August 29, 2010
Separating Men from the 'Boys
by Keith Weiland
Keith -at- IntheBullseye -dot- com
Still suturing their wounds from the abuse suffered in New Orleans last weekend, the Texans took vengeance upon the visiting Cowboys, winning a 23-7 game they lead all four quarters. Sure, it was another fake season game that doesn't matter, but the Texans sure played like it did.
Running back Arian Foster laid solid claim toward becoming the team's unquestioned starter, leading a rushing offense that gained 173 yards. Foster's 110-yard performance was a fake season record for the frachise; which is amazing, not because Foster was an injured undrafted rookie at this time last year, but because, well, who knew anyone really kept records in the preseason, right?
Actually even more astonishing was how defensive child prodigy Amobi Okoye finally showed up on that stat sheet with something other than a bunch of zeros. Okoye registered a sack in the first quarter, bolstering a team defensive effort that rattled Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo behind a makeshift offensive line.
The scoring started in the first quarter when quarterback Matt Schaub bootlegged and found receiver Jacoby Jones cutting back across the field for a 24-yard touchdown reception. It was a somewhat subpar game from what fans have come to expect from Schaub, though he did complete 62 percent of his passes for 183 yards and the score.
Red zone offensive woes remained in this effort in spite of the lopsided outcome. A second quarter touchdown run by Foster was nullifed when center Chris Myers was flagged for holding. Kicker Neil Rackers still converted the drive into points thanks to his 23-yard field goal for the 10-0 lead.
Incumbent kicker Kris Brown would add a chip shot three-pointer of his own in the final minute of the first half as yet another drive stalled inside the red zone. A rush up the middle for no gain followed by two short pass attempts inside the 6-yard line weren't enough to cross the goalline, but the team took a commanding 13-0 lead into the tunnel.
The first team offense emerged from the locker room determined to put six points on the board. Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Ware nearly stymied the red zone effort, notching a sack-fumble of Schaub that was later overturned courtesy of an illegal contact penalty from the Dallas secondary. Mercifully, Foster took the next play off-tackle 3 yards for the touchdown and a 20-0 advantage.
The final three points scored by the offense were set up by cornerback Kareem Jackson, who intercepted Romo's deflected pass at the Texans 4-yard line and returned it 64 yards. With 6:47 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys mounting their best drive of the game, safety Bernard Pollard tipped the football from tight end Jason Witten and toward the hands of rookie. It was the most positive evidence to date of potential fulfilled by the team's first round pick. Rackers kicked another short field goal for the 23-0 lead after the offense stalled again inside the 10-yard line.
Foster was big through the hole and quick to the corner in gaining his 110 yards on 18 carries. The team may have found their new bellcow ball carrier.
Jones didn't lead the team in catched or yards - that would have been Andre Johnson, of course - but he was very effective in creating both separation from his defender and danger once the ball was secured in his grip.
12 rushes, 13 yards
That's all the Cowboys running game could amass in spite of having a three-headed monster in the backfield consisting of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. The defensive line, particularly Mario Williams, Antonio Smith, and Okoye, may not have racked up a bunch of gaudy individual stats, but they controlled the line of scrimmage and battered an albeit ramshackle Cowboys offensive line.
Too bad none of it will matter when these two teams play for real in September. Until then, however, this one feels like a pretty good rebound from last week's disaster.
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