HOUSTON -- When the Houston Texans move the ball, their offensive rhythm can rival anybody’s.
Just one of nine Texans' offensive drives did not include a sack or a penalty or end with a turnover, and that drive was the only one that produced a touchdown. It came far too late, after it was clear the Reliant Stadium guests would win for the first time this season.
An offense of the Texans’ caliber can’t go more than 58 minutes without a touchdown, particularly when Arian Foster is able to rush 106 yards on just 17 carries. And the defense is not equipped to keep the team in such a game.
“If we’re going to do what we want to do this year, we can’t go 58 minutes without a touchdown and settle for six points,” Matt Schaub said. “We’ve got too many playmakers. We were moving the football but wound up hurting ourselves.”
Schaub is a smooth and efficient quarterback. When the offense is clicking his work can be something to behold. In an impressive comeback from a 17-point deficit to win in overtime in Washington last week, he threw for a remarkable 497 yards.
This day was far different. I thought on all three of Dallas’ four sacks that Schaub was the primary culprit, simply wanting so badly to make a play that he held the ball for too long on drive killers. He couldn’t find a play bigger than 26 yards. Schaub couldn’t string together the longer chain of singles needed for points where there aren’t any home runs.
In the pocket presence/pocket awareness category, he was outplayed in a big way by Tony Romo. The Cowboys quarterback wasn’t sacked and outscored Schaub on the passer rating card, 127.6 to 77.7.
While Dallas collected 14 points in two red zone visits, Houston twice settled for field goals in goal-to-go situations.
“We’ve just got to play more physical,” said Houston's Rashad Butler, who played his first game at left tackle for the suspended Duane Brown. “They were just more physical than us. I hate to say it, but that’s what it comes down to in the red zone especially when you run the ball down there.
“It comes down to the trenches and they won the battle in the red zone. It definitely hurts me to say it. I know the five guys we’ve got are a lot tougher than those guys. But today they proved us wrong.”
Said Owen Daniels: "Being good in this league is about being good on the red zone. Those are some things we’ve been trying to clean up since the offseason.”
Against Romo, the Texans finally suffered the consequences of an ineffective defense. With no sacks and no takeaways, the Texans didn’t have to give up a third consecutive 400-yard passing day to lose.
The locker room talk was of how it’s in the Texans’ power to fix things, but that’s an ingrained, automatic reaction. Rarely in the NFL does anyone proclaim ownership of an unfixable problem. If you just work harder, play smarter and execute assignments, everything is cured.
The coping mechanism is too neat an explanation, of course, and it doesn’t include enough credit for the other side except for the obligatory “Not to take anything away from them” that comes before the “but ...”
“We can't spot teams 27 points and expect to win,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said, acknowledging that the Week 2 comeback over Washington is a rarity. “Let’s be real about that.”
The Texans' pass defense allowed Roy Williams 117 receiving yards, his best yardage in 39 regular season games dating back to Sept. 23, 2007 when he was with Detroit.
Safety Bernard Pollard emphasized that the run defense was bad early last season, got fixed and became quite effective. But part of what fixed it was his arrival as a late free-agent addition. There is no personnel addition the Texans will bring in for this one. They’ve decided to go young at corner. They will have to endure growing pains from Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin and Brice McCain and errors like a dropped chance at a pick-6 by veteran safety Eugene Wilson.
Pollard was involved in a mix-up that sprang Williams on a 63-yard TD pass that put the game out of reach with just under 10 minutes left on the game clock. Pollard said everything is about Houston’s “MAs” -- missed assignments.
“We have to get sound as a defensive unit,” he said. “You’ve got to put pride aside, sometimes you get embarrassed because you don’t want that on film. There are going to be some lessons tomorrow, we’re going to have to man up, understand that we’ve got to take coaching, that we’ve got to be accountable to every other guy on this team.”
Just like we couldn’t put too much stock into Week 1 and Week 2 success stories, we can’t put too much into a Week 3 failure.
I think the Texans are a good team with a good chance at a big season.
I think they are the sort of team that should go to Oakland in Week 4 and make it quickly clear that they are more talented than the Raiders.
It was a tough game to take for the Texans. But quick perspective is something good teams need, too.
“There’s a lot worse places to be after three games than 2-1,” Schaub said.