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It wasn't pretty, but the Texans defense and running game made enough plays to push their record to 5-0
Not all wins are equal, but a road win over a conference opponent is still impressive even if it looked a little ugly. The Texans were expected to dominate on Monday but the Jets capitalized on mistakes made by the Texans and found a way to keep the game closer than it should have been. Of the 17 points scored by the Jets, 14 of them came off of Texans mistakes. The Jets had a short-field to work with after the Matt Schaub interception and later in the game Joe McKnight returned a kickoff for a touchdown. When having to drive the entire field, the Texans defense allowed only three points. Did the Texans take the Jets lightly, was this a let down game? I don't think that was the case, sometimes even great teams have a down game. Past Texans teams would have lost this game, finding a way to win when not playing at you're best is another step to becoming a great team.
Finally the running game showed some of the explosiveness that it had been missing this season. The 5.2 yards per carry Arian Foster averaged last night was a full yard better than his previous high in yards per carry this season. In fact, Foster was held under four yards per carry in three of their four previous games. However, this performance doesn't necessarily mean that the Texans run game is back to the form of the last two seasons. There still didn't appear to be much room to run on stretch plays but the Texans hit some big plays on power runs right up the gut with a pulling guard. They obviously won't and shouldn't abandon the zone scheme, but maybe Derek Newton and Antoine Caldwell are better suited for a power running style; good to see them mixing it up a bit.
The run game deserves an 'A' but Matt Schaub's interception and late game play-calling bring down this grade. Schaub has done a great job protecting the ball this season, but that was a bad mistake; Andre Johnson was blanketed by Antonio Cromartie on the play. Owen Daniels had another big game and is on his way to perhaps the best season of his career. The veteran tight end had 79 yards and a touchdown on Monday and has made teams pay for double teaming Andre Johnson this season. Overall the passing game didn't look great, but they made enough plays to help out the running game.
I hate to bring up old feelings and thoughts, but some of the reasons why most Texans fans wanted a new head coach several years ago showed up last night. Gary Kubiak is a good coach and I'm not saying he should be replaced, but he's got to be more aggressive and more creative in certain situations. With the Texans up only six points and over 11 minutes left on the clock, Kubiak called for a draw play on 3rd and 11. Plays like that drive me crazy. If the Texans were up two scores with under five minutes left, then a draw on third and long is fine. With the score and time remaining, that was way too conservative of a play call. It's not hard to think that he's calling plays 'not to lose' rather than trying to win in those situations. I get that he trusts his defense, but running a draw gains you nothing in that situation. The Jets pass rush hadn't been effective, and he has the quarterback and targets to pick up those yards. Take the shot, try to pick up the first down, and if you get it, then drain another two minutes or so off the clock. This wasn't the only case of Kubiak calling the game way too conservative, but it was the most glaring.
As I mentioned before, when the Jets had to drive the whole field they only scored three points on the Texans defense. The Texans held the Jets running game to only three yards per carry, held Mark Sanchez to under 50 percent completion on his pass attempts, and allowed the Jets to convert only 4-14 of their third down conversions. J.J. Watt continued his Defensive Player of the Year campaign with another sack (leads the league) and three pass deflections. One of his deflections caused an interception that Brice McCain returned to the nine yard line allowing the Texans to kick another field goal just before halftime. That play was at least a six point swing with the Jets in field goal range at the time of the interception. Later in the game another of Watt's deflections prevented a touchdown on a pass to Schilens and forced the Jets to settle for a field goal. Just on those two plays alone, Watt's play gave the Texans ten points.
The concern going forward is obviously is over Brian Cushing. As I'm writing this there hasn't been any official word on Cushing's injury but most believe it to be an ACL tear which would end his season. The Texans don't have much depth at inside linebacker so if his season is over, it'll be a huge blow for the Texans. In my opinion, of players they could least afford to lose, Cushing ranks third behind Matt Schaub and Johnathan Joseph. Tim Dobbins will take Cushing's place, but the Texans will need to add depth. Daryl Sharpton can come of the PUP list after the Green Bay game so that will help, but I still think they need to add a player. Brady James is only a two down player at this point in his career and is probably their worst starting defender. Expect the Texans to add a linebacker with experience in Wade Phillips defense.
Special Teams: D
The kicking game was great with Shayne Graham making all three of his field goal attempts and Donnie Jones placing four punts inside the 20, but their teammates on special teams didn't play as well. The kick returned for a touchdown is obvious when pointing out mistakes, but the Texans return game was also a big problem. I've been leaning this way for a couple weeks now, but after last night I'm over the fence and believe Trindon Holliday needs to be cut; the experiment needs to end now. Not only is Holliday not breaking any big plays in the return game, but he's costing the Texans field position several times a game with poor decisions on when to take the ball out of the endzone. For the game Holliday averaged just 11 yards per kick return with a long of 14 yards; awful. The Jets have a good special teams coach and good special teams unit, but there's no way they should bring down Holliday before the 20 yard line when the kick only goes to the one yard line like it did on the opening kickoff. Later in the game after the Nick Folk field goal it was the same thing, the kick wasn't deep (three yards into the endzone) and Holliday only got back to the 11 yard line; the Jets special teams unit is good, but not that good. As I've said in past weeks, Holliday would have to go when the Texans had an injury that required adding a player unless he started making big plays; he hasn't and that time is now.