August 22, 2009
Defense Running into Trouble
by Keith Weiland
If the preseason tussle with the Saints was supposed to be the first big test for the revamped Texans defense, then consider the test failed. The Texans ate turf to the tune of a 38-14 stomping in front of what had been a full audience for the fake season affair.
Saints rushers averaged a whopping 6.4 yards per carry en route to a 173-yard performance on the ground. Texans linebackers and safeties appeared slow to fill gaps and at times missed assignments completely.
The game started off well enough when quarterback Matt Schaub found David Anderson in front of the goalline for an 8-yard touchdown pass to open the first quarter scoring. Schaub had a respectable evening, completing 11 of 16 passes for 97 yards and no interceptions.
The defense, however, gave up lots of space to the Saints, but they almost made an early game-changing play before things got ugly. Defensive end Mario Williams nearly created a sack-fumble turnover until further review intervened with the almighty tuck rule. Saints quarterback Drew Brees capitalized on his good fortune, tying the score at 7-7 with a 9-yard scoring pass to an unmarked Pierre Thomas.
Things went downhill from there for the defense. Running back Mike Bell took a late second quarter carry and bounced free and wide in a 46-yard dash to the endzone. Worth noting: Bell is a player waived by the Texans during last year's camp eight days after signing a two-year contract.
Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky tried to rally a late first half score, but he attempted an ill-advised throw intercepted by Saints cornerback Jabari Greer. The Saints kicked a field goal after the turnover for the 17-7 halftime lead.
Head coach Gary Kubiak fumed at halftime, inspiring his reserves to climb back to a 17-14 margin following Orlovsky's 23-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis. Then the Saints put the contest away for good thanks to the game's key play.
Halfway through the third quarter, the Texans offense stalled and punted to Rod Harper, formerly of the Arkansas Twisters of the af2. No, that isn't a typo... the af2, which is short for Arena Football 2, is the minor league of the Arena Football League, itself a (now indefinitely suspended) minor league.
Well Harper showed off some major league speed in returning a punt 79 yards to effectively put the 24-14 game out of reach for the third stringers.
There was too much suck out there to hand out game balls, but the heated battle for the fifth spot at wide receiver was on display with one competitor making a rather strong case. Glenn Martinez, who of course is a former Bronco this being South Denver and all, showed off some skills as a possession receiver, nabbing four balls for 45 yards. Jacoby Jones, clinging to that final spot at the position, pulled in three receptions of his own.
And for the second time in his first two games, rookie defensive end Connor Barwin lodged a sack.
So the newly designed Texans defense took it to an overhauled Chiefs team that really wasn't ready in the first week of preseason, giving fans what now appears to have been a false sense of security. This loss to the Saints showed a more telling picture, one where there were holes throughout the middle of the defense, and outside contain was... well, without containment.
Make no mistake, the Saints have an explosive offense, and they earned the yardage they gained missing a couple key ingredients. Of their starters, they were missing left tackle Jammal Brown and Kim Kardashian's ex-, Reggie Bush. Still, the rushing yardage the Texans defense allowed is something that will need to be addressed immediately, with next Monday's match-up against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings as the next fake season test.
Fortunately for the Texans, their first four regular season opponents don't figure to offer the same level of aerial competence as the Saints possessed on Saturday, but the weaknesses in the ground game the defensive unit displayed are certain to be exploited by the likes of Thomas Jones, Chris Johnson, and Maurice Jones-Drew if there aren't some significant adjustments made in the next two weeks.
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