of the previous series during a tight game? Following this first three-and-out of the third quarter, I saw a huge huddle on the offensive end of the bench. Through the last few years, when the Texans have come out flat, Kubiak could be seen gathering the entire team and chewing them out as if to say, “This is not acceptable. This is not up to our standards.”
Well, I saw the huddle but I had just scanned the other end of the sideline and saw Kubiak talking to the officials during the commercial break. I quickly scanned back to the huddle and saw Matt Schaub absolutely chewing the entire offense out. Schaub is the most understated guy on the team other than 'Dre and I have never seen him this emphatic or animated.
This team demands excellence of each other and the result of Schaub calling out the offense was heard by the defense. On the very next possession, Danieal Manning intercepted a pass from Matt Hasselbeck and returned it for a touchdown. When the offense took the field again, they answered with a touchdown of their own as “Open” Daniels broke three tackles on the way to the endzone. The Texans crushed the will of the Titans and dominance was restored.
I keep saying it and it keeps being true. The Houston Texans are going to be defined by their consistency. They will answer the bell. They will play up to their own standards time and time again.
The New York Jets are next in line. The San Francisco 49ers are the Texans only equal in the league right now and many expect the same shellacking to be applied to the Jets that S.F. provided. I don't think you should expect the same kind of blowout score though. The Jets have had their pride hurt and I expect them to come out and give it everything they have in an attempt to salvage their season.
Houston 27 – New York 16
[Barrett Walton is the managing editor for Texans Bull Blog. Click here for news, analysis, and commentary on the Texans.]