HOUSTON,TX - SEPTEMBER 09: Kareem Jackson #25 of the Houston Texans intercepts a Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins pass as Glover Quin #29 and Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans look on during their season opener at Reliant Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Sloppy start, but they finished strong
Make no mistake, the Texans weren't sharp early on. However, they overcame their slow start and by the end of the game were up by twenty. Previous Texans teams would have folded, but they did what good teams are supposed to do; they blew out a bad team. Even the best teams have games where they play a little sluggish, but finding a way to win by three scores even when they weren't on top of their game was impressive. If they play like they did during the first 25 minutes of the Miami game the rest of the season, they won't reach their goals, but I won't worry until the slow starts become a trend.
Scoring 30 points looks impressive on the surface, but the Texans did almost nothing without a short field with 24 of their points coming off of Miami turnovers. Even though they scored 30, I can't give them full credit since they only scored six when having to put together a full drive. A couple drives looked very similar to previous seasons with the Texans moving the ball with ease until they get on the opponents side of the 50, then they bogged down. This was especially evident on their first possession of the game, though they had some help from another awful challenge decision from Kubiak. Seriously, either Kubiak is being influenced by the fans or he's ignoring his guys in the booth who's job it is to watch the replays and advise him on whether or not to challenge. It was clearly not a catch on the would be touchdown pass to Lestar Jean and every replay showed it. Kubiak has improved a lot in his time with the Texans, but he's still awful in his decision making on challenges. He routinely seems to make either stubborn decisions on challenging or deciding to challenge more on hope that it will be changed than knowing it will because of the replay evidence. If he's just listening to the fans, he should start using a t-shirt cannon to shoot the red flag on the field; at least that would be entertaining. Very frustrating.
The run game did not look good for most of the game and the Texans offensive line got pushed around by the Dolphins front seven. Overall the Texans averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, a pitiful number considering they averaged 4.5 as a team last season. The struggles on Sunday I think were mostly because the Dolphins are solid against the run (ranked 3rd last season), but there is definitely some reason for concern going forward with the right side of the offensive line. Maybe they'll improve as the season goes on with more time to work together, but the losses of Eric Winston and Mike Brisel were felt on Sunday.
Passing game was a little sloppy early on with drops from Keshawn Martin and Andre Johnson, but they seemed to work out the kinks by the end of the game. Schaub made quick decisions, was accurate, and veteran targets Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels had big days catching the ball.
Good effort overall, but concerns over their run defense brings down their grade.
Ryan Tannehill looked sharp on the first drive on short passes, but showed his age early on when he looked away from the center and the snap bounced off his chest. Helping Tannehill was the Dolphins clearly winning the battle on the line in the first quarter. Tannehill had plenty of time, there were big running lanes, and the Texans defense just generally got pushed around early. Later in the game the Texans started to sit on the short routes and jam the Dolphin receivers; a wise decision since they didn't have any deep threats.
Tannehill will have nightmares about J.J. Watt all week. Guy played like he had tree limbs for arms, was batting passes like he was Hakeem Olajuwon. Understand those deflections were not blind luck, Watt deflected a lot of passes last year as well. Watt is a very smart player, realized he wasn't going to get to the quarterback with his pass rush with how quickly the Dolphins were getting rid of it, so he put his hands up and nearly by himself changed the momentum of the game. Sure the offense had short fields, but it seemed like Watt's play even lifted up their spirits and snapped them out of the funk they were in for most of the 1st half. The line opened up a big hole for Foster's first touchdown run, something that wasn't happening early on. Johnson made a beautiful catch on a fade pass for their third touchdown after dropping a couple passes early on. All it takes is a spark to start a fire, and Watt was that spark.
Reggie Bush was surprisingly effective between the tackles. The Texans were great against the run last season but suffered injuries to defensive lineman J.J. Watt and Shaun Cody during training camp. Maybe it'll just take time for the unit to get into game shape and gel since several key players missed time and didn't play together much during the preseason. Bush averaged 4.9 yards per carry with the Texans knowing he was their only true threat. Had the Dolphins not fallen behind badly after the streak of turnovers from Tannehill; Bush would have easily topped 100 yards. The Texans need to get this fixed quickly with Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Matt Forte coming up on the schedule.
Special Teams: B
Trindon Holliday looked great in the preseason, but I promise you this; many more bobbles or fumbles like Holliday had on the kickoff after the Dolphins first field goal will get him cut. Holliday had to be nearly perfect to make the team in the first place, and Kubiak will not tolerate not securing the ball. He had a fumble in the preseason game against the Saints, his bobble gave the Texans the ball at the five yard line in the late first quarter; a few more of those will get him cut.
Shayne Graham missed a kick, but it was accurate, just came up a little short on the 50+ yard attempt. Overall Graham looked good making three out of four attempts and I expect him to be solid for the Texans going forward.
A little sloppy at times, weren't sharp early on, but at the end of the day the won by three scores and got the job done.
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