September 16, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) is sacked by Houston Texans outside linebacker Brooks Reed (58) during the second quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
Ball control offense & a suffocating defense win the game
What are good teams supposed to do against bad teams? Dominate them and win easily; the Texans certainly did that on Sunday with a 27-7 win over the over-matched Jacksonville Jaguars. The opponent changed this week but the formula used to win did not. The Texans played ball control on offense with an effective running game and crushed the spirit of their opponent on the other side of the ball with a suffocating defense.
They didn't do much through the air because they didn't have to do much through the air. The running game was solid and the lead was big enough by late in the 3rd quarter that there was no need to keep passing. Schaub was "held" under 200 yards and didn't throw a touchdown pass, but did complete 74.3 percent of his passes and could have thrown for more yards had the Texans needed it.
The Texans rushed for 219 yards, three touchdowns, and 4.5 yards per carry; a good afternoon. However, I still don't think their run game is playing to the level of last season. Ben Tate looked great at 6.2 yards per carry, but Arian Foster was again held under four yards per carry (3.9). I thought it was the right side of the line struggling that caused the run game to sputter last week, but Ben Tate didn't seem to have any problems on Sunday. The Texans did rotate at right guard switching Caldwell out on alternate drives for rookie Ben Jones so maybe that helped the team run it better, but Foster still looks a little slower and not as sharp this season. I'm confident that Foster will start to pick it up, but maybe Tate should continue to get 10-12 carries instead of the five he got in week one until Foster turns it around.
Outstanding effort, maybe their best defensive performance in team history. The Texans defense allowed just 117 yards of offense from the Jaguars; a record best for the Texans and a record low for the Jaguars. Included in that, the Texans allowed just 43 yards (-9 passing) and held the Jaguars to 0-9 on third down conversions in the first half. Leading the way again was J.J. Watt who had a team high five tackles including 1.5 sacks and two pass deflections. Is it too early to put Watt in the Pro-Bowl?
Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert looked like a different quarterback during the preseason and in their week one game against the Vikings, but the Texans made him look like last years version that was inaccurate, made slow decisions, and got happy feet in the pocket at the first sign of pressure. Gabbert finished just 7/19 for 53 yards passing; the lowest yardage total of his career. He's probably better than what he showed on Sunday against a top three in the league defense, but he still has a long way to go in his development.
One thing to work on going forward, the Texans again struggled against the run until the lead got so big that the Jaguars had to stop running the ball. They gave up 4.9 yards per carry last week to Reggie Bush and gave up 5.0 yards per carry to Maurice Jones-Drew on Sunday; that can't happen going forward. In both games the opposing running backs finished under 70 yards rushing not because the Texans stuffed them, but because their team fell too far behind to run the ball. Their opponents so far have started a rookie quarterback and another QB playing like a rookie with almost nothing at wide receiver. When the competition gets tougher with more talented passing games and the games are closer, giving up five yards a carry will be a big problem. If the Dolphins and Jaguars had been in the game in the second half, both Bush and Jones-Drew would have run for about 125 yards on the Texans if given 25 carries.
Special Teams: B+
The kicking game was perfect with Shayne Graham making all of his kicks (2/2 FG, 3/3 XP) and Donnie Jones booming the ball, averaging 49.8 yards per punt on Sunday. So what brings down the grade for the special unit? Trindon Holliday had more issues in the return game and giving up another good kick return resulting in points. Holliday has struggled in his decision making on when to take the ball out of the endzone and when to take a knee. It was understandable during the preseason for Holliday to return every kick because he was trying to make the team but now that they're in the regular season; he has to start using better judgement. On the very first kickoff of the game, Holliday brought it out from nine yards deep in the endzone and even though it didn't cost them yards with him returning it to the 21 yard line; there was no need to risk a return in that situation. Later in the game Holliday made a similar decision to return a kick from eight yards deep and only got back to the 20 yard line; didn't lose yards, but not worth the risk. Holliday also muffed a punt but the Texans didn't lose possession. I thought he should make the team because of his big play potential on special teams, but he has to improve his decision making and ball security to remain on this team. I'm not saying he should be cut, but if there is an injury and the team needs to add depth; his spot will be expendable if he doesn't start playing better.
After giving up a kick return for a touchdown last week, the Texans didn't allow a return into the endzone this week but did give up a few nice returns that allowed Jacksonville to score their only points of the game and would have led to more points from a better offense. Jalen Parmele had a 38 yard kick return in the 2nd quarter to set up Jacksonville with good field position, but the Texans defense forced a three and out. In the third quarter they allowed an 18 yard punt return that gave the Jaguars the ball in Texans territory. Not huge returns or returns for touchdowns like last week, but giving up yardage in the return game like this will lead to more points given up when they face teams with better offenses. The Texans defense is capable of bailing them out when given bad field position, but that will be much tougher when facing Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers instead of Blaine Gabbert.
Tougher tests await the Texans on their schedule in the near future, but just because their first two opponents weren't very good, doesn't mean you can't feel optimistic about this team going forward. The Texans don't make their own schedule, all they could do is beat the teams scheduled and they crushed both of them. I thought they had Super Bowl potential before the season and even though there are areas for them to work on, I haven't seen anything so far to change my mind.