Check out more of our pictures from the Texans vs 49ers.
When we last saw the Texans play football in our fair city, they were putting the finishing touches on a 31-10 beatdown of the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL playoffs. A week later, the magical ride would come to an end in Baltimore.
Since then, some things have gotten better (Arian Foster's income, Matt Schaub's foot's health), some things have gotten worse (the beer service at the concession counter at the top of Section 115 for one thing, multiple attempts to charge me $9 for a $7.25 beer -- SHAMEFUL), but what's stayed the same is that the beginning of football season puts an extra hop in everyone's step.
So the Texans returned to home action on Saturday, taking down the San Francisco 49ers 20-9. As always, there were winners and losers, and I examine who they were:
Andre Johnson in good form
3. LeStar Jean's upper extremities Not that there was anything wrong with his upper extremities to begin with (although he did miss last season
when the Texans decided to redshirt him with a "shoulder injury"), but Jean has now put together solid back-to-back games and got the Texans into the end zone right before the half with a simple crossing route, absorbing a couple hits before crossing the goal line. It was as elementary a play as you'll find (a variation of the play on which Kevin Walter scored the winning touchdown at Cincinnati last season), and a play that if Jacoby Jones could have come close to executing in his five years here, he'd probably still be here. (LeStar had one play in the second half that you could call a "drop," but overall he's been very good.)
By the way, how soon (or long) until you'll be able to enter "Jacoby Jones Ravens" into the YouTube search box and NOT get about ten different feeds of the muffed punt in the playoff game last season? Keep in mind, Jacoby actually plays for the Ravens now, so it shouldn't be that tough. But this is Jacoby. He makes the ordinary look remarkably difficult.
2. Trindon Holliday's entire set of extremities For the second straight week, Trindon Holliday made a game-changing play in the return game, this week taking a punt back 87 yards for a touchdown (a combination of Holliday's blazing speed and Tecmo Bowl remedial level quality special-teams coverage by the Niners) in the fourth quarter to make a close game a two-score affair.
People were quick to hand Holliday a precious roster spot after that big return, and I would caution those people -- let's see how all four preseason games play out. Four games is such a small sample space to begin with, the Texans certainly aren't ready to fork over an extra cornerback or linebacker or running back (basically, anyone who actually has, you know, a real position) to accommodate Holliday after two games. That said, there isn't anything more he could feasibly have done in two games to try and cement a spot.
1. Brad Mills' travel agent I'm not sure how many of you knew this, but we still have a Major League Baseball team in this town, and this weekend they fired their manager, hitting coach and first base coach. Why now? (A question that a few angry voices amidst the sea of apathy had yesterday.)
Well, why not now?
Brad Mills was going to get whacked at some point. At least now he gets a six-week paid vacation. My question is this -- I understand firing the manager and even the hitting coach. But the first base coach? Seems awfully random. What, did the guy not yell "DIG! DIG! DIG!" loud enough? Was his idle post-base-hit chit-chat too mundane? And did the third base coach escape the firing line because the 'Stros just haven't had any base runners really make it that far? Really, so many questions still unanswered.
4 LOSERS 4. Case Keenum loving stragglers In the preseason, when the games are generally at nighttime and on weekends, the unwritten rule is that sticking around for the second half is optional. Dinner plans, pub crawls, lap dances, sleep, all are acceptable activities for which one can exit Reliant Stadium at halftime during the preseason without fear of having your "diehard fan" card revoked. However, Saturday night, the stadium stayed fairly full into the fourth quarter and many red-clad fans were hoping to see extended minutes from former Coog quarterback Case Keenum.
But the flow of the game -- along with Holliday's touchdown return basically comprising a "possession" in the fourth quarter -- meant that Case got glorified mop-up time (although one could argue that the entire preseason is just one big glorified mop-up time). If you decided to forego lap dances to stick around, you had to be very disappointed. 3. Randy Bullock The Texans kicking battle is actually just that -- a battle. Shayne Graham, the veteran, who was thought to be training-camp fodder for rookie Groza Award winner (and Aggie) Randy Bullock, made both of his attempts, which Bullock missed a long field goal in the second quarter, prompting this "I can't believe you're putting me in a position where I might have to cut a fifth-round pick from my alma mater" look from Gary Kubiak....
2. Buffalo Bills fans Bills "Williams" statistics through two preseason games:
Aaron Williams: 3 tackles Kyle Williams: 2 tackles (one sack) Mario Williams: 0 tackles
It's preseason, I get it. But how soon until the Buffalo fans stop telling Houston fans that we're just bitter because Mario left us, and they come over to our side on the "Holy crap, the Bills are paying him how much???" argument. Just sayin'.
1. Melky Cabrera's webmaster I don't think anyone was blown away with shock when they heard that San Francisco Giant Melky Cabrera got popped for steroid use last week, resulting in a 50-game suspension, which is essentially the rest of the MLB season. Prior to 2011, he was a career .275 hitter, with an OPS in the mid-.700's. This season, he's in contention for the batting title (.346) and has an OPS of over .900. The statistical forensics make him a walking red flag.
This didn't stop Cabrera from taking the most bizarre approach ever to trying to skirt accountability. Cabrera had an associate named Juan Nunez concoct a fake website which fake-sold a fake tainted rub so that Cabrera could try and plead the "I had no idea this stuff was tainted" defense, which is quasi-allowable under baseball's collective bargaining agreement.
Not surprisingly, the devious plot unraveled quickly, as apparently Nunez and Cabrera expected MLB to just glance at a few screen-cap JPEG's of the site and say "Oh wow, you're right! You got duped! OVERRULED, testing process...OVERRULED!!"
Go ahead and let that one sink in -- a major league baseball player had his "associate" Juan Nunez construct (or outsource actual construction to a third party) a phony website selling a nonexistent tainted substance in order to overturn one of the more high-profile PED suspensions to date (Cabrera had just won the All-Star Game MVP a month ago).
It's one of the most bizarre stories ever, and I don't know if it makes Cabrera the dumbest athlete ever, the ballsiest athlete ever, or what. The only thing that could make this better would be finding out that Cabrera has some sort of "fake internet entity" addiction and that he is indeed the brains behind the Fake John McClain (@FakeJohnMcClain) and Fake Jim Rome (@LilJamesRome) Twitter accounts.
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Be sure to check out the five things we learned from the Niners game, including a potentially brewing linebacker controversy.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.