The Pogs: New Orleans Edition
Patrick D. Starr
NEW ORLEANS – The third pre-season game against the perennial NFC power New Orleans Saints featured the starters through the entire first half. It was a matchup that most considered a major test for the Texans' pass rush and secondary. However, prior to the game, Wade Phillips made it known there would be no blitzing and the defense would operate in its base "vanilla" package. Phillips kept his word, however the Saints defense was not so kind sending several blitzes from defensive backs and getting ample pressure and sacks on the Texans' quarterbacks.
Offensive Player of the Game:
After one full half of play, the score was tied 24-24 but the statistical edge went to the Texans. The Texans' ones had their way with the Saints' defense throughout the first half. It appeared the Texans' three tight end set was open every time and I would venture to guess that if this was a regular season game, we would have seen a lot more of Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham and James Casey.
Coming into this season, there were a lot of fans calling for T.J. Yates to be the starter. After Saturday night and Schaub's pre-season performances, that chatter should now stop. Schaub has been on fire, making perfect reads, and throwing with above average accuracy. Through the first half, Schaub led Drew Brees in all relevant statistical categories going 15 of 18 for 194 yards and 1 touchdown. In fact, Schaub led an offense that outpaced the high-powered Saints' offense in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, time of possession, and passer rating – if not for the Trindon Holliday fumble for a touchdown, the Texans would have won the half rather easily.
"I feel good, I'm ready to go. Everything feels great. I'm healthy, and just ready to go play Week 1," Schaub said after a stellar pre-season performance in New Orleans. Schaub was 29 of 38 (76.3%) for 374 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 1 sack and a 113.3 passer rating for the entire pre-season. He will not play this Thursday against the Vikings.
For the reasons above and the notion that Schaub appears to be on a mission, Matt Schaub is the Offensive Player of the Game for the 3rd pre-season game. Of course, others also performed well, most notably, Garrett Graham with his 4 receptions for 97 yards. If Schaub can keep this up, it will be very difficult for teams to prepare.
Defensive Player of the Game:
The Texans' defense was tested early and often by Drew Brees and it was pretty clear that J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Shaun Cody in the middle were missed. By not blitzing or pressuring Brees, the Texans' secondary was immediately at a disadvantage (see Texans secondary 2010). With no sacks and no interceptions all night, it was difficult to find a player of the game for the defense. Quite simply, no one player stood out, therefore there is no defensive player of the game.
However, it was good to see Glover Quin force and recover a fumble on a solid hit in the open field against the Saints' bigger back. Then later in the game, Daniel Manning forced and recovered another fumble by stripping the ball carrier in an effort play. Jesse Nading is a bubble player that is playing for his job and it showed the majority of the game by leading all Texans' tacklers with 7 total tackles. (6 solo,1 assist)
Special Teams Player of the Game:
As a group the special teams play was above average, and despite Trindon Holliday fumbling a kick off return, he was able to bounce back with a 62 yard return later in the game. This is key to gaining confidence for him because right now Holliday is a high risk high reward player. The kicking game continued its success as well, and Shayne Graham nailed a 53 yard field goal and is displaying a strong leg in his 11th NFL season.
However, it was punter Donnie Jones who earned this week's Special Teams Player of the Game. Jones finished the game with 4 punts for 180 total yards (45.0 average) and a 62 yarder. It was his end-over-end kick that dropped perfectly on the Saints 2 yard line, where Sherrick McManis stopped it from rolling into the end zone, that sealed the Player of the Game distinction.
Winning the special teams play is vital to the Texans success. If Holliday, Jones and Graham can continue building on their pre-season play, look for this trio to win a few games for the Texans during the season. Returning a punt for a long run, hitting a 50 yard field goal or stopping a punt on the opponents 2 yard line, will be back breakers for the opposition – watch this trio's contribution in 2012.