September 13, 2009
by Keith Weiland
The Texans were soundly beaten by a visiting Jets team, 24-7. The Jets started a rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, and were missing two key starters on defense, end Shaun Ellis and outside linebacker Calvin Pace, and they still executed a predictable gameplan that confounded the Texans all afternoon.
Defensively, the Texans were unable to get off the field on third downs, allowing the Jets nearly forty minutes of possession. Sanchez helped his team convert 12 of their 20 third and fourth down attempts, tiring a Texans defensive unit that proved unable to stop the run in the second half.
The league's third-ranked offense of a year ago was stymied all afternoon, too. Quarterback Matt Schaub, still feeling the effects of an ankle sprain he suffered against the Vikings in preseason, was inaccurate passing the ball in the face of a relentless blitzing defense.
Receiver Andre Johnson was rendered useless in making just four receptions for 35 yards. Even worse, running back Steve Slaton looked slow and pensive through the hole, gaining just 17 yards on nine carries.
Booed before halftime, the fans in attendance were chanting for backup Rex Grossman in the second half. Yeah, it was that bad.
The sour tone for the afternoon was set early. With the score just 3-0 in favor of the Jets midway through the second quarter, the defense was back on the field after Slaton fumbled in the team's first (and sadly, only) trip into the redzone. And for the third time on the ensuing drive, the defense had forced the Jets into a third-and-long situation, this time at their own 30-yard line.
Calm and collected, Sanchez read the blitz and saw two receivers flooding zone coverage. Rookie Brice McCain gave up deep coverage responsibility on Chansi Stuckey, leaving the receiver all alone at the end of an easy pass for six points.
While the ten point deficit just before the half was hardly decisive, one could almost see the Texans' sphincters tightening. Nothing changed at halftime as the Jets opened the third quarter with a game-killing 12-play drive including two more third down conversions. It ended with a 1-yard run by Thomas Jones for the 17-point lead.
Reserve safety John Busing made the team's lone highlight of the game, intercepting Sanchez early in the fourth quarter. It led to a touchdown return by fellow safety Dominique Barber to make the score 17-7. Even still, it's just a half gold star for Busing, as he fumbled the ball almost as quickly as he picked it off.
Mario Williams and Zac Diles each dropped picks that could have turned the tide earlier in the game. Williams turned in a decent performance, leading the way with six tackles. Worth noting, rookie Brian Cushing was solid in his first game as a pro.
12-20, 60% and 38:46
The Jets' efficiency on third and fourth down, plus an obviously futile Texans offense, led to a total domination in the time of possession by New York. It was a sad sack performance by the home team, and as poor as the effort may have been on the field, this was a complete failure by the coaching staff. The Jets did nothing unexpected - hey, they blitzed often and ran a bunch of screen passes! - and still the Texans had no answer for any of it all game long.
Offensive coordinator Baby Shan, calling plays for just the second regular season game of his career, never figured out a way for Schaub to beat the blitz. And new defensive coordinator Frank Bush, plainfully dealing with a dearth of secondary talent, couldn't figure out a way to get his defense off the field on third down.
As openers go, this was a total FUBAR, and it won't get any easier in Week 2. While the Texans can expect more of the same against the Titans, fans should not expect the team to be any better prepared for what's coming based on what they saw from the team on Sunday.
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