Who was that team on the field in deep steel blue and liberty white on Sunday night? The Packers are a good team who I believed was better than their 2-3 record coming into the game, but the Texans made them look like the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Taking nothing away from the Packers, but the Texans couldn't have played a more undisciplined game and gift wrapped more unearned points for their opponent. Green Bay is good enough already, they certainly don't need help in beating teams; the Texans as gracious hosts gave them help anyway. Going into the fourth quarter the Packers led 28-17; at that point by my calculation the Texans had given them 11 points off of dumb penalties. They gave up seven points when DeVier Posey lined up offsides on a Packers punt; they scored a touchdown on the next play. Later in the game Connor Barwin got called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on a field goal attempt for Green Bay giving them a fresh set of downs. In some sort of "anything dumb you can do, I can do better," Danieal Manning threw a punch later in the drive after a third down stop that would of forced the Packers to kick, again, but instead gave them a first down and Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. Two dumb penalties turned what should have been three points for Green Bay into seven points, and when combined with the earlier dumb penalty from Posey adds up to 11 gift points; the game should have been tied going into the fourth quarter. The Packers probably would have won anyway because they played with more poise and more precision, but the Texans have only themselves to blame for getting blown out. After getting upset at home in the divisional round of the playoffs last year, the Packers had struggled to regain the level of play they had during their Super Bowl win and when running up a 15-1 regular season record last year; they got their mojo back on Sunday night.
The Texans got dominated up front all game long. The Packers played the zone run very well by using a similar tactic that the New York Giants used several years ago. They lined up a defender across from each lineman on many plays, not allowing the Texans offensive lineman to get off blocks and up to the next level to open up holes for Arian Foster. The Packers held Foster to just 29 yards on 1.7 yards per carry; by far his worst game this season. The Packers played the run well, but the Texans have issues on the offensive line, especially at guard. There's no trade or free-agent signing that will fix this issue this season. They'll have to make due this season, hope that the rookies start to come on strong, and likely address the issue in the draft next year.
When Matt Schaub had time in the pocket, the passing game looked fine for the most part. However Packers defenders spent about as much time in the backfield as Schaub did on Sunday night. Their blitzes completely confused the protection giving pass rushers free shots at Schaub on several occasions. Even when the Packers didn't blitz, Texans offensive lineman gave up quick pressure on several occasions when they just plain whiffed on their block. The usually reliable Schaub made some poor decisions resulting in two interceptions later in the game when the pressure of both the pass rush and having to attempt a comeback became too much.
The Texans gave up six passing touchdowns, that's enough to earn this grade by itself but how they gave up those points is equally concerning. Outside of J.J. Watt, the Texans didn't get any pass rush on Sunday night and that problem has gone on all season. Last season's team leader in sacks, Connor Barwin has zero sacks through six games and looks like he's sticking to blockers like glue when you watch him. Brooks Reed and Antonio Smith have been a bit better (4.5 sacks combined) but they also aren't putting on the same level of pressure that they did last year. The Texans drafted Whitney Mercilus because they thought he could be a great pass rusher, it's time for them to start finding out what he can do. I'm not saying Barwin should be benched, but unless he improves they should at least start to rotate Mercilus in on alternate possessions. Antoine Caldwell and Derek Newton lost playing time to poor play, it's time Barwin lost some too.
Facing a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers can make any secondary look bad, but the Texans defensive backs aren't playing as well this year either. Last season Johnathan Joseph played like a shut down corner and arguably was the second best corner in the league behind Darrelle Revis. Joseph got beat on several plays Sunday by Jordy Nelson and even gave up big plays to no-name Jets receivers last week. Some of this could be blamed on the lack of pass rush, but he doesn't look like the same player.
Special Teams: C
Shayne Graham made a 51 yard field goal, a kick that barely squeezed in past the uprights. In the punting game, Donnie Jones averaged 51 yards a punt and the coverage unit did a better than expected job against the dangerous return man Randall Cobb. The Packers return man did break one 46 yard return, but other than that he averaged only 20 yards per kick return and seven yards per punt return. For the Texans, Keshawn Martin didn't break any great returns by he didn't have any awful returns and showed some promise with quick moves and more make-you-miss ability than Trindon Holliday had shown.
I didn't like a lot of the play calling early on in the game, especially on the first drive, but that wasn't my main issue with Gary Kubiak on Sunday night. My main issue is about how he handled the last minute of the first half. The first issue was when he decided after a third down stop with 39 seconds left and all three timeouts left, not to use one of them to attempt to score before halftime. If Kubiak had called a timeout, they would have likely had about 33-35 seconds left with two timeouts and the ball at the 20 yard line. It obviously would have been difficult to score, but the Texans had shown the ability to find open receivers down the field and would have had four or five plays to move the ball 50 yards and set up a field goal attempt. Not an easy task, but certainly possible enough to attempt, but Kubiak is an ultra conservative head coach. That's not something new, it's been hidden under their success the last two seasons but has come to the surface once again recently. My second issue was, once he made the decision to not try to score and just take the game into halftime, why call two running plays? If the goal was to kill the clock and just go to halftime, and it clearly was, why in the world would you risk either a turnover or injury by running the ball? If all you want to accomplish is to kill the clock and go to halftime, just take a knee, very simple. We're not talking about advanced strategies, we're talking about very basic logic and clock management that literally most fans could handle and Kubiak fails at routinely. Very frustrating. Later when the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter, why did he still have starters like Schaub and Andre Johnson still in the game who have a history of injury problems? His logic at times is mind boggling.
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