Like performance, explanations disappoint

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
HOUSTON -- The Texans hope it was "preseason form" that was responsible for an ugly 38-14 loss to New Orleans Saturday night.

I hope they weren't in midseason form in terms of explaining it, because it seemed like a lot of guys had just gotten a crash course from Crash Davis.

There was a lot about how they'd have to see it on film to figure out what went wrong (Crutch. When it's that bad and you play only about a half, you should be able to answer for it a bit better than that.)

There was a lot about how it's was better for it to happen now than later. (How about neither, isn't that an option?)

There were even some mentions about how perhaps the most upsetting element of the loss, the very poor first-half run defense that allowed 8.6 yards a carry, wasn't "Texans' defense." (Really? A cynic might suggest, looking at last year's 23rd ranked run defense and average of 4.5 yards per carry surrendered and say it seemed sort of familiar.)

OK, OK. Hardly the end of the world. After a good share of the week spent around a team I expect to be improved, though, I was disappointed it wasn't better. That means the Texans are shifting some expectations, right? That's at least one a good thing.

Locker room highlights that did go beyond the cliché, at least those of the most routine variety:

Weakside linebacker Xavier Adibi: "We got the ball rammed down our throats."

Right tackle Eric Winston: "We let some simple things and some little twists and tweaks that they did to their defense effect us and we weren't running that ball as effectively as we should have after that first drive.

Defensive coordinator Frank Bush: "We want our players to perform and we just didn't feel like they performed like we were quite expecting them to tonight."

Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans: "We let the ball cut back way too many times and get outside. Everybody wasn't in their gaps and we were playing sound defense. When you don't play sound or you pop out of your gap or don't perform your technique the right way, that's what happens. You get gashed."

A couple other things I wanted to touch on:

The failed fourth-and-goal play from the New Orleans 2-yard line in the third quarter. It could have pulled Houston to within 24-21. Instead it wound up a 16-yard sack of Dan Orlovsky, who lost a fumble to the guy who rode him so far back, linebacker Anthony Waters.

It seemed well designed, as everything flowed right, and James Casey leaked out wide open left as Orlovsky rolled the same direction.

"I saw him coming at the line and I need to do a better job of making my fake and really just pulling up and just trying to get a lob ball over him," said Orlovsky, who wound up rolling left with one man to evade or pass over. "I probably just came too flat out of my fake and he met me right there."

Right tackle Duane Brown, viewed by many, including me, as an up-and-comer and a candidate for a breakout kind of year, drew two penalties, a false start and an offensive holding in the first half.

"The first one, I got real antsy," he said. "The second one, I really don't feel like I did anything, I went out [in the open field] to cut the guy and they said after I cut him, I hooked him with my arm. Everyone on the sideline agreed with me that it wasn't legit, but it happens."

And three things I'd like to see more of:

  • More punts like the 60-yard beauty Matt Turk hit in the fourth quarter that looked like it was going to be a touchback, then took a sharp right and kicked out of bounds just before the pylon, pinning the Saints at the 1-yard line. (Too bad they drove 99 yards from there to a TD.)

  • More James Casey sooner in the game. The rookie tight end made a nice catch down the middle for a 21-yard gain that made a lot of people want to see him get some chances with the first string.

  • More guys who got their hands on New Orleans returner Rod Harper on his 79-yard actually slow him up. The scout beside me said he counted five missed tackles and as we leaned back to watched the replay together, we confirmed the number.

And, along with a big reduction in rushing yards allowed, a significant cut in clichés.