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The Houston Texans are 5-0. They beat the New York Jets last night 23-17. That’s the most important thing that happened last night, but any player, coach, or fan knows that, after watching that game, the Texans still have a lot of work to do.
Well, actually the most important thing about that game has yet to be determined. Brian Cushing suffered a possible torn ACL on what should have been called an illegal block. At best, Cushing will miss a significant portion of what’s left of the season. At worst, we won’t see him until 2013. Even if Cushing does miss the rest of the season, we’ve seen the emergence of some young solid linebackers this year like Brooks Reed and Tim Dobbins. The acquisition of Bradie James, who led the team in tackles last night, is also going to be key with this injury. They’ll miss Cushing’s leadership and intensity, but the Texans did a good job of preparing for this kind of situation and showed last year that they can work through injuries.
The best news out of this game was the production of Arian Foster, who ran for 152 yards and 5.2 yards per carry, scoring a touchdown as well. He had runs of 46, 21, and 12 yards in the game. It was good to see him get the yards, but the problem is that the offense had a few chances to put the game away in the 2nd half and limit his carries. But he ended up having to stay in and help the Texans close out the game, finishing with 29 carries and one catch. 30 touches isn’t what I was hoping for from Foster in this game. He still leads the league in carries this season and is on pace for more than 400 rushing attempts this year.
That kind of load takes years of any running back’s career, but not only that, affects how well he runs the next year. Both Gary Kubiak and Foster are convinced that with his new diet and weekly regimen, he can handle this load. But we won’t find out until next next season. Hopefully no sooner.
Again, Houston might have been able to limit his carries more if they had been more effective in the red zone. Late in the 3rd quarter, the Texans had a chance to start pulling away up 20-14 and inside the Jets 20. They ran six plays for just 12 yards, most of them short Foster carries. In another drive where the Texans got inside the Jets 30, they also had to settle for a field goal. On that ensuing kickoff, the Jets returned a touchdown to make it a one-possession game.
In our Playmaker Preview, the one aspect of the the game where we thought New York could have an impact was special teams. As a result, head coach Gary Kubiak says that there are changes coming to the special teams unit. Whether he means the kickoff team or the return team, we’re not sure. Right now, there’s an argument for both. The unit that saw Trindon Holliday break long returns in the preseason hasn’t produced in the regular season. Holliday returned three kicks last night and his longest return was 14 yards.
Finally, the defense had another great game, specifically JJ Watt who got a ton of attention for batting down balls at the line and coming up with some big tackles in the game including a sack on Mark Sanchez that knocked the Jets out of field goal range in the 4th quarter. But the unheralded unit of the game was the secondary.
Kareem Jackson grabbed his 2nd interception in as many weeks and Brice McCain had a big game with a game-changing interception (off a Watt deflection) and another sack in the 2nd half. The Houston Texans don’t have the #1 ranked defense overall in the stat books because the NFL ranks teams based on yards, but only one team the Texans have faced has scored more than 20 points and that was the Denver Broncos. There are three other teams that rank ahead of Houston in terms of points allowed, but they all have at least one loss because of their weak offenses.
Houston is still the most complete team in the league. We just expected them to play better against this terrible Jets team. They’ll quickly lose their perfect record if they fail to put teams away like they did in New York because their schedule gets much tougher now with the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens coming to Houston the next two weeks.