It was a tough loss and there are positives and negatives from the Houston Texans in this performance against the New Orleans Saints. There are many excuses to pass around, it just comes down that everyone in a Texans uniform is to blame for this loss. The Texans didn't lose to a bad team either, when you have a top 3 quarterback on the opposing team things can change in a hurry, and the Texans found that out the hard way.
Here are 10 thoughts on yesterday's game.
1. James Casey had a game that will not be soon forgotten, but because of the loss it will not be looked at for what it was worth. Casey had 5 catches for 126 yards and one of the best touchdown catches of the early season and even chipped an 11 yard run for a big first down. He is slowly becoming a vital weapon for the Texans and could prove to be a difference maker as the season goes on.
2. The Texans in their previous two wins finished the game by running the ball, but they refused to do that when they had the lead. It was easy to see the Texans had the idea to throw the ball majority of the game, but the Texans are a better team when they run the ball. It takes pressure of the defense and shortens the game, but Drew Brees had plenty of time to make things happen and made the Texans pay for giving the Saints room to breath.
3. DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing are in good form after what we saw on Sunday. They combined for 12 total tackles and were laying the wood on Saints ball carriers and are giving the Texans two solid inside linebackers. Look for Ryans and Cushing to keep leading this team even after a tough loss.
4. The defense struggled but the secondary was an embarrassment. Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin both gave up touchdown passes which proved to be game changers, and Johnathan Joseph fell for the same two point conversion twice, but out of different formations. Even though the Texans did pick off two of Brees passes, the overall play of the secondary was disappointing. These problems are fixable, better now than in week 15 when playoff spots are up for grabs.
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5. Andre Johnson had 7 catches for 128 yards and looked unstoppable the first half against the Saints, in the second half they bracketed him and the Texans had to look elsewhere in the passing game. The Texans need someone else to force opposing safeties to widen out and give them someone else to worry about, Owen Daniels is a viable option, but he doesn't pose a vertical threat to opponents. With a vertical threat the Texans can open more field for Johnson and Daniels to work, but until then defenses can concentrate on stopping Johnson. Johnson is the best offensive weapon on the field, but the Texans can't allow teams to contain Johnson and make him a non-factor for a half of football.
6. Matt Schaub had a great statistical game with 22/39 for 373 yards with three touchdowns and 1 interception. The only issue I had with his play is that in the 4th quarter Schaub looked flustered and panicked, and he couldn't get the Texans on track. His interception proved costly and when he gets in trouble he zeros in on Johnson and makes it easy for defenses to read. If he can cut out those times when he makes a bad pass when it is needed the most, the Texans will be able to finish games like these. Schaub has been solid for the Texans, but it is times like these when he needs to step up his game and prove he can be a difference maker in clutch situations.
7. Once again J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith are proving they can be serious issues for offenses when a big play is needed. Watt and Smith had sacks on Brees in big situations, but it was frustrating to see no one else was there to help. Mario Williams caused the first interception by Joseph when he caused Brees to hesitate, but Connor Barwin has been a non factor heading into game 4 of the season. Even though Barwin had a sack last week against Miami, he has been quite otherwise. There has to be reason for concern because only Williams has provided any type of spark from the outside linebacker position and Brooks Reed and Bryan Braman have been non factors to this point. When Williams went out with his scary knee injury, there was nothing to be seen from the outside linebackers pass rush. It might be time to make a decision and look for help elsewhere to help the outside linebacker position and get some much needed depth help.
8. Anyone who thinks that Arian Foster is not important to the Texans, better think again. He gives the Texans a confidence that Ben Tate does not bring. Foster has the one cut running style that is unmatched in the Texans backfield. The Texans are hurting for Foster especially in the red zone where he would be getting majority of the carries. I blame majority of the red zone woes on Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison (offensive coordinator) but more on Dennison because he is the one who calls the plays. He has to have confidence in the running game to punch it in, the Texans is an offense centered around the run that sets up the pass, not vice versa. When the Texans have to pass to win a game, it spells trouble for the Schaub and the offense when that happens.
9. Darren Sproles changed the complexion of the game when he touched the ball, and the Texans had no answer for him. He changed the game, the turning point in my opinion, when punter Brett Hartmann had a 34 yard punt giving the Saints a short field, trying to keep it away from Sproles. This proved costly and started the land slide of bad things that ended up finishing the Texans.
10. The Texans gave up 23 4th quarter points and both the offense and defense were to blame. The Saints quick scoring offense put the Texans in a bad position and made a great game turn bad quickly for the Texans. Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips have a part in this loss, but ultimately the players have to perform, and they didn't. When a franchise is plagued by losing, the hardest thing to do is learning how to win. The Texans handled the teams they were supposed to beat and gave a Super Bowl contender all they wanted and then some. If we want to see if these are the "old" Texans wait and see how they respond after this loss, but trust me I wanted the win as much as any Texans fan. The reality is that this was game three and there are 13 more to go, it is a marathon not a race. We will find out if the Texans have learned from this game or not, but only time will tell.
*Bonus* In our 6 things to watch against the Saints article from yesterday we focused on key points going into the game and three became big issues after it was all said an done.Read #1, #3 and #5.